Fifty years ago, men and women had little choice but to enter into a traditional career. Many from small towns simply followed their mom or dad’s footsteps and even those living in big cities typically molded themselves into whatever jobs were available. Work was something that, up until just a few decades ago, meant logging a 40-hour week and toiling away on someone else’s timeclock. But the internet has changed things dramatically.
Today, the dream of most working adults is to enjoy life on their terms and work when it makes the most sense for their lifestyle. And it’s easier than ever to connect to opportunities. Sites such as Fiverr and UpWork allow independent contractors and freelance workers to locate one-time and temporary projects. From freelance writers to dog-walking debonairs, today’s advanced level of social connectivity makes it easier than ever to break in to what has been dubbed the “gig economy.”
A balancing act
For those looking to break in to the wonderful world of freelance or consulting work, the most important thing to know is that it’s a balancing act. There are plenty of pros and cons. On one hand, a freelance worker makes his or her own schedule and sets their own pay rate. On the other, work is not always guaranteed and even a minor misstep can leave a seat open for the next contract worker in line. But, without risk, there is no reward.
According to Harvard Business Review, there are four things that all freelance workers must connect before jumping headfirst into the world of temporary work. The first is simply having a place to work. For writers, graphic designers, and other desk-job professionals, this might be a home office. Artists and artisans will need a dedicated space to complete their craft. Others still may only require a place to store tools and materials needed for off-site work, such as tutoring, painting murals, or performing at events.
The second necessary element to successful freelance work is having a routine in place. Third, people who work independently must have a purpose in the form of a clear objective. Finally, independent workers must have a strong social network to avoid loneliness, which can be a real problem for people devoid of human contact during the workday.
Getting started in the gig economy isn’t that difficult for those willing to put themselves out there. Many people don’t realize it, but they have talents that others are willing to pay for. “Dog people” are a great example and can provide valuable pet sitting or dog walking services to busy families unable to devote that time to their canine companion. Similarly, people who have a knack for calligraphy can sell the services to create signage for wedding venues or artistic birth announcements. Graphic designers can also pull away from the corporate world by offering their visual marketing services to individuals or businesses not needing a full in-house design team.
More than anything, new freelance workers need to understand the ins and outs of business. From being able to communicate effectively with potential clients to knowing how to manage money and properly pay self-employment taxes, being a gig guru requires a nearly unimaginable amount of business acumen.
Success is a slow process
Aspiring freelancers need to understand that success is not an overnight achievement in the gig economy. One completed job won’t lead to another if it’s not top-notch. In addition to traditional marketing, freelancers often enjoy the bulk of their financial gains in the form of word-of-mouth and, to an ever-increasing extent, from online reviews.
Contrary to popular belief, being an independent contractor is not an open invitation to success. It takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance that must begin and renew with each gig.
For more on the pros and cons of self-employment check out this Forbes’s article on the topic.