September 7, 2015
Disappearing jobs have resulted in a huge shift to full- and part-time freelancing. The new Due.com Guide to Freelancing states, “There are approximately 53 million freelancers in the U.S. contributing $715 billion in earnings to the national economy.” Freelancers make up 34 percent of the national workforce.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Freelance work now accounts for about a third of U.S. jobs and may hit 40 percent by 2020.” That growth is driving changes both beneficial and painful to freelancers and employers alike.
Freelance demand is up strongly and working as a freelancer has become more respected as a career path. In Freelance Statistics 2015, “80 percent of non-freelancers say they would be willing to do work outside their primary job to make more money.”
Growth Linked to Technology
Sixty-nine percent of freelancers indicated it is now easier to find work, thanks to technology. Fast Company cites new platforms for pairing talent with business as a major factor driving growth.
Individual freelancing platforms have given way to the merging of Elance and oDesk into Upwork and a giantGator, a new aggregator pulling postings from all freelance platforms into one place. WebProNews reports: “The estimated number of posted freelance projects giantGator has aggregated since February is 1.36 million, and the average number of projects posted daily is 8,245. The typical lifespan of a posted project is about four days.”
Job posting sites are not the only technology contributing to the freelancer economy. Collaborations of freelancers use social media to connect and Skype to pass work to each other. Individual freelancers serve as micro-agencies, pulling together teams for client projects.
There are a multitude of collaborative tools like Trello making it easier for teams working from locations across the globe to share resources and management of projects. Lists of essential Freelance Tools are readily available.
Shared Mentoring and Training
Freelancers who are well-established reach out to newcomers, train them in processes and plug them into resources. Skype groups, Google Hangouts, webinar solutions that translate into other languages, and now Blab.im are all used to mentor and transfer skills.
Anyone interested in freelancing should contact freelancers who are already active in the field that interests them to seek advice, training, and referrals. The fastest way to get work is to have connections to freelancers who have more work than they can complete.
Critical Freelancing Skills
The largest challenge after finding sufficient work to make a consistent living is organization skills. Many freelancers are talented at their chosen work, but lack communication skills or the ability to manage their clients and projects.
The key to success is staying on top of project details and deadlines. Long-time freelancers used a combination of spreadsheets, to-do lists, and online tools to manage client contacts and projects.
Today, cloud-based solutions such as Due.com are capable of tracking customer contact information, project details, to-do lists, time spent per task and invoicing. That tool will even automatically notify clients of overdue invoices and display the status of all invoices in a dashboard.
While tools make tasks easier to manage, the most important freelancing skill is the ability to communicate clearly and promptly. Misunderstandings are common, especially among people whose natural instinct is to seek to avoid conflict. Sometimes delays are inevitable, but customers can be very understanding when told in a straightforward manner.
Freelancing Pros and Cons
Freelancing is not for everyone. The majority of freelancers are self-starters who enjoy working alone. They thrive on flexibility and creating a quiet working environment. If they work from home, they are able to set boundaries with their families and get their work done in a timely manner. Most are introverts by nature.
Extroverts who come alive around people and look forward to seeing everyone at the office are unlikely to be happy working by themselves. Where introverts are quite satisfied having most of their relationships on social media and over Skype and video chats, many extroverts need to be around people in person.
If you’re an extrovert, you may want to set yourself up in a co-working space. Fast Company suggests asking yourself these 15 questions before deciding whether to become a freelancer or not.
Have a plan before you jump into freelancing. Keep your job and take work on the side. Lower your overhead if possible or have many months of expenses in savings. Or as Lifehacker suggests, make your current employer your first client.
Even if you do not choose freelancing, it may be chosen for you. Find out why in Fast Company’s 5 Major Ways Freelancers Will Change the Economy by 2040.