“Having a freelance model gives us agility,” says Dan Sheridan (pictured above). Dan is the founder of the Manchester-based PR and Communications business Duo Consulting.

“I started out as a freelancer myself and then as I got busier, my reputation grew and more opportunities came along, I plugged in other freelancers. It was a neat and tidy way of expanding from solo entrepreneur to something bigger.”

Dan, 38, became a Starling business customer when he registered as a limited company in 2019. “Starling seems to have nailed it for an entrepreneur like me. Staying organised with finances and paying our freelancers couldn’t be easier. It’s dependable and does everything it needs to do.”

Duo works with a number of freelancers to help clients enhance their business reputation and boost growth. The agency mainly works with technology and B2B companies, as well as providing support for consumer-facing brands.

Running a business with a freelance model

The main advantage of running a business powered by freelancers is flexibility. “You can dial things up or down in response to the dynamics in the market,” says Dan.

“Another benefit is the versatility it gives us – we can challenge the agency status quo. When we receive a project or take on a new client, we can step back and ask: Who would be best for this? Or we can turn to our network and ask for recommendations. We can create an exceptional team that’s specific to the client or project.”

Dan also finds that working with freelancers gives him, and his clients, access to highly experienced, senior people. “If a company doesn’t have an internal Head of Communications or PR, or if they want to bolster their comms or marketing team, we can step in. Duo consultants are a trusted extension of our clients’ teams. Unlike with a traditional PR agency, where you may have fleeting calls with a director and mainly work with someone more junior, you’ll be working week in week out with seasoned pros.”

Dan has built up a network of freelancers for his business, including freelance media public relations expert Anna Thomas, pictured above.

Dan says further benefits include high levels of motivation within the team, partly because the more work a freelancer takes on, the more they earn. Also, there are lower business overheads with a team that predominantly works remotely.

Duo is based in a flexible co-working space in central Manchester. This enables them to scale up on the days when freelancers want to come in, but for the most part, remain lean. “Our model also works for clients - remote meetings are entirely the norm, especially post-pandemic. When we meet in person, we travel to them.”

For Dan, the ultimate benefit of working with freelancers is the quality of the work they can deliver to clients. “Freelancers find work as a result of their performance, which means that what they produce often exceeds expectations and builds very strong client relationships. If they can be offered meaningful briefs with brilliant clients and work flexibly, they can do the best work of their careers.”

“We can create an exceptional team that's specific to the client or project.”

Tips for managing a business powered by freelancers

“It’s important to give everyone autonomy to manage their work in a way that works for them,” says Dan.

That said, he encourages common tools for communicating (they use Slack and WhatsApp) and the same platform for creating and sharing written content (they use Google Docs).

He also recommends carefully planning expenditure, something he does through Spaces, the feature of the Starling app that enables customers to set money aside for particular purposes.

“When a client pays an invoice, I can set aside what a freelancer will be due. I also use Spaces to set money aside for corporation tax, VAT returns or future investments for the business. It works really well.”

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