“The only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.” – Henry Ford
Gig Economy…it’s that ‘sexy’ new phenomenon almost everyone is talking about nowadays. But what exactly is gig economy and how did it come about?
To answer this question about gig economy, we must go back in time nearly 30 years, all the way to November of 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain. The fall of the Iron Curtain or the Berlin Wall which stood as a testament of Communism, command economy and segregated world, signaled the beginning of the new era and the new world order.
Advancements in transportation, communication and technology which ensued world over have inevitably created yet another significant phenomenon called globalization.
Since, globalization and its rapid proliferation have brought about stupendous changes to the world of business – globally – as the way for outsourcing, offshoring and freelancing has been paved.
Geographical distances of the years past were drastically shortened and in many cases eliminated. All of this has helped enable and empower people from across the world to collaborate seamlessly.
People’s inherent needs to belong, learn and grow have led to faster adoption of the World Wide Web or the Internet and before long, great majority of the world population – at least in developed countries – found themselves on the grid, connected 24×7.
Meanwhile, devastating economic downturns of 2000 and 2008 have shaken people’s confidence in economic system and conventional 9-5 employment…job ‘security’ became the thing of the past. To make matters worse, many pension funds were completely depleted and people left out without their livelihood.
For the most part in the early days of gig economy well before it was dubbed that, people started to work for themselves out of necessity as they found themselves out of work or deep in debt e.g. student loans, house mortgages, car loans etc. and needed a side income…fast.
Luckily for them, being on the grid and having access to information from across the world at the touch of a button meant that this new breed of professionals called freelancers were able to find work relatively easily.
Now, fast forward to 2017…gig economy is in full swing with tens if not hundreds of freelancing platforms available and tens of millions professional freelancers working around the clock from far East Asia to North America…everybody is offering some kind of a professional services to someone, somewhere in the world.
At times, it seems like the gig economy is on steroids as its growth has been and continues to be truly frightening. To put things into perspective, $715 billion is what gig economy contributed to US economy alone in 2016 and pundits predict that by 2025 gig economy will be worth close to $2.7 trillion dollars worldwide…truly staggering.
With all this in mind, the question is what if anything are you doing about it?
Indeed, whether you’ve been contemplating jumping ship and starting a freelancing career as a professional freelancer or not, the aforementioned arguments could be a good ‘excuse’ for you to do so.
The sooner you take the leap of faith and join this rapidly proliferating phenomenon known as the gig economy, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Don’t let this train pass you by…judging by the look of it, I’d say it’s the money train and you ought to be on it.
But how do you go from an employee to a professional freelancer?
While transition from conventional 9-5 to professional freelancing is easier said than done, it’s nonetheless, possible…after all, there are 53 million active freelancers in the United State alone…with as many in the rest of the world.
If they can do it so can you and here’s how to go about it…
Word of caution though….before jumping ship, be sure to know what you’re getting yourself into. Similar to entrepreneurship, freelancing is filled with uncertainty, risks, pain, loneliness, setbacks and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. So be mentally prepared.
Assuming you have done the ‘freelancing risk assessment’ and are ready to take the leap of faith, here’s how go about it…
- Know thyself (what)
It’s no secret that you – like anyone else – can ONLY succeed with your strengths, never weaknesses. Therefore, the very first thing you ought to do after you decide to take the leap of faith is to truly get to know yourself…if you haven’t already done so throughout your life.
Sure, this may seem funny to you having lived for so long ‘with yourself’ but the truth is that great majority of people don’t have the slightest clue as to what their strengths or weaknesses are…not that we care for weaknesses.
No, your last job or a position held isn’t indication of your strength…it could be but it’s most likely not. The reason is people tend to choose their course of study or university major based on what’s ‘hot’ in that particular time and has promising employment opportunities e.g. nowadays computer programming rather than what they are passionate about or gifted for.
In other words, you could be working your whole life as a mediocre corporate lawyer, having finished the law degree while your real strength lies in English literature, graphic design or accounting.
Notice how I said a ‘mediocre’ lawyer and that’s because if you do anything which you don’t have natural inclination for – talent – no matter how hard you try and work at it, you’ll never be a star player nor will you excel at it, at best you’ll amount to mediocrity.
By the same token, should you do that which comes naturally to you and have inborn talent for, you’ll become a superstar almost effortlessly…player others admire, envy and can only dream of becoming.
This is why it’s of utmost importance to know yourself, your strengths and passion if you want to become a successful freelancer.
So, ask yourself this question: what do I love to do and what comes to me naturally?
Also, I advise you to reach out to your parents, siblings, childhood friends and spouses in search for answers…you’ll be surprised what you can learn about yourself from them. Give it a try and see for yourself.
- Define your target audience (who)
Assuming you’ve identified your strengths and are abundantly clear what professional services you intend to offer as a professional freelancer, you’ll then need to do one of the most important things and that’s to define your target audience.
The who of your ‘business’ is of utmost importance because let’s face it, no business or a freelancer can succeed without the captive target audience or a recipient of a service offered.
