Kickstarting a Freelancer/Collaboration Network

I’ve been putting this off for months, putting out a call for people who do awesome work, so they can meet other people who value the same.

“I’m too busy to design the right program,” I hemmed.

“It needs to be just right, with a nice website,” I hawed.

Well, waiting is for chumps! I need to meet people now, as in yesterday.

Freelance Network Prerequisites

What I don’t like about most freelancing sites is that they’re oriented toward job listings and database searches. Boring! What I like to see is the actual work, and hear what people have to say about it. And then I like to know how to contact them, or refer them to someone else.

So the approach I’m thinking is that of an interviewer, both in the job sense and in the journalistic sense. For that, we need a kit of our work in a succinct form. Once the kit is available for review, I would then evaluate each kit from the perspective of how I see the value, and how I would use it. I would then write this perception—which should always be positive—as a note somewhere on my own “kit page”. The idea: by collaboratively creating and reviewing each other’s kits, we not only get to know people’s work, we also share how we can imagine using it under what circumstances. I think there’s something positive to note about everyone’s work.

Here’s the kit checklist:

  1. Pick three (3) pieces of your best creative work, code fragments, or what have you, that represents your professional best. They should be complete and self-contained source files and source code, if applicable. We are looking for a complete assessment, not a surface one.

  2. Write a few sentences about each of those pieces that describe: what you did, why you were doing it, what it was for, and how it performed in the field when other people actually started using it.

  3. Put all the pieces and text on a website where it can be downloaded by anyone.

  4. Provide some preferred means of contacting you.

The idea behind this is that people will hire based on what they can imagine being done on their behalf. To exercise that imagination, people need to see what you’ve done and draw their own conclusions. Guessing at what those conclusions might is a big part of marketing and self-promotion, but I know from experience that what people find interesting about your work is often something you never thought of. Here’s the review checklist:

  1. Contact the person who’s kit you’ve downloaded, and say that you’d like to do a quick IM, phone, or email kit review. Voice or face-to-face is better I think than text, but that’s just me.

  2. The goal of the kit review is to react honestly to things you like about the work and how you’d apply it in your own projects, while you are talking to the person. Hopefully you actually like the kit you’ve downloaded, so you will have good things to say. Since you’re looking at the source files too, assuming you’re familiar with its operation, you’ll also get a sense of how that person works. I can tell a lot about someone’s experience and level of expertise by looking at their work, personally. Most important is to listen to your gut: I like this. The person who’s kit you’ve downloaded will understand how their work is perceived by others, which is immeasurably valuable to someone just getting started or trying to crack the freelance market.

  3. After reviewing the kit, go to your own kit page and write up the kit review, with a link to the person’s kit page. Say what you specifically liked about it in a few words. Be honest. And only review people that you would consider working with yourself in the specified context.

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p>So that’s what I’m thinking of doing…I had hoped to have my website set up for it by now, but I thought I’d just prime the pump to see who was interested. I don’t even know what I’d put in my own kit page yet.

I’ll formalize this a little more later, but in the meantime feel free to comment or suggest other approaches.