As a freelancer, you’re a self-employed individual trying to succeed on your own, and you’re often competing against other freelancers to make a living. This begs the question: Should you avoid sharing your skills with other freelancers? Does the nature of freelancing mean being secretive about what you do? Should you keep quiet and protect your own skills, knowledge, and resources?
I run a freelance meetup group, where we often share tips, knowledge, and insights to make each other’s freelancing journey easier. While most freelancers are happy to do so, a freelancer once said to me “Anyone with knowledge or skills in an area that makes them money won’t share those secrets.” His line of argument was that up-skilling other freelancers meant potentially creating a competitor or missing out on business—essentially losing money for himself. He even said it would be stupid to do so.
Of course there’s a risk that someone could take the knowledge and skills you’ve given them and become your competitor. However, the likelihood is that you’re operating in a totally different niche, a different industry even, to that person. And even if they did take those skills and apply them to their own niche, are they like to be competing against you directly, for the same clients? Probably not.
Even if they operate in the same industry or the same niche as you, does it really matter? You still have unique experience to bring to the table—most likely more experience than them, since you were the one sharing the skills. If you end up competing for work against that person, your experience will still shine through. Plus, your individual personality and communication style win clients too. Customers aren’t just looking for a CV or set of skills—they’re looking for a real person.
Even if you’re not worried about the risks of sharing your skills now, you might wonder what the advantages are of doing so? Well, by sharing your skills with other freelancers, they may return the favour and up-skill you in a new area or give you tips that make your freelance life easier. They may recommend you to clients, leading to more work for you. Or they may become part of your business network, leading to collaborations or co-working. Either way, there’s much to gain from sharing your skills and knowledge with other freelancers.
But won’t I lose customers?
Sharing your knowledge might mean losing out on some custom, because the person may not need to buy your service anymore. However, this is rare. On the contrary, customers like freelancers who freely share their knowledge. For example, as a book editor, I offer free writing guides for authors. Yes, it might mean that they edit the book themselves and don’t hire me, but mostly, they appreciate the extra pointers and the fact that I’m trying to help people—and they hire me anyway. In this way, sharing your skills for free may actually make you more hireable.
Sharing is caring
Sharing your skills and knowledge shows that you care about the world and want to help your fellow humans. You’re trying to make the world a better place for others, not just for yourself. You’re doing a good thing in up-skilling other people, rather than just hoarding knowledge to yourself. There are lots of famous quotes about sharing knowledge, but this about sums it up:
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” – Margaret Fuller
As a freelancer, why not help your fellow freelancers light their candles too?
Do you share your knowledge as a freelancer? Has anyone shared their knowledge with you? Comment below or get in touch.