This month, Australia celebrated National Freelancer Day. It’s the first time we’ve celebrated professional independence in Australia. But it won’t be the last.

This inaugural celebration will see more than 3 million Australian freelancers rejoice the fact that they don’t go to work in a traditional sense. And no – they don’t earn less. And no, they’re not between jobs. They’re freelance by choice. Most of them won’t ever go back to paid employment – because their work output is better when they work under their own steam. And research shows they’re happier, too.

There’s no such thing as a typical freelancer. They’re doing their own thing, their own way. They set the rules. But they’re flexible, too.

For anyone that doesn’t freelance – I’m here to tell you that there’s no better time to freelance than right now. Undoubtedly, it will be the most liberating professional experiences of your life.

There’s no professional pressure to turn up at a set time to an office. Freelancers set their own agenda, work at their own pace, and take on projects that make them want to get out of bed, and politely decline the rest.

But everyone is starting to realise that professional freedom is a valuable commodity, and more people are trying their hand at freelancing, too. In fact, recent research proves that growing numbers of Australians are leaving the financial security of full-time work to establish themselves as a freelancer.

More than 370,000 Australians have started freelancing in the last 12 months. So now, an estimated 4.1 million people have undertaken some form of freelance work in the past year, which equates to nearly one in three Australians, according to the second annual Freelancing in Australia survey for Upwork.

Flexibility and freedom to work where they want, when they want is the main reason people opt for this life, according to the survey. Technology makes this possible, of course.

But more freelancers hitting the market means that the established ones among us need to lift our game. We need to be easier to find. We’ve got to spruik ourselves in new ways to ensure we’re keeping up with the fresh blood hitting the market.

People taking the professional risk and heading off to freelance soon realise that while it’s hard work and not without its pressures, freelancing does enable you to work from anywhere, anytime, meaning those enticing projects on the other side of the country or overseas are never out of your reach – as long as employers can find you, of course.

After all, employers don’t care where you live. I’m proof of that. I’ve been freelancing in Australia for a decade, writing about marketing and business.

I’ve lived outside of a capital city working from my home office, for some of the best known publishers and brands in the country and overseas.

A lot of us move to the beach, or decide to work from a home office in the outer suburbs, or a trendy co-working space. Some might head into an employer’s office once in a while, but most of the day-to-day work often doesn’t need to be done from an employer’s office.

But marketing yourself is always a challenge for those freelance types that are happier at home than an office.

In the age of SEO and increasing competition from other freelancers, getting found by a top-notch employer searching for your skills isn’t easy. Out of sight can be out of mind, after all. Unless you can be found online within a few click of the mouse.

It’s just not enough to just have a bit of an average website and no other real online presence, even if you’ve been freelancing for as long as you can remember. Without a decent online presence in a few places, employers aren’t ever going to find you.

Which is why I launched The Freelance Collective – to make getting found by employers easier.

You can list your direct email and phone number – so employers reach out anytime, any day.

Unlike all the other sites out there, no work passes through The Freelance Collective. We truly give the power to the freelancer.

So all your marketing as a freelancer is taken care of, for $9/month. There’s nothing like it in the world. You’re joining a community to inspire you, too.

If you’re a creative freelancer, there’s a category here for you to list your skill — including photographer, journalist, PR, graphic designer, marketing guru, illustrator, app developer, blogger, web developer and more. We have 23 freelance categories in all. And we’re growing.

The Freelance Collective is a novel concept in a market that increasingly dictates that freelancers are a mere commodity. Some freelance marketplaces that operate in Australia expect us to give away our intellectual property by pitching several detailed ideas before we’re deemed worthy of being given a brief.

We operate in a market populated by online work platforms that force freelancers to create an alias and bid ‘against’ their freelance colleagues for projects set by clients they’ve never spoken to before. Of course, this drives down price and quality, which isn’t going to give the client the best outcome. Not to mention, the freelancer the best professional experience.

And sometimes, clients actually want to call and speak to someone and ask a few questions, or check on your progress.

Here in Australia, increasingly, clients realise that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Copywriters and content writers are finally getting paid better – in my experience.

I wanted freelancers to have the power. So The Freelance Collective was born. We want to be the first port of call when publishers, businesses, universities, SMEs or employers of freelancers of any kind need good quality talent.

The best person for the creative brief might prefer to live by the beach three states away – and may well like to work either from their couch or a local café, depending on the mood that strikes them on the day the client calls.

So you want to know what’s like to be innovative as someone who started out in newspapers chasing ambulances?

Firstly – I want to make it clear I didn’t built The Freelance Collective. The idea came to me in a fit of brilliance. Or perhaps madness. I hired quality Australian creative freelancers to bring the concept to life. I wanted to know what they were good at. What their name was. Whether they understood the brief. I wanted to be able to pick up the phone and ask them questions.

First I hired a project manager in Sydney. Together, we hired a web designer in Brisbane. A team of web developers in Melbourne followed. A social media manager in regional Victoria. A videographer in Sydney – Diana – who is here today. A video editor in Adelaide. I didn’t want a single element of the site build to go off-shore and made sure that everyone we hired knew that.

Sure, I might have been able to build something similar by utilising a faceless freelancer I was only able to communicate with via an online portal and never actually ‘meet’ via a video conference, but it seemed really risky.

This needed to be a platform FOR Australian freelancers, BY Australian freelancers.

After many months of work, we launched in July in the year dubbed The Year of the Freelancer — after predictions reveal that Australian businesses will be made up of broader and more geographically-spread teams in the future. Of course, businesses know that freelancers bring specialist skills, without the overheads.

Being self-funded, there wasn’t any money left for PR, so you may or may not have heard of us.

We only wanted top quality Australian creative freelancers to list, so each profile holder is vetted for quality before their profile is made live. Every profile holder has to agree to our Terms and Conditions to ensure they’re Australian. We’ve also got an SSL certificate on the site for secure payments.

The Freelance Collective has been set up in a way that allows freelancers to join for a few months if you’re in the market for an extra client or two, remove your profile if you’re swamped, or log in and update your profile anytime you want, such as adding new samples of your work.

The freelancers here are a community. They get weekly freelance tips and advice, access to a private Facebook page for profile holders to bounce around ideas, find collaborations and be part of the freelancing community. We give their profile a paid boost on social media when they join, too.

We have a blog, of course. We recently wrote a series about co-working spaces – which freelancers love.

We get approached by plenty of amazing entrepreneurial types with online tools, and freelancers with some advice – to blog for us, so we’ve got a growing bank of resources here.

The freelancers who have chosen to list their skills on the site are extremely loyal. They’re active members of our private Facebook group. They blog about their freelance experiences for us. They recommend us. And they let us know when they land work via the site with an excited email or Facebook message.

Employers of quality freelancers can browse The Freelance Collective and build their own freelance team from the talent listed. They can reach out to two or three and gather quotes for their project, and hire none of them, or all of them. It brings the relationship between the freelancer and the employer closer.

So if you’re freelance, or thinking about it, be sure to check out The Freelance Collective, where you can celebrate your professional autonomy and be inspired by like-minded professionals by signing up for your profile page.

This is the speech given by Nina Hendy, founder of The Freelance Collective, at Storyology in Sydney last week.

Nina Hendy
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