Networking and Collaboration

Most freelancers value their personal independence, but can better realise their potential by participating in networks and associations, for sharing knowledge and experience, updating skills, maintaining professional standards, and benefiting from support systems and consortia bidding.

Thanks to economic, technological and demographic factors, there is a growing trend towards freelancing and flexible working. According to Professor Charles Handy - for many years a professor at the London Business School - just half the working population is employed within an organisation.

In this changing world, freelance, interim and fixed term assignments have become a white-collar phenomenon. Freelancers are not looking for employers to whom they can belong, but networks in which they can thrive.

Your value to the client is enhanced if you can draw upon the resources of other freelancers in your network to provide complementary skills. If you become a "trusted adviser" to your clients, they are more likely to seek your advice and accept your recommendations. Your network of contacts is valuable to them, and you are valuable to your network of fellow freelancers if you can be trusted to deliver top quality work for their clients. Everybody wins.

Join up to professional networking sites such as Linked In. IPSE has a LinkedIn group which is a good place to start. You can also network at IPSE events and on the forums.

 

Top 10 networking tips

  1. There are many networking events available - make sure you spend time selecting which ones are most relevant for you, and plan to attend them.
  2. Make sure you always have a good supply of business cards – and that you are happy with the impression of you that they create.
  3. Try to understand whatever constraints prevent you from becoming a good networker - be brave, face up to them and work hard at eliminating them.
  4. There is no perfect way of networking. It is important that you develop your own style and are comfortable with it – people will notice if you are not.
  5. The “in-your-face" selling approach is not networking.
  6. First impressions count – try to understand how and where your network contacts will first encounter you.
  7. Develop your own “elevator pitch” – a brief, succinct description of what you do and who you are.
  8. One of the biggest hurdles in networking is to maintain it in the long term – develop a plan to stay in touch with people.
  9. Your network contact details should be stored in a contact database, which you should manage and nurture - this requires long-term commitment.
  10. Go the extra mile to stay in touch with your network – it is this that often makes you stand out from the crowd.

Courtesy of Diana Watson, Bespoke Marketing & Consulting

Remember this is the 21st Century, there are a range of online networking facilities such as Linkedin, Twitter etc. The IPSE has forums that you can visit to exchange views with other freelancers and contractors.

Collaboration

Many freelancers put a high value on their autonomy and their ability to control their business careers without reference to anyone else. Others have decided that by collaborating with fellow freelance businesses and pooling their skills, they ought to be more attractive to clients and better equipped to bid for opportunities that might otherwise be out of their reach.

There is no fixed form for a collaborative project, nor any timescale obligation.

  • Prime and subcontracts: one organisation leads the project and identifies and selects suitable subcontractors.
  • A consortium: a number of organisations agree to work together and up a new consortium company to represent the group, or simply operate as an informal syndicate.
  • Partnership of companies: the individual companies enter into a formal (usually written) partnership agreement.

Matching the range of skills required for a project is only half the picture; finding a team in which all parties can work effectively together may be harder. Successful collaboration is based on the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, so you need to choose your collaborators carefully.

  • Talk to fellow freelancers
  • Post on the IPSE forums
  • Post on other forums, e.g. Reed
  • Use other networks, e.g. BNI, BRE, e-cademy
  • Use professional trade organisations
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