The Power of the Freelance Network

freelance business or marketing professionals

When I decided to begin this freelance journey, I was a little worried about how much competition there would be. In business school, we were taught the importance of assessing external threats (good ol’ PEST and SWOT analyses!) when developing a strategy. You’re supposed to analyze the market to find the perfect opportunity where you can excel over the others in your industry. When translating this mindset to my own business venture, however, it caused quite a bit of anxiety.

All I had to do was google “digital marketing expert” or “freelance writer”, or hop onto a site like Upwork, to see a long list of people who have the same qualifications, background, and skills that I do. Even worse, there are dozens of marketing agencies in the area who have in-house graphic designers, writers, webmasters, and SEO experts (I know, because I’ve applied to work at many of them). It felt like these agencies could offer everything I could, and more. I had no idea how to distinguish myself from the crowd, and was nervous about being able to handle all the needs of my future clients. (The irony of struggling to market myself as a professional marketer is not lost on me…)

But as I began to connect with many wonderful people in the marketing/freelance space here in Waterloo Region and Guelph, I’ve had the chance to see how they’ve chosen to position themselves – as writers, graphic designers, SEO experts, web designers, digital marketers, PR specialists, and more. We are all different parts of the same complicated machine that is Marketing. If you’re an individual freelancer, there’s no way you’ll have capacity to actively cover every aspect of the industry. Everyone has certain areas that they prefer over others, and eventually (hopefully), you’ll get to a point where you can choose what projects you take on. And that makes me less worried about competition, and hopeful about the potential for collaboration – because there will always be people who don’t want to do what I do, and vice versa. Together, we can take on bigger projects and better serve the needs of our clients.

My first experience with this symbiosis appeared at the beginning of August 2020. A colleague reached out to me through the wonderful organization Coworkers Collective (which, by the way, has a delightful slack channel that helps get me through lonely days working alone). She was working as a copywriter for a client who needed some extra social media support, but she wasn’t particularly interested in expanding her role into that area; would I be interested? She connected me with the Owner of the company, who brought me onto the team. I have had a wonderful time working with their Marketing Coordinator over the past several months managing the organization’s four social media accounts – they are glad to have my help, my colleague is glad she doesn’t have to handle social media, and I am glad to have a steady project that I enjoy. It’s a win-win-win.

An example where I was on the other side: A client for whom I had written some web copy asked me if I could design a promotional postcard. I said yes, then asked a friend if she would be available to subcontract the graphic design portion. My job would be to project manage and write the copy; hers, to work her magic on Photoshop. Not so different from my work at an agency after all.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished this year. It’s been extraordinarily rewarding to be able to look at a final product and know that I was responsible for every part of it – the strategy, the words, the implementation. I’m accountable for it all, good or bad.

But I’m also finally realizing something…I am more than the sum of my own skills. I don’t need to carve out a lonely niche in a crowded world of marketing professionals. The relationships and friendships that I’ve made over the years provide me not only with a wonderful support system, but also a network of extremely talented people open to collaboration. And that gives me flexibility and stability all at the same time.

If you’re a freelancer or marketing professional in Canada and would like to collaborate some day, please reach out to me at hello@valeriechong.ca. Let’s help each other excel!

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash