From Freelancer to Business Partner: What to Look for in a Co-Founder

A noteworthy evolution in the gig economy and the startup ecosystem is the shift of freelancers from transactional contributors to their emergence as strategic partners.

Much of this transformation is a testament to the symbiotic relationship between freelancers and startup founders and their shared traits, experiences, and aspirations.

Finding a good business partner can be challenging.

Friends and family are an obvious place to start, but these relationships don’t always translate well in the business world. You need someone passionate, skilled, diligent, and ready to take a risk or two to create a successful company.

You need someone who understands your market and can help create a product or service that meets client expectations.

There is a noticeable trend in freelancers joining a startup team and eventually finding themselves as equal business partners.

But why is this happening? What qualities do freelancers possess that make them ideal potential business partners? How can a startup founder be sure they are making the right decision in bringing someone new on board? What are the eventual outcomes?

In this blog, we aim to answer all these questions and give examples of where freelancers have made such a substantial difference that they have become critical members of a successful worldwide business.

Shared qualities between founders and freelancers

Startup co founders looking at a desktop screen


It’s the art of pioneering something new.

It’s risk-taking at the professional level and includes people who eschew the nine-to-five for something more challenging.

Founders and freelancers have entrepreneurial traits and often walk a similar path, guided by a shared purpose and values.


The startup arena is like a high-stakes game, marked by uncertainty and ever-changing dynamics. Founders and freelancers thrive in such an environment, demonstrating an innate ability to pivot and adapt swiftly in the face of challenges.

Freelancers and founders manage their finances without the comfort of a monthly salary, a pension, and employee benefits by relying on their skills and previous experiences to attain contracts. When something goes wrong, it is solely up to them to adjust and create a new revenue stream to minimize adversity.

Entrepreneurial mindset

Despite popular belief, the entrepreneurial spirit isn’t confined to founders and venture capitalists alone.

Freelancers are also driven by autonomy and a hunger for meaningful work. They embody the same spirit, fostering innovation and contributing significantly to the startup ecosystem. Over time, these experiences can imbue freelancers with the drive to be their company’s chief executive officer, chief technology officer, or founder.

With a deep understanding of startup roles, day-to-day operations, and how their strengths will ensure success, freelancers are uniquely placed to grow a new business.

Results-driven approach

Tangible results are the only thing that matters when the buck stops with you. There are no points (or dollars for trying). That is why achieving measurable milestones that align with a startup’s overarching goal indicates that a successful partnership can flourish.

Founders are always looking to hire people who always keep the bigger picture in mind. Especially in the early stages, hitting targets is non-negotiable, so hiring a team member who listens to customer feedback and can find solutions quickly, is invaluable.

Why founders might choose a freelancer as a business partner

Asian businessman looking at the camera

The transition from freelancer to strategic partner is often catalyzed by instances that reveal the potential for deeper, lasting collaboration. This may occur through sustained exceptional contributions, filling significant skill gaps, or recognizing a more profound passion.

Consistent excellence

Freelancers who consistently deliver exceptional results become prime candidates for prolonged collaboration.

Feedback and testimonials from the startup’s end client are often a good barometer for how a freelancer is performing. Allowing a freelancer to leave due to a better offer, in this case, would be a poor business decision. Bringing them on board as a partner or business owner may be the opposite.

Skill synergy

Collaboration sometimes unveils a synergy between a founder’s skills and a freelancer’s expertise. This realization propels the freelancer from a temporary contributor to a strategic partner, with their capabilities woven into the startup’s fabric.

Generally, freelancers are brought on board a startup because they possess the skills desperately required to help the company function at a higher level. Understanding that it is impossible to know everything, founders reach out to the gig economy to provide assistance that adds value to end clients.

Vision and values alignment

Like any relationship, it is common to find kindred spirits who share your values and vision. Sometimes these relationships can develop into powerful bonds and working partnerships.

When a freelancer’s aspirations mirror the startup’s mission, focus on increasing their responsibilities.

