Some may call it the lazy way to freelance, but I like to think of it as a way to focus your time on the projects instead of looking for them.
First off – if you’re unfamiliar with what (or who) a middleman is; it’s a person who arranges and deals between the producer (freelancer) and consumer (the actual client).
Think of your middleman client as an ultimate referral: they’re marketing your services for you, and if things go well, then that could mean a steady stream of work.
Having to give up some of the compensation is arguable, but if you can get more work with less marketing, then I’d say that’s a fair deal!
Less talk more work
One of the biggest advantages of working with a middleman client is being able to focus more on the actual work at hand.
Whoever your middleman client may be — such as a design firm or another freelancer — they bring you the work, and then manage the actual client for you. Even though you might normally view these sources as competition, this is a great opportunity for “coopertition”.
I know some of you love dealing with the client, and it definitely has its benefits, but that doesn’t mean you have to manage every single project on your plate.
Having a middleman client let’s them handle the talking (and sometimes planning), and your only worry is to produce the work.
Here’s my best personal experience with dealing with a middleman client: a design firm from Chicago inquiring about my services contacted me.
The relationship grew and it ended up bringing in a lot of new work!
The firm had some incoming website jobs that they didn’t have the time to mockup and design – so they’d handle all of the interaction with the real client, plan out the project requirements, and wireframe the website…
They’d then pass it over to me to provide a couple mockup designs, and then once the client finalized a design, I’d design up the rest of the site.
The firm would then handle the development side of the project and I’d be done.
I charged them my regular hourly rate, so I wasn’t splitting anything. I got paid for every hour of work on every project.
Obviously not every middleman client is perfect, but this is my best-case scenario.
Finding your middleman client
Somehow I was lucky enough to have been found by my middleman client, but that’s not always the case.
If you’re interested in establishing a relationship with a middleman client, then you should know where to look.
The first and most obvious place to look would be within your own network. Meet, call-up, or email people you already know, and see if they have any projects they’d like to use your services for. You can either get a referral or work with that person on a project.
For me I’ve reached out to my old technical instructor, and we’ve worked on a few projects.
Another great place to inquire would be with other design firms. Either search for those you may already know of or look for firms online that work with the kind of clients you would. Take the time to send them an email and inquire if they outsource any work.
Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to as many potentials as possible. Just don’t spam!
Becoming a middleman client
Either go in full-time or instead of turning down a project, only manage and pass the workload onto someone who’s interested. Maybe even take on a project you aren’t familiar with yourself and find the right creative to produce it.
Understand your role, give it your all, and make sure your communication skills are professional and awesome.
Be ready to plan everything. Make it easy for both sides.
Know how to compensate yourself and the producer accordingly.
You might even find that you enjoy being a middleman client more than being a production worker.
Nothing is perfect
There are obviously downsides to this approach. As often times you’ll be giving up some level of creative control – you might not get paid as well as if you took on the project solo, and unless you’re very detailed in your contracts, you might be waiving the ability to fire the client without taking a hit not only monetarily, but to your reputation.
But if these are things you’re willing to work around and play with, a middleman client relationship can be a very beneficial indeed.
What’s your take?
What have your experiences been like working with middleman clients?
How about times you were a middleman client?
Let me know in the comments – as always I’d love to hear what you’ve found out there.