The gig economy is a term often used to describe the growing workforce outside the “traditional” work environment. Often marked by short-term engagements and multiple clients, the gig economy is a significant shift from the 9-5 grind we’ve come to be familiar with.
Made up of consultants, freelancers, and other independent contractors, it’s one of the fastest growing sectors in the ever-changing market economy.
People are choosing the side-hustle mentality in droves and for many reasons. Whether it be the independence they crave, the extra income earned, or the work-life balance unrivaled by traditional jobs, it’s a trend that’s here to stay.
“The times they are a changing.”
According to a Gallup poll, 36% of American workers are now working in the gig economy. This translates to roughly 57 million people.
With so many people joining the side-hustle biz, competition can be undoubtedly fierce. Freelancing is no exception. Being successful in the gig economy may be tough, but it’s certainly achievable.
Diversify Income Streams
One of the most common methods of solidifying your business as a successful freelancer in the gig-economy is to branch out. Diversifying your income streams allows you to earn money in more ways, sometimes even passively.
Many freelancers diversify by offering a variety of services. For example, if you primarily do content writing, you may choose to provide social media management or SEO packages as well. By increasing your offerings, you can attract more clients as well as upsell existing clients.
Invest in Yourself
Many freelancers don’t know what other services they can offer or are otherwise not yet comfortable enough with their skill set to do so.
Investing in online courses is an excellent way to grow professionally. With thousands of courses available online, it’s as simple as finding ones that match your interests and business goals.
Monetize Your Website
If you don’t have one already, a website can be beneficial in more ways than one. Aside from having a place to host your portfolio and testimonials (which can help attract clients) websites are easy enough to monetize.
Through the use of affiliate or advertisement programs, you can earn a passive income. Running a site can tax your time a bit (regularly publishing quality content is a must for SEO), but if you’re willing to put the time in, it certainly can pay off.
For those who have a wealth of knowledge in a particular area, creating e-commerce products is a viable avenue in which to diversify your income. Between printables, ebooks and organizing your own workshops and courses, there are many opportunities to earn money outside of client work.
Relying on your education or real-world experience, take inventory of what you have to offer potential customers. You may just be surprised at the answer.
Be Productive With Your Time
Possibly the most potent currency you have as a freelancer is your time. Whether you’re a full-time freelancer or find time between jobs, learning to maximize your output in a given time-frame is the key to unlocking your earning potential.
Set a Schedule (and Stick to it)
Learning to plan your day effectively is an acquired talent. You first need to know how and when you work best. Some writers are most effective in the morning. Others may find their creative genius as a night owl.
Whatever works for you, setting a regular schedule can help you stay on task and work more effectively.
The second half to this ever-important equation is sticking to said schedule. It’s all good and well to have a well-laid plan on paper but actually adhering to it is what will help you succeed.
I speak from experience, I too have fallen victim to an overly ambitious agenda that I found soon impossible to stick to. Start by creating a realistic plan and adjust as you progress.
Plan for The Unexpected
Freelancers typically don’t get paid time off or sick days. Even still, emergencies happen. Staying ahead of deadlines can help ease the pressure when things come up.
Just the other week, I clumsily happened to suffer a concussion. Nothing major, but a massive pain in the butt when it came to my business. Doctor’s orders were to avoid screens for a week. As a freelancer, nearly all my work requires being on a computer.
A week of downtime left me behind schedule, and I was extremely grateful I had left some leeway between project deadlines to bridge the gap while I recovered.
Employ Productivity Hacks
A freelancer is only as good as their tricks, and we’ve got a bunch of them. Finding new ways to maximize your productivity takes some ingenuity as well as trial and error in finding which ones suit your work style best. Trust me when I say, there’s a hack for everyone.
When you can do more with less time, you put yourself ahead of the competition, which can help you be a standout to clients.
Evaluate Your “Why.”
Your “why” is the reason you got into freelancing. Maybe you wanted to supplement your income, pay off some bills, or find a more fulfilling career path. It’s unique to you and should be identified to stand as your motivating force.
Whenever you become overwhelmed or feel like you’re not up to snuff, remember why you started.
Short-term and Long-term Goals
Start by setting time-specific goals that are both manageable and achievable. Having an ultimate goal is more than okay, but it’s also important to set smaller ones.
Goals can serve as motivation as well as hold you accountable to yourself. Remember, freelancing is all about getting what you put in.
Short-term goals are ones you can reach week by week or even by month. You can focus them on a desired number of new clients to acquire, pitches to be sent out, or even income benchmarks. Make your goals ambitious but attainable.
Long-term goals are usually set several months to a year out. It can be a major a lifestyle change such as leaving your day job to freelance fulltime or partnering with a dream client. As with your “why,” these goals are individual to you.
Hitting your goals, both short-term and long, can be incredibly rewarding. Be sure to track your benchmark achievements; it’s worth seeing how far you’ve come as your business grows.
It’s also worth noting that it’s okay to reevaluate as needed. If some goals are proving harder to reach, break them down into smaller achievements. Perhaps you’ve achieved some goals sooner than expected. Now would be the time to be more ambitious with your aims.
One of the most challenging shifts many freelancers contend with is treating their hustle as a business.
Entrepreneurship, which may come freely to some, is often a significant change from collecting a bi-weekly paycheck from a company. You clock in, and you clock out. Taxes are accounted for long before a direct deposit hits your account. With freelancing, the whole game has changed.
