Forming Professional Alliances with Others

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There is a famous quote that says, "There is strength in numbers." This can be very true when it comes to being a freelancer. As a one-man shop, you are often times limited because of your lack of abilities in certain areas. In this article, we will be discussing the importance of forming professional alliances with others in order for you to grow your freelance business.

Complement Each Other By Having Different Skill-sets

We took a leap a faith several years ago and started a web design and marketing company. Like many others, we worried about the competition. How were we going to go head to head and toe to toe with the larger guys in town? Looking back now, I realize that what truly benefited my partner and I at the time was the fact that our skill sets were so different.

We complimented each others shortcomings. What he lacked in design skills was easily compensated by mine. On the sales and marketing side, he was able to close the loop for me. This alliance gave us strength. We fed off of the experiences of each other. Our collaboration flourished and so did the business.

A Low Overhead

Low Overhead

Though we started making money, we still cut corners – staying very frugal. Keeping our overhead down allowed our small initial investment to help the company grow. We bought the cheapest computers, found office space for the lowest price and put aside as much money as we could. Saving where possible, hanging on to our money as long as possible, gave us the opportunity to be more productive.

That little nest egg grew enough to a point where we could finally pay cash for two of the latest iMacs.

Promotion

To promote the company, we started small and listed ourselves on Google Local. Hitting Craigslist with an ad every week, submitting ourselves in online directories, and spending about $75 every few months on back links were some of the best actions we took to increase our web inquires. Though we had a full Flash website back then, we still ranked very well on the search engines. Finding cheap ways to promote ourselves is always at the top of the “to-do” list. The internet is the true hero for us.

  • Advertising
  • SEO
  • Business Cards
  • Google Local
  • Directories

Speaking of heroes, we discovered that utilizing interns from the local art school, helps us tremendously with the work load. Though unpaid, they learn more than how to use Photoshop, they get to see first hand what it takes to run a small business. Again, the interns all have complimentary skill sets to our own. In essence, the interns helped us to diversify.

The mindset is that if you believe people will respond to you, they will.

Pass Out Business Cards

Being on the shy side gets you nowhere. By stepping out of my comfort zone to network, I realized that good things can happen. I spent two hours mingling at a "Business Buddies" event a while back, just handing out a few business cards and having some friendly conversation about my company. Though it was months later, the connections I made that evening eventually garnered a new client for our business.

Networking prevents us from getting tunnel vision

Tunnel Vision

Clearly stating that we were looking for professional alliances on a per project basis opened the door to us meeting some very qualified professionals. Once they understood that we wanted an ongoing partnership to help one another acquire new business, it was apparent that we needed to form a business mastermind group to brainstorm and share ideas on how we could all work together. With this common purpose, we developed a new direction for our businesses and a new way to position ourselves in the marketplace. As a result, we’ve built some very effective and profitable relationships in the process.

We open ourselves up to opportunities and trust in each other abilities. By leveraging each others skills, we’ve increased our exposure to new audiences, expanded the services we offer and attracted new prospects. If one of us develops a new widget we can sell to our clients, we all win.

It’s important to have solid alliances with like-minded people who are committed to maximizing each other strengths while offering more to clients. If our clients do not receive the service and support they expect from us, chances are they will look elsewhere to find it and when they do, it will probably be only a matter of time before they move the rest of their business.

Almost every relationship has the potential to help grow one’s business.

Reaching out to other professionals generally helps create a stable and thriving business. By joining forces for mutual benefit, each party has to give something to get something in return. It can be spontaneous or part of a longer, deliberate process.

Now, we rarely worry about the competition. Our energy is focused on something bigger, supportive partnerships. Best of all, by teaming up, we’ve become a single-source solution to our clients.

What do you think about forming professional alliances? Would you rather do all the work by yourself? We’d love to have an interesting discussion about this subject so feel free to contribute to the discussion. Thank you for reading the article. You can follow the Design Informer on Twitter here1.

