Similar to entrepreneurship, freelancing is the way of life not suited for everyone, least of all the fainthearted. Why? Simply because of its unpredictable nature and all the risks and setbacks inherent therein.
To truly understand and appreciate the foregoing statement, it’s important to know who are the people who choose to dedicate their lives to freelancing and why? What motivates them and keeps them going when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges of modern-day freelancing?
Before getting to those questions, perhaps it’s best to understand what freelancing is all about and how did it come to be so popular and prevalent world over.
Freelancing in simple terms means working on gigs (timed projects) or a part-time basis as an independent or ‘self-employed’ professional.
In one form or the other, freelancing has been around for centuries. However, modern-day freelancing as we know it today, dates back to the turn of the century with the birth of first freelancing platforms e.g. Guru, Elance and many others to follow the suit…more on freelancing platforms later on.
While technological and communications advancements we’ve witnessed over the past two decades have played a pivotal role, the main drivers of modern freelancing and its proliferation could be classified into two distinct categories.
- External which includes volatile economy, rising cost of living, unemployment rate and debt e.g. student loans, mortgages, car loans etc.
- Internal which refers to freedom of choice and flexibility e.g. what to do, when, how, where and for how much
Whatever the drivers may be, freelancing or Gig Economy has been on the rise and if experts tell us correctly is expected to grow into a 2.7$ trillion industry by 2025. Not too shabby…
Now back to freelancers and their main traits…
Taking into a consideration the nature of a freelancing career e.g. uncertainty, risks, setbacks etc. it’s evident that not everyone is cut out to be a professional freelancer. Some would argue, living dangerously and loving it is what freelancing is all about…and I agree, up to a certain extent.
To explain what this really means, let’s break it down and compare freelancing to conventional 9-5 grind.
Traditional 9-5 employment offers ‘perceived’ sense of security and steady paycheck. I say perceived because job security is long gone, if there ever was, today you’re hero and tomorrow zero.
Benefits e.g. social security, health insurance and pension funds – which are being depleted gradually over the last several years and becoming questionable more than ever – are other incentives which keep people trapped in a ‘modern slavery’ called full-time employment.
Freelancing doesn’t offer any sense of security, perceived or otherwise – as a freelancer, you ONLY get paid when you complete a job successfully. To complete a job successfully, you must first find a paying client who has needs, wants, desires or pains that you are able to address and fulfill with your innate talents and learned skills, better than anyone else.
Seasoned freelancers who’ve made freelancing their one and only career will tell you that the most difficult part of being a professional freelancer is finding and signing paying clients. To do this, many professional freelancers have well established funnel-like websites which they use for client acquisition, while many more turn to freelancing platforms which are truly a great medium for client acquisition.
This enormous demand by professional freelancers for clients and also vice versa has created the need for freelancing platforms which have seen a palpable growth in recent years due to their intrinsic value, in particular match-making, transparency and secured payments. Some of these freelancing platforms i.e., Upwork, Freelancer, Parttimerz and Toptal are truly amazing and others, well not so much.
It really comes down to your needs and expectations – you’ve got to know what you want out of freelancing platform and what each one of them can offer you. We’ll touch on a few leading freelancing platforms worth a mention in a moment.
Without reinventing the wheel or coming up with the best definition for freelancing platform, I’ll simply ‘borrow’ my definition from one of the previously written posts on freelancing platforms…
”By design, freelancing platforms work on principle of a part-time job broker wherein registered freelancers are matched with adequate clients on a regular basis in hope that two sides come to an agreement and conduct business through a respective platform in a secure manner.”
While the adoption rate of freelancing as a concept and freelancing platforms as a medium for business collaboration has been on continues rise in recent years, as of today these freelancing platforms are mostly used by professional clients e.g. startups, small and medium size business in search of professional freelancing services.
This is no surprise because if you’re a startup founder or a small and medium size business owner who’s mindful of operational expenses and limited time, you’ll be better off outsourcing non mission critical services to professional freelancers than employing a ‘fully loaded’ professionals and keeping them on a payroll.
Although businesses outsource all sorts of services to professional freelancers, the most common ones include but are not limited to accounting, blogging, content management/marketing, graphic design and web development.
So as a professional freelancer who is looking to take freelancing to a whole new level and make a career of it, simply head on to any of the leading freelancing platforms such as Upwork, Parttimerz, Freelancer or Toptal where clients with needs, wants, desires and pains await you and create a freelancer account…if you haven’t already done so.
