We’re on a connection/collaboration roll these last few weeks and I’ve loved all the feedback and questions that have come a long with it. If you missed the post last week about the benefits of collaborating on freelance work, check it out first here. I had a few comments and emails asking me, “But Leah, how? What are the actual logistics to setting up a collaboration?”
So in this episode (can we call a blog series that?) of Ask A Freelancer I brought on a few rad chicks that have made collaboration an integral part of their business model.
Ellen Ercolini uses collaboration to enhance her packages and be a one-stop shop for everything she knows her clients need and Sarah Lewis has honed in on her niche of being the go-to developer for web designers. No matter what kind of freelancing you do, these business models can definitely give you some inspiration.
Collaborating With Other Freelancers To Enhance Your Packages
(For Coaches/Copywriters/VAs/Marketing Strategists/basically anyone!)
Ellen is the perfect example of someone who focuses on what she does best, and collaborates with freelancers in other fields to create the ultimate package she knows her clients need. She calls it her Signature Services That Sizzle. In this package she’s in charge of the biz strategy and coaching, then her partners (a copywriter & a PR superstar) take care of the sales page copy and PR strategy for the client.
I asked Ellen a few questions about how this biz model works for her and here is what she said:
Can you describe the process you have set up with your other freelancers and what happens when a client first books your package?
My clients book with and pay me entirely. After our strategy session together, I send them an intake form for Erica and Maggie’s work, which they then complete, and return to the three of us. At that point, each of them reaches out to my client to schedule their session and do the work with them. Upon completion of the work, they invoice me for the work they did for my client. It’s smooth and streamlined, and my client feels like it’s a one stop shop, not that they constantly are having to fork over more money.
What kind of contractual formalities do you have in place?
I have a contract with Erica and Maggie directly, they don’t have anything directly set up with my clients.
How did you first come up with this idea and put it into place?
After working hard to grow my business, and working with a number of business builder clients, I recognized that there are a LOT of moving parts to building a business successfully. You need not only need an amazing business coach, but sexy copy on your site, and then you need to KNOW where to place yourself, and how to place yourself to get the attention on that breathtaking copy and amazing business.
And I know that these are all investments, and it sucks to feel like you’re always spending money. Sometimes, you want to invest, and see amazing results. So that’s what I created, a one-stop-shop, that gives business builders the comprehensive tools they need to really grow big, quickly.
I started scoping out Erica and Maggie in a few Facebook groups we were in together. I thought both of them had great work, and seemed super sassy, smart and fun.
So as I created this package, I reached out to them, because not only do I believe 200% in their work, but they are the types of women I like to hang out with and work with, and I know will be amazing with my clients.
What do you love about it and how do you think it’s changed how clients respond to your packages?
I love that I can offer my clients three things that they absolutely need to grow their businesses. Our services work so well together, and build upon one another. I love that I get to offer my clients a luxury experience for a reasonable price. I love that it’s a one stop shop, and that when they work with me, they don’t need to stress out about who is going to do their copy or how the PR is going to work. There are so many balls in the air for creative business owners, and I can help them relax and focus on doing what they do well, and let the experts handle the other pieces.
My clients love it because they are very well taken care of, and enjoy the support of going through the steps of growing and building their business. They always are so glad after our work together, that Erica and Maggie are on deck to really do some heavy lifting to help bring their businesses to the next level. Because our work together leaves them ready for that, and if I didn’t have that built into my services, they would be spinning out, starting from scratch to hire more people to help them with that, and feeling overwhelmed by again having to spend more money on this.
And I also adore working with Erica and Maggie, they are so good at what they do and they help elevate the level of my clients experiences and swift ability to bring in more profit to their businesses.
Ellen Ercolini is a vivacious and engaging personality that inspires creative business owners to build custom businesses that earn them dream-like amounts of money. Check out her site at ellenercolini.com and hang out with her on facebook or twitter!
Pretty neat, right? What a great way to provide lots of value to your clients, have more fun in biz (working with others), and get the bonus of regular referrals!
So what other services do your clients need that you may not have thought about? Maybe there is a way to collaborate with another freelancer to go above and beyond for your clients.
For Web Designers & Developers
I know a lot of you are web designers or developers. A big question that comes up is how to get started just doing one or the other. It’s obvious that a client needs both. So should you try and do both, or find a way to just do the part you excel at?
I fell in love with how Sarah Lewis of MP Moxie has set up her biz model and how well she narrowed down her niche. I knew she’d be the perfect person to give us some behind the scenes on what it’s like to be in business as a developer.
Her responses will help both designers & developers figure out how to navigate their side of the website business.
How do you deal with clients and contracts? Are you usually hired out by the designer (who deals with client, invoicing and contract) or do you each separately give invoices and contracts?
It varies a lot by project. My goal is to make life easy for the designers I work with, so as much as possible, I work within their preferred workflows.
About 70% of them prefer to have me subcontract, so my contract is with the designer directly, and they manage client communications and invoicing. In that situation, I’m usually looped in on their project management software, and sometimes communicate directly with their client, but it’s clear that the designer is the one in charge.
