Nina Hendy – Founder of The Freelance Collective

Nina Hendy is a freelance journalist specialising in writing about personal finance and small business. She's also the founder of The Freelance Collective - a vetted online community of amazing Australian creative freelance talent.

Grant McCall
10 JUNE 2016
Min read

Tell us a bit about yourself and your passion for supporting the Australian Freelance community.

I’m the founder of The Freelance Collective – a curated online community of creative Australian freelancers.
I launched The Freelance Collective last year to give greater visibility to top creative freelancers and make them easier for clients to find. I’ve been freelancing as a business journalist for more than a decade.

What effect has freelance marketplaces like Upwork and had on the local freelance community here in Australia? Has it changed the expectations and perspective of clients?

These platforms are increasingly commoditising freelancers, taking a cut for matching freelancers with work.

They’re all built for clients by allowing them to set the price for jobs and expect freelancers to bid against each other for work. This only drives down price and quality.

The Freelance Collective reverses this model, giving good quality creative freelancers a place to tell their story and show samples of their work, and for clients to come looking for them and reach out to that freelancer direct, based on their skills.

Each new freelancer profile is vetted for quality before being made live. Having said that, these platforms have a place in the world, but if you’re after a quality freelancer that can be part of your team, you’re going to want to have a closer relationship with the freelancer than these platforms allow.

Have you always been interested in writing and journalism? Or was it something you fell into after trying a few different things?

I have wanted to be a journalist since I was 14 years old. I landed a cadetship shortly after school, and worked my way through the regional newspapers, business magazines before discovering freelancing. I started building up my freelance business and made the leap into full-time freelancing during the GFC after being given a redundancy from a business magazine.

How did you find freelancing as opposed to a 9 to 5 job? I was adamant that I wanted to freelance, and worked extremely hard to build up a decent portfolio of regular freelance work. I attended Walkley conventions on freelancing, and asked questions of a leading freelance travel journalist who lived near me, to learn how they landed work, how they handle their accounts, and whatever else they could teach me. She remains a dear friend of mine today. However, when it comes to freelancing, nothing beats learning on the job.

Do you have a particular routine or structure that you follow that helps your productivity?

When I sit down and start work for the day, I like to firstly read the piece I wrote the day before with fresh eyes. Then, I file it and send off my invoice. After that, I start working on the next piece I’ve got to tackle, and again, sleep on it before I file.

When I need a break or a ‘chat’, I head into a Facebook group to ‘chat’ to some colleagues in The Freelance Collective group, which is specifically for freelancers with a profile on the site. We’re getting quite a few job opportunities come in, which we feed into the group, so it’s always worth keeping an eye on what’s being posted during the day. There’s also collaboration opportunities, and a chance to have a vent or help a freelancer posting a question.

What’s your work environment like?

I love my office. It’s a wonderful space to work in. When we started looking for a new house, we knew we wanted something that could work as a separate office.

When we found this place, it ticked all the boxes. It had an undeveloped area beneath the house, which was ideal because we could purpose-build an office once we moved in. We designed a space with lots of storage and also had room for a storage room, spare bedroom and bathroom down here. I’ve been known to crash in the bedroom next to the office if I’ve been working late so I don’t wake the family!

I’ll occasionally conduct an interview in a café, but rarely work anywhere else, other than a hotel room or conference occasionally if I’m interstate for work.

What are the main tools you use in your workflow?

My desktop PC in my office, my laptop, iPad and iPhone. Then it’s just email. I use a few tools when I’m working on a bigger project, such as Basecamp or Trello.

What are you working on right now?

Today I’ve been working on a series of articles for one of the banks, a piece for Fairfax Media and conducted an interview with an established startup to identify media opportunities for them.

How do you find clients? And how do you market yourself as a freelancer in a very competitive market?

The issue of getting found is exactly why I created The Freelance Collective.

I was frustrated that the big brands I wanted to work with kept going to the content marketing agencies, who would hire me, but offer me far lower fees than I know I would have been offered if the client had been able to find and hire me direct.

Now, big brands can come and browse the creative freelancers listed on the site, and reach out to them directly. The freelancer pays a nominal monthly fee for the listing, so we don’t take a cut from the client like other sites do. Aside from my profile page on the site, I also keep my LinkedIn profile and website up to date.

What’s the most rewarding thing about freelancing? And the most challenging?

Getting a phone call or email from a brand new client that wants to hire you for an exciting project is the most rewarding. The most challenging is definitely remaining visible online when you’ve worked from a home office for more than a decade. If you can’t be easily found online as a freelancer, you cease to exist.

What’s your advice for someone just starting out?

Don’t try and be all things to all people. Find your niche and do it well. Once you’re excelling, you can add in another skill or two. Also, invest in a great website and make sure you’re easy to find online in a few key places.

How do you deal with the financial uncertainties of freelancing?

As a freelancer, you’re usually owed a few invoices, which drips in between seven and 30 days after you’ve completed the work. Because invoices are always being paid, it all sort of evens out. Having said that, my husband’s fortnightly wage certainly helps level out the peaks and troughs.

What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned lately?

Don’t ever sit still and think you’ve made it. You’ve got to constantly evolve, and look for new ways to work, new tools of the trade and new collaboration opportunities.

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