Thanks to evolving technology, increasing communication capabilities, and changing business needs, the world of employer-employee relationships is drastically changing. The old model of employment was very rigid and long-tem; it was common for employees to work full-time for one company for the majority of their careers, executing the same responsibilities 9 to 5 and Monday through Friday. Today, more companies are relying on freelancers (independent contractors) to handle their needs, breaking up their required work from a master full-time package to much smaller, gig-like components.
Sometimes known as a freelance economy, this gig-based economy is proving to be beneficial for both employees and employers. Employers have much more flexibility in their workforce, able to switch specialists based on the nature of each individual task and save money by paying only for work that needs done. And employees have much more freedom as well, freely alternating between clients and getting paid for however much work they're able to take on, rather than depending on a set salary.
As a worker in this increasingly gig-based world, you have virtually unlimited potential to develop yourself. With the right career moves and an opportunistic mentality, you can take advantage of this economic state.
Start Picking Up Tangential Skillsets
Whether you're already thrust into the gig-based economy as an existing freelancer or you're confined to a full-time job and looking to make some extra money on the side, you can improve your position by picking up additional skills. Not every industry or skillset is a good fit for freelancing; for example, it's unlikely that you'll find many freelance production managers. If you're looking to make some solid, reliable extra money for the foreseeable future, start developing one of these important skills:
- Writing is a popular skill to develop because most companies need it in some form (especially for content marketing), but do not have the desire to hire a full-time writer. Learn to write articles, whitepapers, and web content for a variety of different clients, and you'll have no problem making extra cash.
- Coding and programming are essential functions for any business in the modern era, and they're relatively rare skills to find. If you can master at least one type of programming language, you'll be a prime choice for businesses all over--and you'll be able to make top dollar doing it.
- Graphic design takes a few months to learn the basics but years to really master. Start out by practicing with some basic production work before you become more advanced with creative direction.
- Testing is another relatively easy skill to learn that many companies need. When first developed, apps and websites are often riddled with errors, and companies are more than willing to pay you well to track down and document those errors before they go live for the public.
The good news is that there are practically unlimited free resources that can help you develop these skills. Just remember that practice is just as important as initial learning in developing your skills.
Develop Yourself as an Authority With a Personal Brand
Once you've started learning a skillset relevant to the freelance economy, start building your own personal brand. If you can, launch a website showcasing your skills and link to it on all your social media profiles, especially Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Write content pertaining to your field of expertise, and syndicate those pieces on your social profiles.
Then, start networking. Reach out to other experts in the industry and engage in groups and forums either specializing in that area or needing help in that area. The more connections you have, the more your authority will grow, and the more likely you'll be to land gigs when you apply for them.
Start With Production, Move Toward Consulting
When you're first getting started, you probably won't make much money. You'll be stuck doing basic, low-level jobs for low wages because your reputation and your skillset will both be underdeveloped. Don't be discouraged by this; instead, embrace it. This environment will give you the opportunity to grow in the direction you want to grow, and will give you the experience you need for larger jobs.
Over the course of several months and years, you'll start to refine your skillset, acquiring bigger and better-paying jobs. Once you've solidly established yourself as an authority in your respective field, you can start focusing on consulting work. Rather than executing a set direction for an individual job, you'll work with companies to establish that direction for their own teams. You'll be serving as a freelance director, of sorts, and you'll be making much better money as well.
Let New Clients Come to You
The hardest part about freelancing is securing reliable lines of work. Instead of going out and chasing down leads, set yourself up to let your clients find you naturally. Use SEO, social media, and content marketing tactics to build your authority and increase traffic to your site. If done correctly and consistently, eventually you'll have a steady recurring stream of inquiries, and you won't have to do any additional work to find new projects. Be patient; this will take time to accomplish, but the rewards more than make up for the extended timeframe.
Don't Be Afraid to Try Something New
Trying new things is essential for the modern freelancer. You'll have to experiment with new strategies, constantly acquire new skills, reach out to new clients, engage in new circles, play with new technologies, and perform new work for different types of people. If you're looking for consistency or predictability, freelancing isn't where you'll find it. If you want to be successful in the freelance economy, you'll have to be bold in trying and doing new things.
The gig-based economy is still in its infancy, but already it's doing wonders for both employers and employees. Take advantage of the times by learning a new skillset and positioning yourself as an authority; even if you're already in a full-time position, the possibilities for your income and personal growth are limitless.