This article is based on the Freelancing & Technology event that took place on the 22nd of October 2020. This is the first topical summary of this event. The focus is Collaboration (Technology) for freelancers
Collaboration over Competition
Matthew Mottola : One can do it all - but that is just the start
We started the conversation with a statement by Matthew Mottola (Author of the book “Human Cloud - How Today’s Changemakers Use Artificial Intelligence and the Freelance Economy to Transform Work” ( you can reach him here @matthewmottola)) about what the big “game changers” in terms of freelancing technology have been up to this point. “Technology that enables individuals to do the work that has previously been done by whole companies” has enabled freelancers to run their own professional businesses without dedicated HR or accountant staff. He also pointed out tools for processing payments internationally and contract signing, which while less obvious than project management tools have had a huge impact on the development of the current freelancer economy.
The obvious project management tools have enabled freelancers to actually work with companies.
Matthew sees the upcoming game-changers as tools that would enable freelancers to take on complex tasks and work together with other freelancers.
In regards to open source solutions, he does not think that companies/clients will ever buy into the co-ownership models that this would entail, or those solutions working at scale, but he sees the underlying ethos of open source as relevant for the development of freelancer to freelancer collaboration culture.
He ended up with the analysis that what would be needed next would be:
- One platform for freelancers which gives them actual ownership over their information, so they are not forced to switch and stretch themselves thing across multiple platforms. This is actually what he is working on with his current project.
- Enabling the collaboration between multiple freelancers, going beyond this initial “one person can do it all” idea to one person can work with everyone.
Dani Ifrim : Learning what you want
Dani Ifrim (you can reach him here @Danifrim) addressed the realities of working as a freelancer in the creative industry. Certain tools are necessary in this field, for example from adobe creative suite, but he still sees a lot of movement in this context as the best program ends up to be the one used. In his opinion, in the creative field the biggest programmes are usually also the best, and he would wish for even better compatibility between the tools.
Dani, who is now working as a photographer and web developer, had originally an education in mechanical engineering. He stresses the amazing platforms that are available to learn skills online as you need them to develop yourself and your practice. "All that I learned, I learned from Youtube and Skillshare."
In this phase, open-source programs are very relevant, but once a person professionalized they move towards the program that works best. There are a few examples, like Blender, where a developer commits both to opensource and best quality, but that is an exception.
"Personally I feel very lucky to live in the time that I live. Maybe sometimes it is too overwhelming, but you just have to put in some work in analysing what suits you best and yes, just do it." - Dani’s optimistic and encouraging closing statement.
Nicole Gray : Community and Communication
Nicole Gray is the founder and facilitator of a community for freelancers. (You can contact here @bxdcomm). She sees the main game-changer for her self and many of her community members to be “notion”.
The challenge with each new piece of technology you use is the learning curve, which is why most people go to the big monopolies because they do not want to potentially sink the costs of learning a new piece of software. Personally here again she has had good experiences with the Notion, Gmail platforms and Slack, but Zoom turns out to be the most important as it enables face to face engagement.
In this time, a large number of people have been forced to change quickly from a tradition fulltime job into a freelance position. “What can help with this challenging transition can be a likeminded community.” She would call a good online community a tool in this sense as it is integral. She has observed that especially new freelancers enjoyed virtually coworking sessions in her community.
Freelancers have to constantly test their messaging and communication their “brand” to develop.
Nicole stresses that building community is key.
A thought experiment:
What would you wish into existence?
- Something solving the problem for document access, as all the tools currently are developed for company teams, not for multiple freelancers that have different levels of access. Data shows most freelancers waste half their time with admin work like requesting access.
- A tool that merges different communication platforms like Messenger, Slack, email, Discord, WhatsApp etc. into one interface for you, collecting all the communications with each person and also allowing everyone to use the type of platform they want to use for technical or ethical reasons without having the freelancers “communication application diet” explode.
- “push a button and get working” to share the access and tasks with everyone according to what they need to be doing, and alongside this for the system to keep a record of the skills, needs and your history with each collaborator.
Closing statement: Collaboration over Competition
Nicole formulated the closing statement “Collaboration over Competition” which was seconded by everyone.
This is a great jumping-off point to discuss the future development of freelancing and tech to enable collaboration between multiple freelancers.
Freelancing has been on the rise over the last few years, but Covid has increased this development. This makes solving the challenges faced by freelancers not only more pressing but also more attractive.
So we ask:
How could freelancer organise? What about freelancer unions? In different disciplines or even across?
Which tool/service/platform would you “wish into existence”, if you could, to improve your work as a freelancer?