How to Build a Different Kind of Freelance Network?

How to Build a Different Kind of Freelance Network?

The Freelance Forum described in this post is no longer active. Sorry!

A few of us have chatted about trying to form some kind of freelance or business network with a declared code of conduct and values. Much of this discussion has been occuring, bit by bit, on my private Freelance / Empowerment Forum which is open to anyone who posts a background story / bio about themselves (pseudonyms are OK, but the bio should be genuine.)

One of the best themes to come out of these networking thoughts was from a conversation I had with an architect out in Arkansas:

Rather than “strip mine” other people’s lives for revenue (the traditional cycle), we’re interested in creating more life and more positive energy for the people we’re working with and for ourselves.

And there are other things, in no particular order, that are important to me as a vendor.

  • Defining tangible, concrete results.
  • Being candid, real, and honest in our expectations right from the get-go.
  • Telling you how much something will cost before the work is done.
  • Acknowledging send and receipt of critical work and dependencies.
  • Understanding your work and the context in which you operate.
  • Being willing to learn how to speak your own language (business, art, etc).
  • Teaching you how my profession works as necessary or as asked…no secrets!
  • Collaborating to deliver tangible results at every stage of the project
  • Keeping your best interest as my priority, not maximizing revenue at your expense.
  • Taking appropriate protective measures in terms of contracts and limits that are mutually beneficial.
  • Looking out for each other’s interests in our day-to-day operation.
  • Delivering great product.
  • Being a source of good ideas and brainstorming.
  • Enjoying the process of communication through regular dialogue.
  • Accepting criticism and disagreement, and working with that to bring things back into alignment (any feedback is good :-)

In return, I expect the same kind of conscientiousness in return; I like working with clients who value communication and are good at it. Likewise, I value collaborators with the same set of values.

If you’re a graphic designer, illustrator, or developer…heck, if you are anyone that shares these ideals, I’d love to see your work and get to know who you are. I also invite you to join the freelancer forum…we’re starting to attract a critical mass of like-minded people, and it’s so far been a nice place to hang out and dream.

Of course, there’s a catch

You have to be willing to talk about yourself and tell me why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s OK if you’re still trying to figure that out (most of us are, myself included), but that willingness to share is the essence of the kind of freelancer that I like working with. At least, that’s my current working theory.

I’m not sure where this is going to go, but it doesn’t hurt to shoot me an email telling me about what you do with some examples. I like to refer people who I think are good matches for the kind of work they do. If you like, post in the comments are of this folder with a bit about yourself and a link to your portfolio for everyone to look at. Blatantly commercial links will be marked as SPAM. This call is for people who have, or want to develop, their own voice.

I’ll consider this a success if I even get one response…it’s just amazing how much difference even a single contact makes in terms of new ideas and connections!


  1. Dean Johnson 18 years ago

    I’m kind of ambivalent at the idea of a formalized-ish freelance network. Mind you I am not a freelancer, but my passion outside of work leads me into a similar environment. On one hand the formalization helps scale the network, on the other hand it makes it harder control the notion of tacit endorsements. In other words, I can trust my friends, but I can trust the friends of my friends. Lots of crud creeps in and you have very little recourse without making yourself a target and messing up your whole social structure. Warning a potential client about a friend of a friends crap work can lose you the friend, through basically no real fault of your own.


  2. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Great points, Dean. I’m very stingy with my endorsements as well. This is why I’m interested in actually creating the formality outside the actual social network structure.

    I was just reading something else on the net about how at one point, people stop joining a company because they want to build something great, and then you get a wave of people who want to be part of a great company. Big difference, and related to what you’re talking about.

    The way around this, I’ve been thinking, is to write a MANIFESTO that states very clearly the standards by which people who adopt it should act. This then becomes the implicit contract, which replaces the implicit trust you talk about. So, bound by a common code, but not by a common organization.

    Where it gets strange is when it comes down to interpretation, but I think that’s actually easier to resolve than one might think, through procedurals.

    It gets even more interesting if a freelancer who claims to adhere to the code breaks it. However, merely saying you follow the code doesn’t mean you belong to an organization. It means you believe in a code that someone put up on the Internet. Trust broken remains with that person.

  3. Gidget 18 years ago

    Hi Dave, your post actually prompted me to request a account with your forums.  I’ve read a bit of your writing, and it is a compelling mirror!

  4. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Hi Gidget! Thanks for registering! Hope to see you onboard soon! :-)

  5. Doug Wilson 18 years ago

    I’m not sure yet what I think about the idea of a formalized freelance network, but I am interested in exploring it further.

    The points that particularly resonate with me are centered around open and effective communication and working for mutual benefit.  The bottom line is important, but integrity and life are more important.

    I’ll see you in the forums!

  6. Chris 18 years ago

    Warning a potential client about a friend of a friends crap work can lose you the friend, through basically no real fault of your own.

    That person would hav a very superficial thinking about what it means to be friends.  On a professional level it would be very childish not to stand to criticism.