Australian freelance business journalist & wordsmith Nina Hendy has been giving interviews about the launch of The Freelance Collective. As a marketing and business journalist who has written for all the major publications and brands over the years, she was inspired to launch The Freelance Collective to make it easier for clients to find the freelance skills they seek. Here’s a recent Q&A interview.
- Can you tell us a little bit more about it and why you decided to start a freelance network?
I launched The Freelance Collective last year so that Australian creative freelancers can create an online profile in one centralised place that makes it easy for clients to find the talent they’re after. We’re journalists, photographers, copywriters, bloggers, videographers, web developers, etc – there’s 23 categories of freelance talent listed.
Full-time and part-time freelancers can create their profile page and tell their story for a nominal monthly fee. Clients come and search for the skill they’re after and reach out to the freelancer direct, rather than through the site. Each new freelancer profile is vetted for quality before being made live. We also have a Facebook group for profile holders, and we all feed job opportunities we’ve heard of into the group. Quite a few of us have worked together on projects, too.
The launch of The Freelance Collective comes as lots of skilled media professionals being laid off choose to freelance. This means that the pool of freelance talent is growing, so the challenge is ensuring potential clients can track you down and read all about your skills in one place. As a freelance business and marketing journalist, I’ve watched our skills become increasingly commotised by platforms purporting to provide a funnel of work when they only drive down quality and price of creative output. Or, they take a slice of our earnings.
There’s also a growing number of agencies white-labelling freelancers, meaning the client has no idea who’s actually working on their project. We make it easy for clients to search and reach out direct to the right individual freelancer, or create a team of freelancers (copywriter, web developer, SEO expert, project manager etc) to work on a project.
Support has been strong from the media industry, so I’m lucky. We are even offered a free annual subscription to cloud accounting software to each new profile holder, worth $240.
- What effect has freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Freelancer.com had on the local freelance community here in Australia? Has it changed the expectations and perspective of clients?
These platforms commoditise freelancers, and expect them to bid against each other the win the work.
These platforms are built with the client in mind by allowing them to set the price for jobs, then expect freelancers to bid against each other for work. This only drives down price and quality. The result is that some clients think they can get copywriting or a quality logo created for $50, but they quickly learn that if you pay peanuts…
And while these sites work well for some jobs, there are plenty of occasions when clients want a closer working relationship with the freelancer than these platforms allow, or a specific niche skill that so many Australian freelancers can offer.
- Having worked as a journalist writing about a wide variety of topics for a number of years, why did you decide to go freelance?
I had a taste of freelance writing while working on a business magazine back in 2004, and knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. I built up some clients on the side while working full-time, but had a job I enjoyed, so waited for the right opportunity to leave.
The decision was made for me during the GFC. I was made redundant, and instantly was offered lots of freelance work. A few weeks later, I was offered my dream gig, writing weekly for The Sydney Morning Herald’s media and marketing pages. These days I also write for businesses, PR firms and brands to help them communicate their story to the media.
- With the media landscape rapidly changing and the number of freelancers steadily growing, what advice do you have for someone considering the freelancer life?
Don’t try and be all things to all clients. Decide what you offer, and draw the line. Having said that, be prepared to pivot constantly when you spot new opportunities, but don’t just broaden your remit- cull your offerings down to a few, and do them well. And lastly, make sure you have a strong network of freelance colleagues you can reach out to easily that can recommend you, and that you can work with on larger projects from time to time.
- Having worked for major publishing groups and now for yourself, have you noticed any key differences in the way you work? i.e. how you approach stories, handle PR’s, manage your time etc
Yes. When an editor commissions me to write a story for them, I’m expected to find my own talent. I wanted to move beyond reaching out via a couple of the usual platforms, so I implemented a contact list people can sign up to on my site. When I’m seeking talent to interview for a story, I can email out my call-out seeking for talent. It’s been very well received.
- What’s the most memorable story you’ve worked on? There too many to mention. I covered a Sydney to Hobart yacht race in which six competitors died back in 1998. Being flown to Sydney to interview the CEO of News Limited was a great gig. And I loved working on the two page spread for Fairfax’s Epicure section on wood fired ovens after my husband built one in our backyard.
- How did you get your start in media? I started doing reviews for my local newspaper and work experience during the school holidays. I landed a cadetship and spent my first eight years working for three different newspapers.
- What does a typical day in the life of Nina Hendy look like?
I can be in my office any time of the early morning, day, or middle of the night. I head out the front door and down a path to my office which is separate to the house, usually carrying a coffee and my iphone.
- PR Pet Peeve?
Pitching an idea via LinkedIn or my Facebook page.
- Coffee, lunch or drinks?
Coffee each morning, then Tasmanian Pinot Gris most evenings.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
To tap into the brains of my regular editors to know exactly what they’re after on any given day.