Freelancers and collectives can be the new agencies

Here's our list of the many important benefits of collaborations between freelancers and organisation
Written by Sanne Van Broeck and Freelance Business Community
Collaboration is engraved into our biology. Survival of the fittest, if properly explained, is all about fitting better into our societies as individuals who can contribute to the common growth. It's about the personal strengths and qualities we bring to the table and the support we give each other wherever we need to learn. We see more and more businesses and professionals adopting this worldview.
Freelancers are no longer hopeless romantics who dream about their freedom. They are passionate about their work and business, and they are successful solopreneurs.

Freelancers recognize the benefits they can give to the clients and are actively reaching out. Even more so now, as we discussed in our article Why progressive organisations are working with freelancers, independent workers and solopreneurs are taking on big projects and striking long-term deals in the corporate world.

According to And Co, 70% of freelancers work on 2–4 projects at a time. This flexibility for the tasks and assignments freelancers can make prepares a fertile soil for the next phenomenon: the freelance collectives.

As covered in our article Grow your business by collaborating, not competing, freelance collectives are in such a strong trend now, because the independent workers recognise greater benefits of these arrangements.
The most notable reasons include:
Professional and personal growth from learning from each other
Sharing our knowledge and offering help to others is not only a great way to build trust and gain respect
Expanded networks
Freelancers in such collectives point their prospects to a better professional, rather than taking their money for substandard work
Industry growth
Mutual support helps spread knowledge and inspire the community to improve

What are the benefits of freelance collectives?

Whether you work in a specialised niche or as a generalist, having partners you can rely on will give you a powerful leg-up to grow and strengthen your freelance business.
Customer loyalty
You can assemble a team of like-minded people around you with complementary or similar skills. It allows you to diversify your services or even delegate some of your work if you don't have time or someone else is a better fit. But ultimately, the client is still yours, and the more you can help them - whether that's you personally or a member of your collective - the more loyal they become.

Sanne: The time and energy I save my clients by not having to look elsewhere for additional partners is massive. I know what to look for, where to look, I can pick someone who shares my values and work ethic and I can bring a solid lead to a fellow freelancer. It's a win-win for everyone.
Get inspiration and learn
It's an absolute myth that when you start as a freelancer, you have to learn everything on your own. That you are doomed to make every mistake along the way to develop some resilience and achieve personal growth. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. It's already been done by countless freelancers before you, who have rich experiences that you can tap into or be inspired by. Collect those people around you. They make the best sparring partners and sounding boards that will have you sparking new ideas every time. Learn from them what is not taught in any class.

Sanne: I collaborate perfectly with a freelancer who is more experienced than myself and works in a different, yet related niche and when we bring our different visions together, it's just magical.
Get more done, faster
There are only 24 hours in a day and when you have a lot on your plate, those hours pass quickly. It soon becomes overwhelming and you start missing your deadlines. It's tempting to try and keep control over everything, but if you assemble freelancers with a complimentary skillset around you and delegate, you might be able to deliver the work a lot faster. Just remember: planning and communication are key. Provide solid briefings and feedback and the necessary access to tools and source material.

Sanne: I'm not the best at delegating, but once I understood I was a constant bottleneck, I learned that I don't have to - and can't - do everything by myself.
Less sales, more leads
The freelance existence is seldom stable. That's what's so attractive about it. Nonetheless, a stable, recurring income does give a certain peace of mind. And continuously prospecting and chasing leads to achieve that can be a real hassle. That's why working in a collective can help bring those leads to you. Freelancers you work with already have a better idea of what you can or can't do, so when they refer you and your work to one of their clients, it's often a lot more valuable and more likely to convert than receiving a lead through the webform on your site.

Sanne: I started working with a fixed graphic designer and social media manager to complement my marketing, and that became so successful that we can now reproduce this recipe for another client, growing the project from a 2K to a 30K budget.

What are the difficulties within freelance collectives?

Availability
The freelancers you work with usually still have their own projects and clients to manage, and you don't have access to their schedule or calendar. That often makes it difficult to plan things and make work fit your - and other freelancers' schedule. Often there are dependencies, and when one freelancer delivers their work late, the work of others is also affected and might make you miss your deadlines with your clients. This needs to be monitored carefully, to avoid frustrations on all sides.

Sanne: Schedules move, there is no other way around it. Clients can suddenly change their minds or postpone things, and in those cases it's nice to have a partner as a back-up. For one of my clients, a planned product launch was moved so far up that it fell right in the middle of the vacation of the social media manager that would handle the launch. I was able to be her back-up for one week, and she was able to relax because everything was being covered.
Mix of tools and systems
Within a company, the tools you work with are usually defined by management, yet every freelancer chooses their own combination of tools for their specific needs. When you regularly work with other freelancers on a client project, you need to consolidate those and find a common set of tools for project management, quotes, time tracking, file storing and so on. Those tools often become more expensive when you need to collaborate with multiple people, and if you exceed a certain number of users, actions or files. On the other hand, if you can share the costs, it might be more cost efficient this way too.

Sanne: I think I've already worked with about 100 tools out there, and each one has their benefits and their limits. The good thing is that there are some really good collaboration tools out there, but finding those that suit you and the freelancers in your collective best will take some time to figure out, and you might need to compromise. I personally like the combination of Click-up for Project Management, Google Workspace for shared drives and files and Slack for communication.
Personalities
Another myth is that freelancers don't work well with others or don't like management directions, and that's why they became a freelancer in the first place. Even though there are freelancers for whom those reasons are true, it's not the case for most. Especially when working together has so many benefits, and when it helps to drum up more collective business. However, it takes a certain personality to be a freelancer and they often have strong minds. That can take some getting used to, or ultimately lead to the end of a collaboration. Therefore, it's important to try and find truly like-minded people, who share your values, work ethic and drive.

Sanne: The idea to start a collective was born at the end of last year, and I managed to find other, like-minded people, but they didn't share my drive for this project and we were working at different speeds. In the end, we hardly made any progress and I felt like we were going in circles. We ended up reducing the size of the group, and that worked a lot better for us, and we were able to make important decisions faster.
Sanne's experience
When I started my freelance journey, I never had to do it alone, because I joined my fathers' business and together we expanded our client base and are now working with a fixed group of freelancers, such as web developers, (UX)designers, social media managers, copywriters and sales. The collaborations are great, and we are currently in the process of combining them under a new 'collective brand', but more on that later.

We see how much more innovative and agile such collaboration with solopreneurs and freelance collectives can be for the companies. And many progressive organizations are already ahead building their own networks with the flexible workforce. Are you one of them?



Sanne Van Broeck
Freelance Digital Marketeer
Sanne is a digital marketer with a holistic approach to marketing and a specialist in Paid Advertising. She believes marketing is an ecosystem where everything needs to be in balance, and she helps her clients to achieve that equilibrium.

Connect with her via LinkedIn

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