Your freelancer account is equivalent to your resume only 10x more important – it’s the face of your ‘independent professional enterprise’ which is represented by you. Think of it as the first impression when you meet someone…in a matter of seconds you either like the person you’ve just met or don’t.
Similarly when a client with certain needs or wants logs in her account on any of the freelancing platforms in search of a professional freelance blogger and lands on an incomplete profile e.g. no photo, missing bio and professional experience, references etc. guess what’s gonna happen? That’s right, such client will bounce immediately and go in search of a blogger she can count on to deliver the goods.
Remember, the whole objective of being a member of a freelancing platform is to increase your exposure to paying clients and shorten the lead to cash timeline. Building a high quality pipeline of leads and converting them to clients/cash is an ongoing process which must never end, for once it does your freelancing career will come to an end with it…guaranteed.
While all of these freelancing platforms were built with goal to cater to and enable professional freelancers and clients to collaborate securely in real-time, they differ in their values, principles and modus operandi.
Knowing the difference between them will help you as a professional freelancer register to and focus on the most relevant – this way you’ll end up being more productive and successful. After all, as a professional freelancer you’re either successful or out of business really. So success is what you ought to be after.
To help you decide which of these freelancing platforms is best suited for you, given your values, principles, objectives and preferred modus operandi, let’s briefly look at each one of them.
Upwork came into being as a result of a ‘merger’ between two older freelancing platforms oDesk which was in business since 2003 and Elance founded back in 1999. Today Upwork boast millions of registered freelancers from across the world and all walks of life. They welcome everyone and provide all sorts of services you can think of i.e., blogging, content marketing, graphic design, web development etc.
Because of Upwork’s laser sharp focus on quantity e.g. grow member base at any cost, and lack of quality control, in recent years Upwork has been under public scrutiny on many popular blogs and forums. Many professional freelancers who demand above the average hourly rates have voiced their discontent as they aren’t able to secure gigs on Upwork because of low hourly rate freelancers who seem to be winning all the projects.
Parttimerz freelancing platform was founded in Q4 of 2015 and formally launched in January of 2017. The youngest of the four freelancing platforms and unlike its competitors, Parttimerz focus on quality over quantity and feature explicitly European PREMIUM GRADE freelancers of the highest quality.
With focus on quality above all and continuous guidance and monitoring of their freelancers performance, Parttimerz seem to be on the right track to establish high credibility with their clients and build a reputation of a quality first, everything else second professional freelancing platform.
To make this happen, Parttimerz treat all of their professional freelancers like own employees and rewards them with quarterly bonuses above and beyond their earnings for the exceptional performance. Not too bad for a newbie freelancing platform.
Toptal is the most competitive freelancing platform to get into due to its rigorous screening process which accepts only the best (top 3%) of applicants. Unlike other freelancing platforms, it caters only to software developers, designers and financial experts.
Founded in 2010, Toptal’s business models is somewhat different from other freelancing platforms in that it takes longer time to find adequate freelancers for its clients but clients can then work with chosen freelancers at no cost for a trial period of one to two weeks. Also, Toptal freelancer rates are considerably higher from freelancers on other freelancing platforms due to mandatory vetting, prior to registration.
Freelancer freelancing platform is possibly the best known for its large member base which is currently north of 20 million strong. Freelancers come from all walks of life and bring varying levels of skills and knowledge. Similar to Upwork and Parttimerz, Freelancer freelancing platform offers all sorts of freelancing services including blogging, content marketing/strategy, graphic design, legal, web development etc.
Although the quickest of all in terms of freelancers responses to jobs posted, the quality of service provided by their freelancers is inconsistent and often times unsatisfactory, particularly in communications and attention to details departments. This however, doesn’t take away from the fact that Freelancer is one of the most dominant freelancing platform still.
Wrapping it all up
I guess by now it’s very evident that there’s no stopping the gig economy in its relentless proliferation or stupendous growth of a new professional known as the freelancer…a professional who has the luxury to set her own hourly rates, choose the type of work she wants to do, decide how, when and where to do it.
While there are no guarantees in life, forward-looking people like yourself – I assume, since you’re still reading this – will get on the gig economy bandwagon and possibly succeed as a professional freelancer, while those who aren’t so lucky to see this major transformation from full-time job to freelance gig will most likely be left behind to dwell in regrets.