Being a strong proponent for your financial health can help set you leagues ahead of other freelancers. Sadly, many who have failed at the side hustle game do so because they do not plan their finances.
Make an Appointment With Yourself
Be sure to schedule time weekly to tend to your accounting. By setting aside time to manage to essential financial aspects of running a business such as outstanding invoices and tax payments contributions, you ensure nothing is overlooked and can ward off any nasty surprises.
You wouldn’t flake on a doctors appointment or a meeting with your boss, would you? By scheduling a standing date with yourself to handle such matters, you hold yourself accountable to your business.
Raise Your Rates
Although a daunting endeavor, raising your rates is something every freelancer worth their salt needs to do at some point or another.
Based on experience and merit, raising your rate is just one way that freelancers grow their business financially. Many, if not all, freelancers start out with meager rates, commensurate with their experience in the field. As you gain expertise and skill, your rates too should reflect your growth as a professional writer.
If the idea of broaching the subject gives you apprehension, you can start by quoting higher rates for new clients then work up to raising rates with existing clients. This way, you alleviate some of the pressures of worrying about “what if they say no?”
You must be your own best advocate and take your financial health in your own hands. Know your worth and don’t settle for less than you deserve.
Create a Safety Net
The very nature of freelancing is uncertain. You may be busy with client work one day, and the next, it may seem as if the pipeline has dried up. Dry spells are just one reason why creating a safety net is of utmost importance.
Aside from saving for tax payments, creating a rainy day fund can allow you to invest in yourself, be it courses or subscriptions that can help further your business.
Those who don’t plan for slower times often find themselves abandoning their freelancing pursuits in exchange for steady paycheck work. To increase your staying power, prepare for both feast and famine.
Evaluate Current Clients
It’s entirely possible to outgrow a client. Perhaps they don’t agree to your newly raised, yet reasonable, rates. Maybe their work is too time-consuming for the pay.
Carefully evaluate your clients to ensure they align with your goals, short-term and long. It’s okay to “break up” with a client, as long as it’s done with tact and professionalism.
Outsource When Necessary
Let’s be honest; sometimes it feels like there’s not enough time in the day. Other days, your time may simply be better spent on other projects.
Whether it be tracking your finances, help with your website or a virtual assistant to help with an inundated inbox, getting outside assistance can help you get ahead. Sometimes you need to spend money to make money.
Getting the help of a professional can be helpful in keeping your finances strong as well. Especially in the case of taxes, a professional can help save you money as the ins and outs of a freelancer’s taxes can be exceptionally difficult.
With so much competition, you have to be creative in finding new ways to gain the upper hand. You have to be hungrier than the competition.
Find The Time
Small changes like waking up an hour earlier and sneaking in some pitches while your coffee brews or staying up after your youngest has gone to bed can help give you an advantage.
Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
While most aspects of starting a freelance business will fall outside your comfort zone, growing a business requires you to stay there. Being complacent is how businesses stagnant and fail.
But not you, you’ve got this down pact. You know to branch out, to challenge yourself.
Instead of solely pitching to online clients, hit the streets. Local businesses can benefit from your skills too. Likely an untapped market, brick and mortar stores in your very own neighborhood are excellent sources for diversifying your income as a freelancer.
Be sure to have a resume and informational packet on hand that outlines your services and how they can benefit a small business.
While it may feel like a swing for the fences, we say, swing away. Many freelancers avoid pitching big companies as they feel intimidated. That’s a mistake.
According to CNBC, current trends show Fortune 500 companies shifting large swathes of their workforce to freelancers.
Do your research beforehand, and a pitch to a major company can pay off in spades. Be sure to find out who the correct contact person is and what need you can fill.
Take Care of Yourself
Lastly, and just as important as the other topics covered, is self-care. Burnout is incredibly prevalent in entrepreneurs and freelancers alike. So much depends on your efforts, your successes, that it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
Put Your Own Mask on Before Helping Others.
If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, you’re most likely familiar with the above phrase. When it comes to the success of a freelance business, it rings true. You’ll be of no help to yourself if you hit the dreaded burnout.
Make Time for Fitness
Sitting, especially in front of a screen, can lead to a whole host of chronic problems.
Staying healthy as a freelancer should be a top priority. Remember, there is no such thing as paid time off when you’re at the helm of your business.
Be sure to make time not only to stretch throughout the day but to get in some vigorous exercise regularly.
Change of Scenery
Many freelancers work from home. Be it a home office or your kitchen table when the day is done, freelancers often find themselves bound to the same lonely view day in and day out.
If it fits your schedule and budget, consider coworking spaces, a trend that’s changing the way entrepreneurs work. They offer many benefits ranging from increased productivity, accountability, and much more.
If you’re feeling “stuck,” try venturing to a local coffee shop to get in some distraction-free writing time. Heck, try a different room if need be. Changing your surroundings can jumpstart your creative juices, which is needed to make freelancing work for the long haul.
Chase The Dream
According to these studies, nearly 75% of active freelancers designate freelancing and entrepreneurship as their ideal employment situation.
The satisfaction reported here is due mainly to the many benefits of working in the gig economy. Freedom over your time and projects, work-life balance, and a sense of fulfillment are just a few of the major attractions for the side hustle grind.
While there are plenty of reasons why the gig-economy is trending, it’s no surprise that it takes hard work to be successful in the very same realm.
But you’re a freelancer, tough as nails. You know the importance of the hustle in the fast-moving market. Tend to these important matters and you may just find yourself leading the pack.