For the other 30%, they hand off final designs to me, and my contract is with the site owner. I occasionally ask the designer for clarification, but this version is pretty hands-off for them, which is a big part of why they like it. 🙂
How do you deal with pricing? Does the designer come to you with the already designed work and ask for a quote, or are you a part of the initial quote between the designer and the client?
I’ve intentionally made my pricing very predictable so it works with both scenarios (because they both come up). The amount of work involved in a project almost always directly correlates to the number of templates (e.g. one for the homepage, one for blog posts, one for generic interior pages, one for ecommerce products, etc.), so my prices do, too.
There’s usually a little bit of back-and-forth when working with a designer for the first time to get a feel for the complexity of their projects, and whether or not they are designing responsive sites, but once we’ve done that discovery, they get a firm number that they just multiply by the number of templates, so then it’s up to them how they include the development fees in their quote for the client.
Do you work with a small handful of designers on a regular basis or do you have a wide range of one-off projects.
It’s about 50/50. There are a handful of designers who work with me on all of their projects, and there are a bunch who keep me as their “secret weapon” for complex or especially important projects. I also occasionally work directly with site owners who have a site designed but need it developed.
You seem to market directly to designers. What are the benefits of doing that rather than marketing full websites and subcontracting out the design portion?
I’ve done it both ways (I did end-to-end design and development for a decade, some of that with subcontracted designers) and the technical side is my sweet spot. The administrative side, not so much. My very favorite projects are the ones with project managers, so the designers can focus on design and I can get my geek on. 😉
Personal preferences aside, I’m also a big believer in serving a niche. It’s both hard to stand out and hard to become a true expert when you are in a crowded market serving anyone and everyone. By focusing on what (WordPress) and who (designers), I’ve developed deep expertise and am one of only a few people designers look to when they want what I offer.
How can the designers reading this get to know you and start working with you?
Beyond the standard ways of contacting me (through my site or Twitter), I’m writing up all of my best advice for designers and sharing it on a private list. It has good info for designers of all experience levels, but it’s especially written for freelancers and up-and-coming designers who don’t have a ton of experience working with a developer yet.
Any advice for my developer readers who are just getting started freelancing?
My best advice for everyone is “be known in a niche,” and it certainly applies to coders. Don’t just be “a programmer.” Get super clear on who you want to help and how, and then communicate it. I highly recommend Michael Port’s “Book Yourself Solid” for more on that topic.
More generally, self-awareness is crucial. Freelancing is hard work, and the better you know what motivates you (and what doesn’t!), how you work best, what the work is that lights you up, and what your core values are, the happier you’ll be. Sounds a bit fluffy, I know, but it’s amazing how being awesome at being you results in serious business traction. Tweet that!
Sarah Lewis is the go-to developer for designers. She wants to unleash you from code so you can shine like the talented designer you are and help you build a strong, stable & reliable web design business.
I also reached out to a few more of my favorite designer/developers to get their take on the concept of outsourcing and collaborating. Here’s what they had to say:
Virgen Barnet, designer at Ventures by Design
“I often collaborate with programmers/coders who don’t consider themselves expert designers. (Some of my Favorite Clients) because they totally speak a familiar language. Adversely I’ve almost always collaborated with “coders” for most of my own projects, I don’t claim to be an expert developer and what they can do in a couple hours may take me 2x, sometimes 4x as much time and money.”
Natalia, developer at Website Superhero
“I’m the project manager if the clients come through me and I tell the client I have graphic designers who’ll take care of the graphics. I’ve found that clients prefer dealing with one person alone. I pay designers their hourly rate, and I charge mine when I get outsourced.”
Gabriella Kosztolányi, developer
“I outsource as needed but I manage the client and the project. I also put a margin on top of contractor’s work for project management costs.”
Amanda Klausmeier, designer & developer at www.paperandcrush.com
“I just wrapped up a large project with a group of freelance professionals. We all had our own contracts and communication with the client but collaborated within Basecamp so we all were on the same page. It was organized by a Brand Manager but essentially we all maintained our own project responsibilities.”
Michelle Martello, designer & developer at Minima Designs
“I typically code and design my own custom work – but more and more I’m working on larger projects where I bring together a bigger team of developers, photographers, videographers, etc. When I write the project estimate, I do the quote for my part and have the other collaborate add in their quote into the proposal. However, we have separate contracts and payment schedules set up with the client. Yes you can work with friends – but you need to establish pricing, protocol and boundaries at the outset of the project (and you may just realize that you don’t like how that friend operates – OR you may discover that your friend is a great fit).”
Find that helpful?
I hope so! We can’t possibly have all the answers ourselves and that’s why I love all these ladies for sharing some behind-the-scenes with us! That’s exactly why I’ve been talking so much about making connections, starting a mastermind, and getting social with me. The more freelancers you meet and connect with, the more you will see how others work and get inspiration and support on how to setup your freelance business. So find all these ladies on twitter and follow them!
Any other questions you have about setting up collaborations & partnerships? Leave ’em in the comments below!
How do you plan on collaborating in the future?