I’ve always thought of the web as a great leveller. That’s because every website (search engine rankings aside), no matter how huge the organisation behind it, has equal prominence.
We’re all equal in the eyes of the Internet.
Yet, given its global nature, you’d have thought all business conducted on it, must follow suit. Indeed, the web does lubricate the wheels of globalisation, but there’s a resurgent propensity amongst its users to still err on the side of local when it comes to finding and selecting who you do business with.
Do you err on the side of local?
Each time a new enquiry form arrives through this website, I’m buoyed by the increasing emphasis on hiring local talent. To quote one message which arrived last week:
“Hi I need a freelance copywriter. I’m based in Leeds too so thought it good to connect with someone local.”
And in 2013, I won one of the biggest projects of my freelance career to date (a copywriting job to promote the Leeds economy. My client (also Leeds-based) chose me partly on the merits of what I could do, but also because I was local – a reliable freelancer, who lived, worked and felt equally invested in the same local area.
Put simply, for my clients, an investment in my freelance copywriting and event photography service is a safe, trustworthy investment in the local Leeds economy.
Tribalism is alive and well
Perhaps us humans have an evolutionary preference for trusting people near us, because there’s a stronger chance they’ll share our values and, like us, be invested in the same community.
That and it’s easier to thump someone if they only live a few miles away, when things go wrong.
Whilst tribalism undoubtedly has its downsides, like blaming ‘outsiders’ for all our problems just because they look a bit different, this is surely proof that the same energy can be channelled into positive means and ends too.
We both want our home to do well
There are practical benefits to partnerships between local businesses and freelancers in Leeds too. If you hire me to scribble your copy, pen a case study or snap your event photos, I’m only ever a short bus hop away to meet face-to-face, and chat about what’s what.
I also know my city, it’s quirks, what makes businesses tick here, and how to second-guess what the blasted weather’s going to do (especially useful for photo-shoots at outdoor events).
Also I have a stake in the prosperity of our home city, in the same way you are, as a local business. We both want our home to do well. When you pay me fairly for the work I do on your behalf, I also spend that money on products and services here – which is good for our local economy. Especially when we choose other independent, Leeds-based businesses over tax-dodging chain stores (I’ve got a soft spot for anything sustainable and socially responsible).
Freelancers tend to collaborate with other freelancers too
Often, I’ll hire a local freelance graphic designer because I’m crap with a paintbrush. So by hiring one Leeds freelancer, you’re effectively supporting an ecosystem of local artisan talent – keeping it alive and prosperous.
The money we earn puts food in our mouths – it’s as simple as that. Talk of off-shore tax-hideaways and hedge-funds to any freelancer and our eyes will glaze over. We live, work and spend local – small-scale, honest businesses like ours are the glue that binds our economy together.
Clearly, people value a local, like-minded freelancer who’s never far away
Of course, you could argue that clients have little other choice than to hire a Leeds-based freelance photographer when they host an event here.
And that’s true, I do get plenty of work from London-based agencies wanting a local lens. But the bulk of my work (freelance copywriting for marketing projects and websites) can be done anywhere on the planet, by any English speaker who has a way with words.
So why are most of my clients based in Yorkshire towns like Harrogate, Wetherby and Leeds?
Competency and experience aside, I’m convinced it’s because people value a local, like-minded freelancer who’s never far away.
What swung it for Wates Construction when they hired me to photograph their open-day event in Woodhouse, is the fact that I’m based at my office in Headingley. When I asked them why that was such a deal-breaker, they told me:
“It made it feel real – that you’re a real person doing things properly, here in Leeds. Not just any old person anywhere.”
So, for all the web’s global ambitions, it still pays to choose local freelancers and businesses to partner with. That shared connection and stake in a community, and regional Yorkshire values, gives us both a head-start building that foundation of every lasting, prosperous working relationship: trust.