Monday, May 26, 2014

Understanding Collaborations, Partnerships, and Sub-contracting (Part 5)

In my previous posts, I provided general guidelines about the nature of collaborations and partnerships. Now I'd like to talk about sub-contracting.

Sub-contracting is a cost-effective way for companies to get tasks done while keeping the number of their employees trimmed down. The disadvantages of having a huge workforce is companies would need to continually spend for employees to get trained, as well as paying for social security and health benefits.

With freelancing gaining more and more grounds in the past decade, and with millions of competent freelancers out there who charge reasonable fees, companies have seen how sub-contracting jobs can cause them to significantly reduce their budget.

Freelancing is especially beneficial to small companies. For example, an advertising agency may have made it their niche to cater to the needs of entrepreneurs whose businesses operate on a small-scale level. And yet, even small businesses have their peak season. By the time October or November comes around, they may introduce a variety of promos like giving discounts to clients or customers.

Therefore, the advertising agency may be burdened with workload that serves as double or triple than with any other months during the year. And the best, and least expensive, way to cope with the high demand is to outsource jobs through sub-contracting.

When a company hires you as a sub-contractor, here are several non-negotiables:

  • You can set your rates when you agree to work as a sub-contractor, and maybe even earn more than what you usually charge.
  • Some sub-contracting jobs may only require you to work for several weeks or a couple of months at the most, while some require freelancers to work for an indefinite period of time. It could be tricky when you negotiate for the standard 40- to 50-percent down payment. The best way to deal with this is to charge an hourly rate.
  • You must grant all forms of copyright to the company after the project has been completed. Protect yourself from unscrupulous clients by stating in a portion of your Contract that all forms of copyright will be granted only after all your fees have been settled.
  • Should your client feel satisfied because you helped them meet their desired results, you can ask them to write a brief testimonial about you. This can be an added boost to your marketing strategy.
  • Keep in mind that your client may require you to do the opposite, which is to keep the details of your transaction under discretion for valid reasons, and you should grant your client the Right to Confidentiality (have this clearly stated in a portion in your Contract). This only means that even if big-name companies may be outsourcing projects to you, you cannot ask them for a testimonial, and surely you can't include their logos in your marketing materials. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Understanding Collaborations, Partnerships, and Sub-contracting (Part 4)

In my past articles, I have thoroughly discussed the conditions you may encounter when deciding to collaborate with a group of workers. Now, I'd like to introduce you to partnerships.

To get you started, be informed that a partnership can be any agreement or arrangement between you and another freelancing professional, or even two or more. When you agree to work and get paid on a commission basis, it only means that you won't be the one bringing home the largest piece of the cake (profit), but the people who have hired you. With partnerships, you and everyone involved must share equal benefits.

And of course, sharing equal benefits means dividing the amount of work equally. To illustrate, suppose you're a graphic artist or designer, and a request from a freelance blogger shows up in your inbox, asking if  you can render visuals that are relevant to his posts so he can get more "traffic" for his blog. This is a good example of tasks being equally divided.

Now, make sure you have the basics down pat when assessing an opportunity for a partnership. Here are some non-negotiables you will encounter when choosing to team up with one or more freelancing professionals:

  • You may not be able to set your own rates on partnerships, but it's possible to earn more, depending on the scope or breadth of the project. With regards to blogging, remember that the most effective blogs get up to 1,000 unique views a month. If you can help increase a blog's traffic, you may be able to make more than your usual rates.
  • Some clients may offer cash incentives, or those that come in kind. How will these "perks" be divided? Allot a portion in your Contract where this aspect is clarified.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Understanding Collaborations, Partnerships, and Sub-contracting (Part 3)

After providing you with more information about collaborating, you may have assessed its advantages and decided to give it a shot. But there's more to know about collaborations other than working and getting paid on a commission basis.

To illustrate further, be aware that aside from the fact that you can't call the shots when it comes to setting your rates, you accept the condition that you'll constantly be "on call," which means you have to go wherever the people who hired you may need you.  

