Friday, January 30, 2015

The Initial Plan and Business Model for the Freelancer's Community Co-Operative Website

Freelancer's Community Co-Operative Website Update
A Dude on a Chicken
The feedback that I have been getting regarding the Freelancer’s Community Co-Operative Website has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. That kind of excitement from you all has lit a particularly hot flame under my butt. I want to get this site up as fast as possible, but I am sure you’ll see here shortly that it isn’t exactly the simplest of tasks.

There’s a lot of work on my plate for today, so I’m going to avoid a long-winded (I tried but failed epically, as my daughter would say) post and cut to the chase. As you read through the rest of this post, you will see a basic (and rough) outline of what I have planned for the FCCO site so far. There’s so much more possible, but I’d like all you freelancers/future members out there to chime in with your ideas and suggestions. 

Remember, this is a co-operative and it will follow the 7 Principles of a Co-Op. One of the most important of those 7 guiding principles is that each active member of the Co-Op is as important to the entity as any other member.

Essentially, we’re all equal and decisions are made democratically.

With that said, I’ll briefly explain the focus, mission statement and goals of the FCCO and then move on to a service and resource outline.

The Definition of ‘Cooperative’

I know. I know. You’re perfectly aware of what Cooperative means. Just bear with me and let me write it out anyways. It really sums up what I feel FCCO is all about:

co·op·er·a·tive – As an adjective it means “involving mutual assistance in working toward a common goal”
As a noun it means “a farm, business, or other organization that is owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits.”

Both of those describe exactly what FCCO means to me. Our common goal is the financial success of each member in their particular field of endeavor. Our business model will embody the democratic ideals of joint management and control while also sharing the profits or benefits among active and participating members. I thoroughly like that model for FCCO. What do you think?

The 7 Principles of a Co-Operative

Most Co-Op’s around the world follow these guidelines. They’re the main reason why a Co-Op can not only be extremely beneficial and profitable for its membership but also a great asset to the community in which it operates. In our case, that would be the Internet. While vast, I don’t think our digital community will affect how our Co-Op does business. We’ll strive to maintain an ethical approach in all dealings and find ways to improve that which is around us and the lives of each member.

1.       Voluntary and Open Membership – “Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.” As of this point, the only limitation to membership in the FCCO will be the “freelancer” prefix on your job title.
2.       Democratic Management – “Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.” FCCO will limit participating and controlling members to freelancers. While we will have a place for clients to hire, place ads and browse profiles, they will not have member privileges.
3.       Members’ Economic Participation – “Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership. “  This will be our basic guideline with some obvious adjustments for the unique situation in which we all work as freelancers. How certain fiduciary aspects will function for the FCCO is unclear to me at this point. Hopefully, some of you financially savvy memberswill be able to help out with this.
4.       Autonomy and Independence – “Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.” This isn’t exactly how the FCCO will function. While we may enter into contracts with clients in small member partnerships, I can’t foresee the entire member population working as a whole. Also, what each individual member earns on their own is not subject to FCCO control. Only the income generated by FCCO provided services and resources will fall under the control of the membership. This is all really tentative stuff and completely open to change once you all start giving feedback.
5.       Education, Training and Information – “Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.” This is essentially spot-on for what I think FCCO should strive to provide. Training, mentoring, apprenticeships. This could be one of the ways a member could earn financial benefits from the Co-Op. Again, this is an aspect that we’ll have to hash out together.
6.       Co-operation among Co-operatives – “Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.” I don’t know, we’ll see how it fits into our business model.
7.       Concern for Community – “Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.” This is another one of the principles that I feel suits FCCO perfectly. There will be a social side to the site that will focus on community building and creating a close-knit family like unit. I strongly believe taking this approach will allow us to work better on the business side of things.

As you can see, the 7 Principles are pretty close to what FCCO will embody. Of course, we’ll have to make some changes and alterations according to our unique situation, but I think we can look at those ideals and get a pretty good feel for the purpose of FCCO. What do you think? What needs to change? Stay the same?

