Become a freelancer, they said.
It will be fun, they said.
Well, in all honesty, freelancing is often much more fun than a soulless nine-to-five grind, which comes with the daily commute, pesky boss, and irritable coworkers who never make a fresh pot of coffee or wash their mugs.
However, it’s not all fun and games, as I’m sure you already know.
Whatever your reason for becoming a freelancer was in the first place – peace of mind, better job opportunities, better work-life balance, larger income – there will come a time when you start to feel the tide of stress and anxiety dangerously close to your neck.
Although the freelance market is continuously growing, especially in SMBs, it is still a competitive and demanding landscape. Coping with it will require acquiring a special set of skills.
Instead of cutting down on working hours, working with fewer clients, or adjusting your offers, have you considered outsourcing some of your work to another comrade in arms?
I know what you’re thinking. Why should I outsource? Won’t it mean less money and more work for me?
My guide on how to outsource to a fellow freelancer will hopefully ease some of your worries. Let’s dive in.
Whether you’re an established business or a freelancer, there are two main reasons to outsource in the first place (plus a bunch of minor reasons I will not touch on at this point).
Reason One: There’s no reason for you to keep doing something you’re not very good at, something you hate doing, or something that is taking up too much of your time. There is likely someone out there who can do it better, faster, and with more enthusiasm.
Think in terms of VAs. How much time do you spend on admin stuff a week? And how much money could you earn if you spent those hours doing client work or looking for new clients? And how much would a VA cost per hour? My point exactly.
Sometimes you need to spend a bit of money to earn something.
And I’m not talking about money alone. Think about how much stress and frustration you’ll be saving yourself if you stop doing the things you really don’t like to do.
Reason One Point Two: There’s also someone out there who can improve the things you’re doing all right.
Think in terms of proofreaders. You may be amazing at what you do, but grammar and spelling might not be your strongest suit. Sure, Grammarly does an OK job, but there’s nothing like a real-life proofreader to take your writing to the next level. And that might make a difference between your proposal being rejected or accepted.
Reason Two: Teaming up with a freelancer who has a similar but different set of skills can lead to unprecedented growth.
If you’re a content writer, and you partner up with a designer, you can suddenly apply for a whole new range of projects that were previously off limits just because you didn’t have the skills to encompass the entire project. There are countless projects that are ideal for a two or three person crew, and having a team of your own can open up entirely new vistas of growth.
As a freelancer working on your own, you will forever be limited by the 24 hours you have in your day. There’s only so much you can do, so much you can work on, so much you can learn.
But if you delegate some of your work, you’ll suddenly have more time to grow, improve your skills, and become even better at what you do. The road from there to better projects is just a hop, skip, and a few months away.
Think of outsourcing as a partnership, not just a way to dump some of your workload on someone else.
Naturally, the biggest challenge of outsourcing is finding the right person for the job, and finding the best way to work together. But if you invest just a bit of time into the project, you’ll soon find the results paying handsome dividends. Yes, this means taking time away from your client work, I know, but bearing the growing pains is a necessity.
Here are some vital tips to help you with the outsourcing process:
Write Down a List of Skills You Are Looking For
What does the person need to know to perform well? What hours do they need to work, and in which time zone? How much can you afford to pay?
It’s also very important to think about the kind of person you want to work with. This is your project, so don’t make yourself work with someone you don’t click with.
2. Take the Time to Interview Candidates
Talk to the people you think would be a nice fit, and not just about the job itself. Try to find out what kind of person they are, and how you could communicate and work together. If it doesn’t feel right, keep looking.
3. Establish Clear Rules
How are you communicating and when? What are their responsibilities and how are they reporting to you? When are you paying them and how?
Make sure to work out all the finer details, and try to make sure that you’re always on the same page when it comes to the day to day stuff. Write everything down, and have a document answering all the crucial questions. Writing processes is indeed dull work, but it’s the best way to ensure there are no issues left untouched.
4. Learn to Let Go
If you’re anything like me, this will be the hardest lesson you learn.
At some point, you’ll need to learn how to trust this person and not check in on them at all times. If the work is not up to scratch, you can find a new freelancer to work with. Micromanaging them will only be a waste of your time and energy.
5. Learn to Grow
Don’t be afraid to hire someone who is just starting out.
First of all, someone with less experience won’t cost as much, but that’s not the main point. If you find an enthusiastic freelancer who is ready to grow with you and give their very best to make it, you could be fostering a talent that will later on usher in a completely new set of clients. Experience is important, but drive is often a much better bet.
There might be a question here you feel forming in the back of your mind. How ethical is it to outsource some of your work, and not tell the client about it?
Well, first of all, there’s no reason not to tell the client. You are the one they’re hiring, and your name and reputation are vouching for the work you do. What would be unethical is to outsource all the work you are getting paid X dollars to do, and then paying someone else a lot less than that, and taking all the credit.
Second of all, depending on the way your outsourcing partnership works, you can apply to jobs as a team. Small teams often get jobs single freelancers don’t, just because there is too much work for one person to be able to handle.
And finally, if all you are outsourcing is the mundane and the non-project-related stuff, no client will ask questions about your process. Nor will they be too interested in the way you manage your affairs.
But while we are on the subject of ethics, try to remember that you are a freelancer yourself. Don’t treat others in the same boat with anything other than kindness and respect. They may be doing something less skilled and less important than you, but that doesn’t make them less valuable. Don’t try to scam anyone in terms of money or credit.
To wrap up, a couple of last words on outsourcing: give people what they are due, and try to operate from a kind place. After all, what goes around comes around, or at least that’s how the saying goes. Don’t push your luck and wait to find out for yourself.