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Helping Freelancers with their Overflow

Photography: jpot.punkt

There are times when you just need the work. Maybe your schedule isn’t full or a project’s been cancelled. Maybe you’re just starting out in the world of telecommuting and want an easy way to get your feet wet.

Or maybe you’ve just had it with clients and want to accept projects from someone who treats you like a friend instead of an employee.

Working for a freelancer may sound like you’re simply swapping one type of client for another but taking someone’s overflow can be a whole different experience. Someone who’s been in your position, who understands what it’s like to work from job to job and who knows how to put a request in an email in a way that’s clear and to the point is less likely to pay you late, promise projects that never pan out or ask for a million-and-one revisions. They’ll be understanding when it looks like you’re going to bust a deadline and they’re not going to keep making a project bigger while expecting you to keep your estimate the same.

Freelancers Make the Best Clients

That’s the theory, at least, and although the “client” will still have to meet deadlines, work within a budget and receive work at the right quality, on the whole, the theory seems to stand up.

Freelancers really do make the best clients, even if their own commissions mean that they’re rarely the best-paying.

So how do you find jobs like this?

Perhaps the easiest is to head to one of the freelance sites – eLance is miles ahead of the competition – and ask one of the top service providers if they need any help. There’s a good chance they will – or at the very least, will want someone with a good portfolio easy to hand when they do. That’s because if you look at the number of jobs the top bidders have won and the amount of money they’ve earned (both statistics are easily viewable at eLance), you’ll find that many of the top providers are taking on far more work than they can possibly handle. They’re accepting multiple jobs at the same time then farming them out to other providers. It gives them a chance to take a cut of the revenues while still milking a large and regular supply of work.

You might need to write to a few of the most successful providers before some of that overflow starts heading your way but indicate that you’re available – and show the sort of samples that fit their needs – and you should find that you’re soon attracting the attention of a very different sort of client.

But your approach has to be right too, and that’s a little trickier than tracking down busy freelancers in the first place. It’s not difficult for a major freelancer to look through the list of service providers and choose someone, but when he does that, he faces the same challenge that job suppliers have to overcome: how do they know that the person they’re hiring is both skilled and reliable?

Help the freelance to solve that problem and you’ll be starting with a huge advantage.

Again, your portfolio of work is going to be important but when you make contact, indicate that you’re  not a freelancer in desperate need of work – the best freelancers rarely are – but rather a professional who sometimes finds herself with time on her hands. Point out that you don’t really have the time to look for work and bid on projects but you’d be happy to consider providing any help they’d need if they think your experience and skills suit the project.

Help Offered

Create the impression that you’re offering help, not looking for it, and the other freelancer will see you as a team member rather than a member of staff – and that’s really what working for freelancers should be about.

But there’s one more thing that working for freelancers should be about, and that’s receiving not one job but a regular stream of jobs from someone prepared to do the searching and pitching for you. When you get the relationship right, you should find that it changes from being one of client/provider and even team member/team member to agent/client. Instead of spending time seeking out projects, making pitches and negotiating fees, you’ll have someone to do all of the dull stuff for you, letting you focus on your most valuable actions: designing the Web pages, writing the content, creating the code or whatever it may be.

The secret to keeping that work flowing is to resist the temptation to see the service you’re supplying as assisting another freelancer, and to consider it as doing your own work instead.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. You’ll be aware that anything you submit will be reviewed, edited, and maybe even changed in important ways before it’s passed on. It will also carry the “client’s” name not yours so your reputation will be left relatively unharmed if you fail to come up to scratch.

All of those things just add up to an interesting test of your work ethic – with valuable rewards if you come through. Not only will you have a steady supply of work, you’ll also have reduced your own job-searching workload, and you’ll have picked up a client you can rely on and enjoy working for. That’s the sort of thing that can lead to some very good times indeed.

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