As we look to a new decade, it’s time to reflect on the evolution of the gig economy and what these changes mean for freelancers. In part four, we provide a game plan to help freelancers stay relevant as the gig economy pool expands.
According to gig economy expert and entrepreneur Brett Helling, by 2027, it is projected that more than half of the U.S. workforce will be involved in the gig economy. In this short period of time, the heart of the economy and the attitudes toward freelance will dramatically change, challenging both solo-leaders and companies to adjust.
To remain competitive and build a lucrative career, freelancers are tasked with staying fresh, adjusting to a rapidly-changing industry and most importantly, keeping their influx of business growing steadily.
In fact, founder and CEO of The Lonely Entrepreneur Michael Dermer puts it best when he says the nature of work is changing more than ever:
With each passing day, the relationship of an employee to an employer continues to get blurred. The gig economy and the proliferation of freelancers has ridden the employment wave — with more and more opportunities for individuals to show their skills as freelancers.
As brands start to realize the undeniable benefit of remote workers who have the ability to moonlight far and wide, freelancers need to ensure they take the necessary proactive steps to remain relevant.
How can freelancers stay relevant? Here’s your game plan.
1. Be firm with your hourly rate.
As more freelancers enter the marketplace and more companies start to seek their services, it’s natural to assume competition will surge. Though this is expected for those who have been in the trenches for a while, it can also bring uneasy feelings of anxiety.
At its core, freelancing is a volatile, unpredictable environment that requires workers to be nimble and flexible. And while you may be tempted to drop your rates in an effort to stay in the race, communications consultant Jennifer Johnson said this isn’t the right tactic, since it only discounts your worth.
The right type of employers are willing to pay freelancers for their talent, while the rest will take the lowest rate… And eventually, suffer the consequences of inexperienced hires.
Here’s what Johnson suggests:
Calculate how much you need to make to pay your bills and keep up your desired lifestyle and how many hours you can realistically work. Use these numbers to determine an hourly rate and stick with it. Remember to factor in taxes.
2. Look for opportunities around every corner.
Or in other words: Leave no stone unturned as the economy adapts to this new way of working. Much like you would when you’re seeking a new job, consider reaching out cold to brands you admire and respect to see how you can become a thought partner.
There’s no harm in a candid discussion, and though it may not pay off immediately, there is no price tag to put on relationship building.
As Johnson notes:
Even if a company isn’t actively looking for freelancers, still get in touch if you’d like to work for them. Freelancers who do service-based work for businesses often get a majority of top clients from referrals. Reach out, share your credentials, and be open to any opportunities that may result.
3. Become an expert in your field or niche.
Considering you’re a wordsmith yourself, you know how valuable it is to have a niche you can write about endlessly. Or, if you’re a marketer, you understand the payoff of being fully ingrained into a speciality. Not only can you charge more at an expert level but you will likely beat out others who define themselves as more of a generalist. How come?
Well, in addition to being trustworthy, Helling says companies appreciate the fast-paced project speed and less work required on their end:
Freelancers oftentimes work within a narrow scope of work, so the benefit to companies looking to hire qualified candidates is that they can let them do their job without having to train them on-site for the project. They work on projects similar to what they have done in the past. The result? More efficiency, and in theory, more successful projects.
4. Keep your skill fresh.
Even if you’ve been riding the wave of freelance and the gig economy long before it was considered ‘trendy’ — that isn’t an excuse to coast. Especially as more solopreneurs enter this dynamic of employment. If you aren’t taking the time and investing the energy into updating your skill set, you’re falling behind.
One area to focus heavily on, according to Dermer, is innovative technologies that are disrupting every market. Think about various advancements that could threaten your bread-and-butter. Instead of thinking of those developments as the energy, Dermer suggests befriending these systems, fast:
Every freelancer must understand the innovation and technology trends that are impacting their space. How do you shape your services so that the technology that will come to life will be more effective? How do you combine the technology with your talents to make a one plus one equals three? Companies will expect freelancers to bring their best and that best will be to incorporate the latest technologies.
5. Demonstrate your know-how.
Most of the time, writers are more than happy to perform behind the scenes, far away from the front-and-center of sales. But if you’re going to remain a major player in a saturated gig economy, being able to illustrate and articulate your know-how is mandatory, according to Dermer.
By having a killer portfolio, a set-up that’s professional and standard for onboarding new clients, and other systems, companies will feel more at ease when they choose you for the work. So having an elevator pitch? A deck of your services? And references on hand? It’s time to get crackin’ on those ASAP.
As Dermer says:
As technology plays a growing role, freelancers must be able to show companies their know-how from minute one. Companies will expect technology to play a greater role – but technology does not replace knowledge gained over time. You have to show them that know-how.