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The Flexibility of Freelance

Woody Hayday, CEO and lead developer at StormGate, an independent UK development company reveals how the flexibility of freelance can offer unexpected happiness

BIO: Woody is CEO and lead developer at StormGate, an independent UK development company specialising in rapid webapp development, platform prototyping, and creative digital products

Freelancing is hitting new heights. More people than ever are leaving traditional employment in search of self-directed consulting. Whether you freelance or hire, this can have profound effects on the way you do business.

Freelancing can open up new markets, and change prices and costs. Freelancing can develop much more talent, talent which can be easily accessed and verified through growing marketplaces. I’ve spent time on both ends of the client-freelancer relationship – I still freelance at StormGate for a portion of my time.
Freelancing is now a career choice; lots of people are breaking off and setting up shop, but whether you’re a veteran consultant or you’re just starting out, if you approach freelance work with a youthful exploration you will uncover fruitful connections. Similar to clients, freelancers can be more than just hires; they are often hard working entrepreneurs and can offer other business value.
As a freelancer you have decided to offer a boutique service. What you are producing may be boring business logic or beautiful branding; whatever it is there is a distinct value beyond its delivery.
Your customers have come to you for an exceptional reason. They like what you’ve done before. They have chosen you over many other candidates. Winning freelance jobs has become like battling through an interview process, and successful freelancers must win jobs week after week.
In a way, freelancers are employees of multiple companies, but far from in the traditional 9-5 sense. The bond between freelancer and client is tenable, once established it’s often as strong as any employment contract. Freelancers can feel an affinity with a company; arguably they represent a new form of stakeholder. As freelancers and as clients we are more connected than we think.
This connection is a two way relationship, which is totally different to the employee-employer relationship. You are a boss and your client is likely a boss and so you should see yourself as a deal maker. Freelancers, you are actively doing business with your clients, not just working for them, so practice business. Make deals.
Ever been part of a joint venture? Ever mentored? Ever been mentored? Got the skills but not the ideas? The ideas but not the skills? Look to your clients. Clients – think how you can share value with your freelancers so you can both get a better result.
As a freelancer there is a level of professionalism you need to maintain, but so many clients are open for a more leveraged form of trade, friendship, and more.
Let me give you some examples. While freelancing I happened across an interesting situation with one client. Mike has a personal project that he is bootstrapping while working his 9-5. Aspects of his project made for a very sellable WordPress plug-in but based on my quote there was no scope within his budget. I proposed that I develop the plug-in and we release it as a kind of experimental joint venture. That plug-in is called Social Gallery (a ‘social lightbox’ for WordPress.) Social Gallery has already sold more than 850 copies and generated over $15,000. By releasing Social Gallery to a wider market, Mike got his plug-in for free, and what’s more it’s made us both many times the return it would have generated as a traditional piece of client work. Mike has since become a good friend and student and we continue to work together.
Another example shows the value of good service; David found me through a referral, he had seen Social Gallery and liked my development style. David wanted a series of plug-ins developed; he had tried opting for cheap development options offshore but was realising long lead times. David is also a veteran marketer (an area I’m still mastering). By focusing on a fantastic turnaround I was able to secure useful sessions of advice and marketing mentorship that I doubt I could have found or afforded elsewhere, a fair trade and a great example of win-win business.
I continue to meet situations such as these with new clients and hires. Had I pursued only financial outcomes I would never have had any of these experiences. I’d have made less, learnt far less towards any mastery and I have no doubt I’d be less happy.
As clients, self-starting freelancers are invaluable, and what’s more they could become employees, partners or students.
As freelancers, we can be flexible where big companies can’t, we can care more about progress than profit, we can invest in ourselves and we can freelance for happiness. There is flexibility in freelance.