Note: Stock photos courtesy of Pixmac2.

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Located in Tampa, Florida, Crush Branding and Design is led by creative enthusiast Marie Lardizabal. As lead designer and president, her work ranges from consulting on new business start-ups which includes product naming and concept development to identity, print, and web design. Since Crush's inception in 2007, Marie has grown the company portfolio to include clients ranging from small businesses to international corporations.

  1. 1

    A very well written piece! Alliances are indeed the bedrock of any successful firm/corporation. We are in an information-era, where knowledge and skills are important ‘commodities’ that drive businesses; and only through constant collaboration can we truly realise the potentialities that may exist for our respective businesses to grow.

    It was only after I started my blog that I truly saw the importance of forging a healthy network of alliances.

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  2. 2

    Excellent post, I agree totally that professional alliances, can benefit a freelance business in a tremendous way. There is definitely strength in numbers and I love what you said about hiring interns and being frugal :O)
    .-= loswl´s latest Blog Entry – Generating Christmas Generosity =-.

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  3. 3

    Great article, especially about using interns. Never even crossed my mind to get students into the mix. I’ve always been hesitant, though, about submitting the business to Google because it’s done from home.

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  4. 4

    I am a Novice designer / developer (still in my self taught studies) from Clearwater. Great article and thank you for sharing your experiences.

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  5. 5

    Brilliant post! It may take time, but good alliances are very rewarding for everyone. (I love graphic style of your posts)

    Cheers

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  6. 6

    Excellent post!!
    Thanks for sharing these tips/experiences.
    .-= Bharani M´s latest Blog Entry – A Big List of Twitter Related Resources =-.

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  7. 7

    Great post — I’m still in the process of breaking into the business but have already gotten a sense of this idea as a result of having somewhat teamed up with someone skilled in web hosting and server stuff; saves me a lot of trouble and also increases the customer base for both of us.

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  8. 8

    One of the greatest things I’m finding as I take my first baby steps into the world of design and dev, is networking.

    I’m meeting so many awesome people, so many talented and respected people, and learning from simple conversations that we have.

    A big thing that I’ve found works across many different industries is that, when you are networking, you don’t push anything: I don’t go in with any agenda other than meeting people and having a good time talking to them.
    If I hand out a business card or two, great! If I get invited to follow them on their Twitter or Facebook pages, even better – it’s an open-invite to an ongoing relationship that could one day pay off for all involved.

    Another ‘tactic’ I have in creating solid connections, is to selflessly promote others using my own networking time – whether in person, or in social media. To promote others without expecting return, to talk about others and their business and success is to show you are passionate about the area you and they share, and that you’re not limited by a competition-driven mindset whereby you cannot engage and support your supposed opposition.
    I’ve got a lot of good friends now simply by talking about them to others – the others appreciate my introducing them to a new person / site to follow, and the person / site benefits from having more people interested. And while I don’t do this for the returned appreciation, it’s given just the same and I hope it’s something that will continue as my business gets off the ground and gets going.

    ** I loved the point about “utilizing interns from the local art school” – that is definitely something that could be taken to new levels in a business strategy! Excellent idea!

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  9. 9

    Thanks – You make some good points. Working from home can be very isolating. Forming professional alliances can be beneficial personally as well as professionally.

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  10. 10

    @Josh – Thank you for putting your spin on the discussion.

    It was only after I started my blog that I truly saw the importance of forging a healthy network of alliances.

    I completely agree with that statement. I also learned from that as well. By the way, it’s been a pleasure to work with you thus far. Keep up the great work on Tripping Words and I look forward to publishing more of your future articles on the Design Informer.

    @Loswl – Thank you for your kinds words. :)

    @Marshall – Well, the way I did it, I went ahead and listed my business on Google Local, but I didn’t put my house address. I put the city, and my phone number, but I didn’t list my physical address. Try that!

    @Brian – Thank you sir. Hope your studies are doing well.