Why freelancers are ideal partners

chief marketing officer using post-it's and diagrams

The essence of startups is growth and evolution, and freelancers often play a pivotal role in this metamorphosis, constantly progressing from external collaborators to integral partners.

Freelancers also understand founders’ pains when managing the company’s finances and getting marketing teams on the same page while growing.


Startups on the upward trajectory require adaptable partners who can navigate the complexities of growth. A freelancer’s proven capabilities can make them an ideal fit for this role, ensuring that the startup’s expansion is managed seamlessly.

Strategic insights

Freelancers bring a fresh and unbiased perspective to the table. As startups mature, this external viewpoint becomes increasingly valuable, infusing strategic discussions with innovation and contributing to informed decision-making.

Long-term dedication

Unlike transient freelancers who juggle multiple commitments, freelancer partners are in it for the long haul. These individuals exhibit a heightened level of commitment. Their vested interest in the startup’s future success fosters a deep sense of responsibility and engagement.

Access to resources

The transformation of freelancers into partners unlocks access to their networks, resources, and industry knowledge and insights. This infusion of assets bolsters the startup’s competitive advantage and accelerates its growth.

Real-life instances of freelancers turning partners

Chief financial officer sitting in front of computers with financial data

Several freelancers are hopping on board an existing team and using their expertise to further the startup’s ambitions. A few of these companies have conquered the world in their respective niches, creating considerable wealth and value for customers.

Many of the following two examples’ successes can be attributed to a talented freelancer joining the team as a partner.


Leo Widrich’s transition from a marketing freelancer to co-founder of Buffer underscores the power of skills alignment and shared vision. His marketing acumen contributed to Buffer’s growth and exemplified the synergy between freelancers and startups.


The story of Clark Valberg, who transitioned from freelance designer to co-founder of InVision, showcases the impact of specialized expertise and an entrepreneurial spirit. His design and sales skills propelled InVision to the forefront of digital product design innovation.

Where to find freelancers worthy of partnership

freelancer sitting outside in the sun on a laptop

For founders seeking freelancers with partnership potential, there are several places you can canvas to find the right fit.

Even if you decide to hire a freelancer who doesn’t have the required skills to take the step up to the management level, you are still likely to get a dedicated professional to help you achieve your productivity goals.

  • LinkedIn: A hub of professional connections, LinkedIn is a fertile ground to identify freelancers who exhibit entrepreneurial traits and resonate with the startup’s vision.
  • Freelancing Platforms: Platforms tailored to freelancers provide access to a curated pool of talents brimming with entrepreneurial flair and strategic insight.
  • Social Media Networks: Social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest offer a glimpse into freelancers’ work, ethos, and alignment with the startup’s mission, making them potential partners.

Quickly Hire: A dedicated network of talented professionals who understand the startup ecosystem

Freelancer at a computer with a iced coffee

Finding the ideal freelancer to match your startup’s culture and goals can take time and effort. There are a raft of freelancer platforms out there with thousands of freelancers to choose from but little guidance on how to make your selection.

In addition, navigating payment plans, onboarding, and vetting suitable candidates can be downright time-consuming.

Many founders are turning to platforms like Quickly Hire, which take care of all the nitty gritty for you. By leaving the hiring process in the capable hands of a trusted partner, you don’t need to keep checking in to see if work is completed on time or to the standard you expect. All of this is a given.

We have complete confidence in every outsourced hire in our network, placing the vast majority with small businesses, solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and startups like yours.

So instead of aimlessly hunting for the right person, give the team a shout. Our account managers will get you sorted with a new hire within 48 hours, so you can start pumping out new work and contribute better to your startup’s success!


  • Alex McInnes

    Alex is Quickly Hire's content strategist and digital marketer. He's a New Zealand-born, Thailand-residing copywriter extraordinaire. Dad to two beautiful girls, Alex loves playing rugby, reading, and running with his soi dog, Effie.

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