December 1st, 2021

A Freelance Success Story: Jeffrey Hughes

How a freelance marketing specialist used Communo to grow his consulting business helping startups and SMEs with websites, ads, design, and more.

From Edinburgh to London, Paris and then back to Calgary

Jeffrey started off in Edinburgh in 2014 working with a small startup—his first introduction to marketing. He was doing a bit of everything and soon figured out he really liked web development and design.

A few years later, he was working with a London-based energy company and then moved to Paris to do more development and design work. In 2019, Jeff moved back to Calgary and progressed his in-house role in Paris to becoming a client and added some freelance clients to build the base for RoughWorks.”

“My goal was to try and create an in-house web development company that allowed me to take on larger projects and challenge myself to push my career further.”

Filling up the months with billable hours

After making the leap, Jeff learned freelancing pays better than in-house, but he had a big challenge: filling his months consistently with work. He was able to fill a month or two in advance but had no assurance past that. He wanted stability for 6 to 12 months so he could scale and do so quickly. 

He tried other freelancing platforms.

“I signed up for Indeed, but I didn’t like it very much. I applied for freelance stuff on Upwork and Fiverr but I didn’t have much success there either. I felt Fiverr and UpWork lacked quality in projects and often were very low paying for the work involved.”

Jeff also struggled with making the best use of his time.

Before Communo, I did a lot of personal networking. It was a lot of me reaching out to people and actively building relationships, which I think is an important part of having a business.

But as he recalls, it was difficult to line up projects without doing work for nothing. 

“No one was coming to me with a package deal. I’d make a connection by showing interest in their business or a partnership, and they would come back in two months saying they needed my help figuring out the scope.”

So Jeff would spend his time building out proposals, a time-consuming task , and sometimes he didn’t end up working with the client. 

“I had people drop off halfway through projects after I already put in time and a lot of thought.”

And then he found Communo.

Building an agency of one

With Communo, Jeff introduced his clients to a new work concept he was testing out: “bring me on, and take x of my hours.” 

“I used Communo to fill a 40 hour work week by allowing clients to take 30, 20 or less hours out of my time. This gives me the freedom to work with other clients—as long as there’s no conflict.” 

The best part? What he can’t do, he’ll subcontract. 

Communo has been a great resource for seeing what’s around me. It gives you a good idea of your competition, but also who can help you. If I have too many projects, I have an instant contact base of people I can reach out and collaborate with.

Communo significantly reduced the time Jeff spent on discovery calls and vetting new clients. 

“With Communo, you know exactly what the project is about and the budget— all these questions you have in an introductory interview, all those hours I was wasting on scoping. Communo was delivering projects, where after 4-5 messages I was already briefing a contract. I don’t think there is anything better in terms of speed for leads.”

Since joining the platform, Jeff works with the right clients.

Communo isn’t pushing out tons of projects just because. All my clients have been solid and well prepared to handle projects. It allowed me to be picky with my projects and work on what I wanted.

Communo has brought comfort and stability in terms of how Jeff runs the client side of his business, by introducing him to agencies looking for roles he could fill and helping him build a strong client foundation.

Jeff says Communo showed him a need in the industry he didn’t see.

“Communo changed the way I look at my business structure. It showed me what works and how to deliver value using the combined power of more freelancers. Communo opened my eyes to the community around me and helped me identify opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible without it.”

Jeff’s tips for winning on Communo

Here’s what Jeff found works when growing a freelancing business.

1. Show up prepared

“You’re not going to win your first project unless you complete your profile, add references and a portfolio. It’s not Communo’s job to make sure you look good as a candidate. That’s completely on you as a freelancer.”

Jeff adds, “It shouldn’t take more than a day to build out a nice, 100% completed Communo profile, and that could win you 50% more projects.” 

2. Ask for references

“Once you’ve done a project, ask for a reference. The platform makes it easy to request it.”

3. Follow up

“If I don’t hear anything back after bidding for a project, I send a quick message to the project manager letting them know I’m still actively interested, and if they’ve chosen someone else, I ask that they let me know.”

4. Compete

“Get ready to show off: your skills, your rates, and how good of a fit you are. Communo gives you a good indication of what everyone else is providing, what they’re charging, and how they position themselves, which is very helpful.”

5. White label your services

“Communo taught me right away to white label my services for agencies because they have projects coming in daily. Surround yourself with companies that give you more than one project.”

6. Ask them why they chose you

Another thing I like to do after I finish working with a Communo client is to ask them why they chose me. It helps me improve my positioning.”

7. Build your community big time

“If I could do this freelancing journey again, I would’ve surrounded myself with the subcontractors I needed before I needed them. If you know you lack a skill, introduce yourself to someone who covers it. Make sure you have the right people around you before you get those big projects.”

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