How to create a network of complementary skill sets

Build a dream team

People who don’t understand computing sometimes assume experience in one area makes you an all-around IT expert. Sadly, that’s rarely the case. A talented web designer or developer won’t necessarily be comfortable editing video footage or building their own PC. Being fluent in WordPress or InDesign doesn’t mean you have an understanding of cloud networks or familiarity with the latest malware and viruses. It’s vital for any web professional to create a network of contacts ready to provide expert assistance on an ad hoc basis.

You might need a freelance copywriter to generate weekly blog articles, or a networking specialist who can investigate a Wi-Fi connection that keeps dropping. These complementary skill sets enable you to provide a dependable one-stop shop for your own clients, potentially giving you an advantage over your competitors. Any issues that arise will be dealt with professionally, reducing stress levels and minimizing complaints.

Create a network of skilled professionals, and you can ensure any problems or challenges are resolved quickly and effectively.

 

However, to preemptively create a network of experts, you need to decide which skill sets you might need, and then recruit suitable people to handle each role.

Decide which skills you might need

This list will vary according to your own experience and background. If you specialize in multimedia websites, a video editor and sound engineer might be vital contacts. However, most designers and developers should create a network of contacts including the following:

Hardware specialist

Create A Network Hardware

The blue screen of death might be consigned to history, but computers still go wrong. And when they do, you can ill afford any downtime incurred while you try to find someone to help.

It’s advisable to have the number of a friendly hardware expert in your contacts list who can remotely take control of your computer or pay you a visit.

Some hardware issues are easily resolved in a phone call, while others might require advanced systems knowledge to fix.

Security guru

As the cloud replaces offline storage, we are increasingly vulnerable to threats from malware and viruses. IT security specialists will be able to create a network in your home or office, building firewalls and ensuring servers are optimized against DDoS attacks. They can assist if an attack is launched and recommend appropriate upgrades afterward. Being able to offer their services to your own clients will also make you look conscientious and professional.

Marketing professional

Marketing is a broad church, encompassing many varied skills. Marketing people are good at SWOT analysis, which might influence how a website is designed and developed. They can identify where a client company excels against its competitors, ensuring these areas are prioritized. They understand the value of SEO and email marketing campaigns, plus they might have contact lists of their own that can be used to promote certain client websites.

Copywriter

Once a website has been created, someone needs to replace the Lorem Ipsum placeholder text with engaging original content. The client might ask to have a go themselves, but their efforts will lack the keyword optimization or compelling calls-to-arms delivered by a freelance copywriter. It takes real talent to distill key messages into a few paragraphs of text, and copywriters are also well-placed to generate regular content for blogs and social media.

Photographer

A freelance photographer will ensure your client’s website has proprietary images like product shots and staff photos. Bespoke photography can hugely improve a site’s aesthetics, dovetailing with effective editorial to tell a cohesive story. Buying photographs from platforms like Shutterstock is expensive and usually produces a generic site appearance, while copyright-free photos vary in quality and might be familiar from use on other sites.

Create A Network Handshake
Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

Create a network of professionals

Once you’ve decided to create a network of specialists, check your existing contacts lists for potential partners. Perhaps someone wrote the copy for your own website or helped you set up a home network. If they did a good job at the time, it’s worth considering these people as potential partners. You might already be connected to them on LinkedIn or have copies of old invoices with their contact details.

Another obvious place to look for freelance help is through search engines, in the same way your own services are promoted online.

Look for evidence of professionalism — a copywriting website full of typos won’t instill confidence, and neither will a hardware specialist site with 302 redirects and Comic Sans fonts.

It’s generally better to pay a premium for quality, rather than accepting second-rate work on the basis of affordability. It’s worth contacting several companies in each field since response rates to unsolicited inquiries can be surprisingly low. If you don’t hear back within 24 hours, it suggests the person you contacted isn’t reliable enough and might not be willing to assist in an emergency. Some people respond to inquiries with generic text, so ensure a reply answers your specific questions. Be wary if your name appears in a different font to the rest of the message!

Don’t enter a contract with a prospective partner until you’ve worked together on a trial basis.

 

If you’re happy with their contribution, you can decide whether to offer them a modest retainer or call on them as and when needed. Bear in mind freelancers and small businesses have peaks and valleys in their workloads, so availability might fluctuate. Nonetheless, a good partner will always find time for a repeat customer.

Final parting advice

Remember, partnerships don’t have to be a drain on your finances. A company might work for free if you reciprocate with voluntary assistance of your own. Some firms run referral schemes that pay out whenever you recommend them to one of your own clients. Being a guest blogger for a company might ensure occasional assistance is delivered on a pro bono basis, and tasks that only take an expert a few minutes might not even incur a cost. All in all, it pays to create a network of complementary skill sets.

Image by: rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Neil Cumins
Neil Cumins is an award-winning freelance writer and founder of the G75 Media copywriting and media agency. Born into a family of amateur BASIC programmers, he became a fluent HTML coder at college before moving into marketing journalism after graduating in 2000. Since becoming a full-time freelancer in 2007, Neil has worked with tech clients and digital marketing firms on three continents, writing about web-based technology and digital enterprises. He spends his spare time attending rock concerts and reading vintage car magazines.