    @BebopDesigner – Thank you for the compliment. I’m always trying to make the posts as easy to read as possible. Glad you noticed it. :)

    @Bharani – You’re very welcome.

    @Rosalind – That’s great! I actually really like the camaraderie of forming professional alliances. I do it in blogging, as well as in freelancing. I actually work with someone who is great in sales, and I also have a partner who is the king of SEO. It pays very well to have alliances with other professionals.

    @Laneth – Thank you so much for your input. I appreciate you taking the time to write a detailed comment that adds to the discussion.

    I’m completely with you about not pushing yourself. I don’t want to be known as the freelancer who acts like a car salesman. I agree with you, it’s very important to personally get to know them first and build a relationship, and in time, you’ll reap the benefits.

    @Ruth – That’s a good point. It wasn’t covered in the article but I’m glad you brought that up.

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  11. 11

    Nice article. I haven’t done a lot of outsourcing on a client level, but even just in terms of blogging and getting your name out there, networking with other professionals has been a real benefit for me. I’ve learned a ton from these people that would have taken much longer for me to learn on my own!
    .-= Matt Ward´s latest Blog Entry – What You’re Already Doing to Bolster Your Blog Traffic =-.

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  12. 12

    Alliances form the basis of internet marketing. The more people you know, the better!
    .-= Blogger Den´s latest Blog Entry – Designing with the User in Mind =-.

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  13. 13

    @Matt – Exactly! That’s one of the main reasons why Design Informer has done so well, networking and building relationships with other bloggers. When I first started out, I got in touch with some of the big names out there. I think a lot of times, we are intimidated to contact them because of we think that they won’t respond, but on the contrary, the advice that I have gotten from them has been priceless.

    @Blogger Den – That’s right! :)

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  14. 14

    Ditto to a lot of the points discussed here, I do believe the sooner we realize we can’t do it alone the sooner we will be heading in the right direction.

    I would add that having a “board of advisors” is useful as well, this is a group of professionals from many different types of industries in my group only one is an another designer, the rest are people with tremendous business sills that help me navigate the path my business should take.

    I am convinced that this collective mind is greater than my own, and this process allows me to keep my creativity in my design projects and not on how I do business…

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for Nopun.com
    professional graphics design
    .-= Noel Wiggins´s latest Blog Entry – Why decorate your business for the holidays? =-.

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  15. 15

    Excellent Post, I have been following your tweets for quite long and this post has been one of the best post i came across from a designer.

    It is indeed essential to have a professional alliance definitely client have a one stop shop to all their needs. With all the servies availableat one place, the client is less likely to search for other options and also share it among his network.

    Besides learning from the interaction is really immense (every artist has a special set of unique characteristic/skill set) and leveraging it lately is rewarding.

    Networking is a requisite, it keeps one updated about developements in the industry, definitely adds up to the client base and with social media it just require a genuine effort to interact with them (including the BIG SHOTS)…

    Keep posting…

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  16. 16

    @NoelGreat idea Noel! Thanks for bringing that up. Even though we didn’t cover that, a board of advisors would be helpful to have, in conjunction with your professional alliances.

    @Darpan – Thank you for following the Design Informer. Glad you joined in on the discussion. I do agree with you. A one-stop shop is a good idea for a business, but at the same time, there are a lot of freelancers that want to only focus on certain things, and want the freedom of working by themselves. But I still think even if a freelancer wanted to work “solo,” he should still have some alliances with other professionals which should come in handy if he were to encounter a project that he doesn’t have the appropriate skillset to complete.

    Oh, and keep following cause I will definitely keep posting! :)

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  17. 17

    Yeah, I can only see benefits to alliances – aquaintances online and friends often help a freelancer.

    cheers!
    .-= Benjamin Rama´s latest Blog Entry – 8 Free Excellent Xmas Brushes [2] =-.

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    @Benjamin – That’s true. I tried to think of a disadvantage, but I couldn’t think of any. Now, I’m not talking about a business partnership, as those can have its share of disadvantages, but as far as professional alliances, I can’t pinpoint any. Thanks Benjamin.