And of course, being available means going mobile. But first, clarify the organizers' conditions regarding --

  • Transportation, especially if you need to bring special equipment (e.g. cameras and other paraphernalia) to a shoot or event. The majority of organizers provide a vehicle that is roomy enough for an entire staff and any necessary equipment. If you would need to come to the events all by yourself, it would be reasonable for you to negotiate an allowance to pay for your fare.
  • Meals, which should be inclusive of lunch and snacks, and even dinner if events will last until evening.
  • Frequency, or regularity, of projects. For example, the number of local weddings are at their peak during the months of June and December. You may find yourself fully booked during the couple of months before the peak seasons. If you're getting paid on a commission basis, you may experience cash windfalls during those times. But what about "lean" times, when projects don't come trickling in?
  • Accessibility. Freelancing professionals should own a mobile phone, but organizers must be willing to shoulder at least part of your phone bills if it's necessary for you to be reached every time a lucrative project comes up.
  • Special equipment or materials. Mostly, I have talked about wedding photographers in my articles. But freelance illustrators and artists can be hired on a commission basis, too. Aspiring authors of children's books are perennially seeking out competent illustrators. But if aspiring authors are looking for a particular style or rendition of artwork, illustrators may need a set of quality drawing pencils in varying grades, and even water color pencils. Make sure that if you're working on a commission basis, expenses for these materials are at least partially covered.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Understanding Collaborations, Partnerships, and Subcontracting (Part 2)

In my previous post, I introduced three additional ways professional freelancers can land projects and assignments. Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty details of collaborations. You may ask, when is it reasonable to allow others to hire you on a commission basis?

Be aware that when you collaborate with other workers, it's highly likely that you won't be the one calling the shots when it comes to setting rates. To illustrate, there are event organizers that offer package deals for pre-nuptial shoots that cater to engaged couples. This recent trend has resulted to an increase in the demand for wedding photographers.

Event organizers charge Php25,000 (at the lowest) for a wedding package, and just like any services, the price could vary according to a number of reasons. This could also depend on the season. There are certain months when weddings are at their peak. If you're a freelance photographer, ask yourself if it would be worth it to accept a commission based on that amount.

Of course, any amount would be worth it if in the process of working, you learn the value of being flexible and adaptable, and you end up more capable in handling clients.

Speaking from more than a decade of experience, I have now realized that a freelancing professional's success depends a lot less on his range of skills and more on how effective he is in negotiating with people.

Don't get me wrong. Skills are important. Your skills set or range of skills is what you offer to prospective clients. But a good part of a freelancer's work involves "communicating his worth," or making his clients see why he's the best man for the job.

Also, be aware that some clients out there still view freelancing as a form of "cheap labor," where they can make all sorts of demands while paying a lot less.

The truth is, freelance workers charge less because the majority of freelancing professionals work from home, so their overhead expenses is cheaper. But this doesn't justify poor treatment from clients.

I'll talk about collaborations further in my next articles.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Understanding Collaborations, Partnerships, and Subcontracting (Part 1)

Being an advocate of freelancing, I'm all for doing anything reasonable that would cause fewer "dry spells" for workers, or at least, shorten every dry spell. In this article series, I'll talk about how freelancing professionals can make good money out of (a.) collaborations; (b.) partnerships, and (c.) subcontracting.

To illustrate, take a look at the following:
  • There are event organizers who capitalize on making memorable events like proms and weddings as cost-effective as possible, so they hire freelance photographers or videographers.
  • With so many online businesses sprouting over the Internet, the need for a website and blog has never been greater. And with free blog hosting sites like Blogger and WordPress and the social media site Facebook, the demand for SEO copywriters, graphic designers, and social media specialists has never been greater. 
  • Nowadays the term "director" is not limited to those who shoot blockbusters and aspiring filmmakers. There are bloggers who need video clips that last anywhere between 60 to 90 seconds to as long as 10 minutes. A great number of bloggers find it relevant to upload videos to increase their chances of making a sale.
  • There are companies and firms that may find it necessary to downsize and hire freelancers to reduce costs.
If you find yourself with an invitation to team up or collaborate with a professional or an entire group of workers, or take on a job as a subcontractor, first you have to know what's at stake. Consider the following:
  • You may not be able to set your rates if you agree to work on a commission basis, so carefully assess whether your skills and time are worth the pay. 
  • If you're teaming up with another working professional or group of professionals, where the tasks will most likely be divided, will it also translate to the profits being equally divided? Don't hesitate to communicate what and how much you expect, and have a written contract drawn up where everyone involved can agree and sign. If possible, have a copy of your price quote handy.
  • With subcontracting, you have to understand that although you can set higher rates if the company only gives a rough time frame, you will not receive any benefits from the company, since you're a freelancer and not an employee. And even if the company may be well-known, they may require you to keep all transactions confidential. That means you cannot ask for a testimonial from them to give your marketing strategy a boost. You also have to be aware of your right not to grant them full copyright if all your fees have not been settled.