If you have, like I have, been working as a freelancer for half your career, you know that it is at the same time the best and worst job in the world. Being accountable to yourself can be really demanding, depending on how lenient you are with yourself.
Sadly, I no longer freelance, as it has turned into a full-time full-blown career in marketing, but I wanted to share a story from the time when I was still in the throes of freelancing, and started working with a partner.
You may feel that as a freelancer you are destined to work alone forever – that need not be true.
In fact, if you find someone whom you can work with well, and who can complement your own strengths and weaknesses, you may have a nice little enterprise on your hands.
A tiny bit of background: I am what you would call a marketing manager, meaning I come up with strategies and plans and campaigns and then execute them if need be.
What I am not is a writer. I can write, obviously, don’t get me wrong, I can weave a story like any ol’ spider – but I can’t sell something with my writing.
This is where Jemma comes in – we have worked together in the past, she can talk you into anything the way she writes, and we decided to join forces and apply for jobs together. Well, I would apply, and we would share the work, or vice versa. Together we could craft campaigns faster, more efficiently and achieve much better results.
Working with someone else so closely naturally meant we had to come up with our own rules, but here is what we learned early on about being productive as a twosome.
1. Divide and conquer
Step one – you need to divide the work in a way that makes sense to both of you. That does not have to be based on what you do best at all times. On the contrary, if you do the same things over and over again, you may be stuck in a bit of a rut.
If you step out of your comfort zone at times, you will first of all learn something new, and you will also challenge yourself and make work much more fun.
Make sure you know at all times who is doing what. We had a sheet on the fridge detailing our daily tasks, and we also had a calendar on Google where we delegated everything (we actually still have it, since we are still working together at our own company).
We later started using ToDoist, which annoyed me, but she loved it, so we compromised with me snoozing all notifications.
The key takeaway is that you each need to be accountable to each other for the work you are doing – if the other person is struggling, you can jump in and help, but the same is expected of them as well.
Make sure neither of you ever takes on the entire project, unless that is the agreement.
This should have been the first thing I talked about. The most important things you need to learn and work on is communication. If the other person is not doing a good job, or if you need to take some time off, or if you simply feel frustrated, you need to be able to voice this.
Even if you get into a full blown fight, you need to vent and speak your mind at all times.
Working in a team of two means that when one of you is lagging, the other one needs to pick up the slack, as I said above. That can work marvelously, until one of you starts feeling they are doing all the heavy lifting, and this is where the partnership can snap like a twig.
In order to avoid that, you simply need to be able to look the other person in the eye, and tell them what you feel. If you work with a friend, that can be difficult. But even if you don’t, you need to treat the conversation as a matter of business.
It’s nothing personal, just business, as you’d hear it said in the Godfather.
Don’t let things fester, it is in the best interest of both of you to talk things through.
3. Think about the business side of things
Again, this could have been the first thing I mentioned. As a freelancer, you will face many unique challenges, but working as a part of an unregistered partnership can make things just a tiny bit more difficult.
First of all, agree on the payment and how you are going to divide it. If one of you has a higher rate than the other, try to find a middle ground.
You can put all the money on the table and divide it the way you feel would be best, or you can agree in advance how much is which activity and deliverable worth, and divide it like that.
You should also look into establishing a business address – even if you are working from the comfort of your kitchen table, you need to come off as pros.
You also need to see about insurance and medical, but that is up to each of you individually.
Agree on sick days – do both of you take a break, or does one of you pick up the slack. The same goes for holidays as well. Think up a working schedule that works for both of you. If the job demands that you should actually sit at the same table, don’t impose each other’s lives on each other.
If you are working separately, make sure the other person knows what has happened. Don’t answer each other’s emails – it usually does not turn out well.
I hope this insight into my personal experience has helped you envision a different sort of freelance future for yourself.
If you can partner up with a writer, a designer, and SEO, whomever, you can tackle different jobs, bigger jobs, and thus increase both your own experience, and your revenues.
Just make sure you don’t turn into enemies, because working so closely has that risk. Talk to each other, do some honest work, and watch your little enterprise take off.