As freelancing continues to grow increasingly popular every year, it gets harder and harder to stand out and land new clients. The main attractions of freelancing can be summed up fairly simply: Freedom, flexibility and unlimited income. But what about the frustrations that can come with solo work? Of course, it can be challenging to battle loneliness and limited time. And when you work from home, you lose the social aspect of working with an on-site team.
Thanks to a new trend of freelancers working together, there’s a potentially better solution forming. To avoid getting lost in the shuffle, some indys are teaming up to provide full services to their clients all in one place — increasing their chances of getting hired. So, what are freelancing collectives, and what do they mean for the future of indy work?
Freelancers Working Together
Collective groups, or “hives,” create collaborative environments in which freelancers with complementary skills can band together to secure higher-paying, bigger jobs and regular clients. The idea behind collectives is based on a simple theory: “Many hands make light work.” In practice, multiple freelancers in these collectives “share a website, a company name, billing and even pitch projects together,” with the freedom to enter and leave the group as they choose.
Of course, the main reasons many traditional employees start freelancing is the desire to make their own decisions and be their own boss. But working in a collective doesn’t mean giving that up — in fact, these teams of contractors still retain their sense of independence despite their group efforts. “Being able to bounce ideas off one another and knowing that no one is the ‘hiring boss’ really helps keep us open, honest and free to pitch really good and/or terrible ideas,” says Grant Bolton, a voice-over artist who regularly collaborates with video production freelancers.
Need an example? Imagine you’re a freelancer who creates text content for blogs and websites. You’re approached by your client for a related service — like creating custom images — that you don’t currently offer. In this scenario, you could reach out to your hive to determine who does have this type of graphic design expertise. Offering up the skills of another freelancer in the collective makes a client more likely to stick around, rather than leave to find another freelancer who can do everything they need.
Are Freelance Collectives the Right Solution?
Are you considering joining a collective? Keep the following pros and cons in mind when deciding if this is the right move for you:
- You can operate as a small business without the overhead or headache of hiring a full-time staff. Picture this: If one teammate builds websites, another is a copywriter and a third creates custom graphics, you can offer full-service website packages — creating an easy, one-stop-shop for potential clients.
- You have access to more resources and can offer a greater number of services. Freelancers who are already working with clients will have an easier time retaining those who need additional skill sets, as they can leverage another member of the collective. “And the group effort benefits everyone involved — especially the client!” says Sue Anderson, a content writer and owner of Triumph Communications.
- With a united front, independent contractors can ensure they earn the respect they deserve. This could mean commanding higher pay because of the convenience and faster turnaround the group offers clients.
- The complexity of working with different personalities can be challenging. Not everyone will agree on accepting certain clients or a particular vision for projects, which can make decision-making difficult. For bigger projects, your group may have to select a project manager or main point of contact for clients.
- Freelancers tend to work different hours of the day and week, and your team may operate in various time zones or continents. Determining a manageable working schedule can be a challenge.
- The way you work with your clients may differ from the way another freelancer in your collective does business — which means you’ll need to come to a mutual understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Take some time to weigh the pros and cons. If you’re ready to be part of a team that can take your career to new heights, it may be time to consider a freelance collective.
What’s the Verdict?
Overall, freelance collectives can serve to decrease competition in your field and increase your individual income. But before partnering up, think carefully about what each individual in your potential team brings to the table. Building a successful freelance collective can involve sacrifice and a bit of compromise. And don’t forget: Compatibility will be crucial to your success.
Self-employed workers are finding new and exciting ways to work together, and the business community is taking notice. With more and more freelancers joining the gig economy every day, it’s becoming increasingly important to find new ways to stand out and offer the services and quality your clients need.