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  19. 19

    I have worked for another company that were basically a couple freelancers who formed a group of contractors (freelancers) to work with, when a project called for it. This helped their business grow very quickly. I also do the same thing with a print design person, while I handle more of the web design to offer full media packages. I have acquaintances who have mad skills in areas that I am good at, but not really my area of expertise. I do handle every aspect of a project, but find myself turning away work, because doing it all takes more time for me per project, so I can’t handle as many projects, unless I get help from other freelancers. Great article.
    Don
    @creativelydone

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    • 20

      I agree. The top growing business I know about in the design and web industry are those where 2 or 3 people with different strengths have partnered up to get more work done.

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  20. 21

    Good post. must read for all bloggers…
    .-= DesignFellow´s latest Blog Entry – CodeIgniter quick reference cheat sheet version 2.0 released =-.

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  21. 22

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been mulling over the idea of bringing others into our business for some time now. Being aware of one’s strengths/weaknesses definitely helps in deciding what type of person/people would fill the gaps.

    I have worked in a techie environment where all co-workers taught each other new things on a daily basis and it was so fun!
    .-= Sü Smith´s latest Blog Entry – Web based email client with collaboration & business apps =-.

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    • 23

      Hi Sü, you should definitely look into working with someone who will complement your skills. Try to find someone that is good at an area where you are not. :)

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  22. 24

    “It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.”
    Napoleon Hill

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  23. 26

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your experience as it make it more realistic. You the points you mentioned were valid.

    I’m a firm believer in forming alliances with others and this has been one of the stong points points of my business. However, in my environment where you can get real good designers/developers for practically a-dime-a-dozen, there is still the ‘competitive’ mind set amongst them.

    Also, most clients we come across prefer to deal with the more established web development firms, forgetting that most times these so-called established firms end up outsourcing their projects to smaller firms/freelancers. So if you are small and you form an alliance with a much bigger firm, you stand the chance of being left out of the loop.

    Thanks again for your post.

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    • 27

      You have a point there. While there are a lot of clients that still prefer to go for the big agency, more and more people are starting to decide that agencies really cost a lot of money and they are starting to look for smaller companies and freelancers to help them do the job. Thanks for sharing your input!

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  24. 28

    Good post but speaking from the standpoint of someone who managed enterprise level strategic alliances there is a cautionary tale as well that needs to be told.

    Alliances are tricky, personalities come in to play and more often than not, one party will have an agenda that will show itself. The old adage “trust but verify” was never truer. Vet your partners carefully and “date” for a while before you get “married” to them. Strategic business alliances are much like inter-personal relationships in that regard.

    I wrote a related post, it’s a bit dated but still applies on vsellis.com
    .-= Scott Ellis´s latest Blog Entry – Scott Ellis Speaking At The Optimization Summit =-.

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    • 29

      That’s a great thought Scott. That should definitely be put into consideration when forming partnerships. By the way, I read the article that you posted and it really applies to this as well. Thanks for warning us!

      Oh, and one more thing, you have some really good stuff on your blog. Looking forward to reading more of your articles. Keep up the great work! :)

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    • 30

      I totally agree, Scott. Your analogy about dating is spot on. It’s important to move slowly to ensure you’re compatible. Aligning with someone who shares the same core values as you do helps tremendously. It makes perfect sense to have an alliance with someone who has all their ducks in a row. I certainly want to protect my company’s reputation.

      Building trust takes time and commitment. Whoever you partner with, should have the same level of desire and enthusiasm to make it work.

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      • 31

        Thanks for your additional tips about ensuring you have the right partnership. I might have a partner with another site soon, and I will definitely read this article again and try to follow the principles and lessons that are mentioned here. :)

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  25. 32

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. One activity that I’ve started is a regular mini-seminar under TEDx banner. I use it to bring together complementary disciplines to my work.

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