Basic Outline of FCCO Member Services and Resources

1.       Forum
a.       Self explanatory. A discussion and help forum similar yet more encompassing than the one on this blog.
2.       Education
a.       Webinars
b.      Podcast courses
c.       Continuing or Furthering Education
d.      Alternative courses – Ex: If a writer wants to learn more about SEO or Web development.
e.      New Freelancer Bootcamps
f.        Legal/Tax counseling and education
g.       Career Development
3.       Service for Service Bartering
a.       Members can trade service for service
b.      I’m not sure how this would be implemented. Maybe as part of the forum. Maybe something more powerful and fine tuned to prevent disagreements.
4.       Volunteer/Mentoring
a.       Payment system or reward system for members who mentor or volunteer
b.      Apprentice programs
c.       Mentor programs
d.      Volunteering
                                                                                        i.      Training or Education courses
                                                                                      ii.      Site Management
                                                                                     iii.      Pro Bono
5.       Material Resources
a.       E Books
b.      Legal Forms
c.       Templates of all types and needs
d.      Whatever else we can think of.
6.       Member to Member Discounts
a.       Package Deals
b.      Featured Discount or Deal of the Day
c.       Partnered Deals
7.       Investment
a.       This is something I briefly thought about. It may or may not be viable.
b.      Crowdfunded Ventures
c.       FCCO Funded Ventures
d.      Individually Funded Ventures
8.       Grievance/Collections
a.       Client Blacklisting
b.      Site Embargo or Boycotts – Whichever applies
c.       Fair Wage Protests or Contracts
d.      Legal Help Collecting from Defaulted Clients
9.       What do you think we could provide our members?

Client Side Rough Rough Outline (That’s Two Roughs, One for the Each of Ya)....Yea, that was a Tombstone reference. I'm old.

1.       Job Board
a.       Clients pay for ad space
2.       Client Membership Fees
a.       Clients pay to join FCCO and have access to our freelance members, client services and resources.
3.       Member Profile Hiring
a.       Clients can browse members portfolios and hire individuals
b.      We can offer package deals with several members specializing in different aspects of the industry. EX: A Web Developer and a Content Marketer could sell their services as a package deal.
c.       FCCO would actively promote members, partnerships and special deals created by a particular member to clients.
d.      Ultimately, we would want to make it beneficial for clients to join FCCO by giving discounts, full-service deals etc. etc.
4.       Client Side Resources
a.       We can offer our clients educational and informational material
b.      Maybe even educational classes. Free? Paid?
c.       The sky is the limit.
5.       There’s so much we can do with the Client Side of FCCO. What are your ideas?

Member Community and Social Side

The final part of FCCO will be the social aspect for members. Think Facebook or something similar. I haven’t been able to come up with a lot of ideas, but I think it is vital that we have a place where members can share and discuss their lives with other members. Let me know what your thoughts are on this.

Freelancer’s Community Co-Operative is Your Site, What Do You Think It Should Offer?

You can simply comment any ideas, but I would prefer if you jumped over to the forum, joined and posted any ideas or suggestions for FCCO there. The forum is acting as our temporary community until the main site goes live. 

Let me say this one more time: 

FCCO is for every freelancer that does work on the Internet. FCCO needs you in order to succeed. Make FCCO what you want it to be, and I will do everything in my power to see that it gets done. Without you freelancers, however, FCCO is just another forgotten idea.

Join the small but growing family on the forum and ensure you’re opinion is heard and acknowledged. I look forward to meeting and growing with you all.


Jessica Winum said...

Wow Mike, that is ambitious! And it all sounds great and necessary. I am on board and looking to help things grow.


Michael Davis said...

Yea, maybe too ambitious! HAHA!

Robert patel said...

Hi there…my friends thought that I was crazy, as I was always recording what I was hearing. From ringtones to traffic noises, I have a huge collection of seconds-to-minutes recordings. Your article on how I can cash in on my hobby and to make money as a freelancer is awesome. Now, I know that I am not a wierdo. I have registered at some micro job sites like , Freelance Jobs online which are sure to help me make money for my passion. Can’t wait to see the astonished looks as I wave a wad of notes on their faces! Ha..ha…

Michael Davis said...

Here's to you making it rain those fat freelance funds on your buddies faces! Good Luck!