There’s got to be someone out there who needs, wants or desires that which you have to offer otherwise, what’s the point? You’ll most certainly fail before you even start.
So, think long and hard what desires, needs and wants can you address or fulfill better than anyone else and who are the people who have them? This is your target audience. What are they like e.g. their professions, demographics, what are their buying habits, preferred websites, blogs etc. Where is their attention at e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc.?
This process of identifying your target audience is known as the buyer personas and it has to be done meticulously. In other words, don’t skim on it but do a thorough market research and get your facts straight…you miss out on this one and you’ll set yourself up for a failure. So don’t mess up!
Remember, the main objective of buyer personas exercise is to develop a comprehensive understanding of your prospects so that you can tailor your services to their liking and ideally, create a compelling content as a part of your winning go-to-market (GTM) strategy to draw them in.
- Go-To-Market (how & where)
One of the biggest freelancing challenges – which you’ll soon find out – is finding and signing the paying clients on a regular basis. As a professional freelancer, you’re on your own…literally!
Unlike conventional 9-5 where you are ‘guaranteed’ a paycheck at the end or the beginning of each month – at least while you’re employed – freelancing doesn’t offer such ‘security’ or any other for that matter. You work, you get paid, you don’t work, you don’t get paid…pretty simple.
Your ability or inability to promote yourself, skills set, service portfolio, build a qualified pipeline and convert prospects into paying clients will mean the difference between your success and failure as a professional freelancer.
This is one aspect of your freelancing career you ought to take super serious for you can’t afford to fail…unless of course, you’re freelancing for fun, which I very much doubt.
So, what can you do?
Build a ‘social currency’ or a web presence via blog(s), communities, portals, and social media platforms e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc. Social currency is in essence your social presence and overall reputation or the perception of it on the internet.
As building a social currency is extremely tedious, time-consuming and painful, I urge you to start early and be consistent…don’t give up and keep up the pace, no matter what.
Your objective is to create a huge – as large as possible e.g. thousands, tens or hundreds of thousands of followers – following on your blog and each one of your chosen social media hubs…this will be dependent on the nature of your professional services and audience type.
So, to start with, you should build a blog themed around your core service offerings and or industry in which you’re operating or intend to operate. Be mindful however, the internet is a noisy place where millions of professional bloggers are tirelessly trying to build their following in already crowded space of tens of millions of blogs…everybody is screaming for attention.
No, you don’t have to scream with them but you’ve got to produce super valuable content worth your reader’s time. I’m not talking about those ‘smart ass’ blog posts of 350-500 words which barely touch the surface of the subject and leave the reader with so many questions and much doubt.
What I’m talking about is ‘meaty’ (1500-2500 words) – value packed – blog posts which provide actionable content readers can readily put to use. Blog posts that your readers can learn and truly benefit from.
You’ve got to produce newsworthy, share-worthy, like-worthy content on regular basis e.g. daily, weekly, monthly etc. Ideally, the more frequent your meaty content the better but I understand that’s easier said than done given you’ll be on your own and won’t have all that much time on hand.
Choose what best works for you, given all the other important commitments you’ll have as a professional freelancer.
Next, you’ll have to set up your social media hubs e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram accounts and start sharing your blog content along with other valuable and relevant content you find on trustworthy and influential portals.
Your social media hub decisions will greatly depend upon your service offerings and your target audience. For example, if your service offering is of a graphical nature e.g. graphic design, interior design etc. then probably your best bet would be to set up an Instagram hub.
By the same token, if you plan to offer writing services e.g. blogging, ghostwriting, content management etc. then your best bet for social media hub could be Twitter. You get the point.
Another very important consideration you ought to make is the choice of a freelancing platform. With so many freelancing platforms available to support huge demand caused by the gig economy, it’s virtually impossible to choose the ‘right’ one without adequate research and analysis.
In essence what you need to know is that all of the freelancing platforms currently in operation came into being with intention to facilitate smooth and secure business collaboration between professional freelancers and clients e.g. startups, small to medium size businesses.
While these freelancing platforms differ in their values, norms, business models and user interfaces among others, they essentially fall into two categories: A) quantity over quality e.g. Freelancer, Upwork etc. and B) quality over quantity e.g. Toptal, Parttimerz etc.
So, if you’re primarily interested in selling your services at any cost and I mean really cheap (3$-5$) per hour than you might as well consider creating a freelancing account on Freelancer or Upwork and try your best to bid for projects in the race to the bottom.
If however, you value your time and skills hence, won’t settle for low hourly rate, you’ll probably be much better off registering with Toptal or Parttimerz as they are much more selective in their clients and professional freelancers….they are sort of an ‘elite’ freelancing platforms built for professional freelancers.
Wrapping it all up
Judging by the astounding growth and proliferation of the gig economy, professional freelancing could very well be the thing of the future. However, transitioning from conventional 9-5 to professional freelancing career is extremely difficult and unfortunately for many fainthearted simply impossible.
Being mindful of undeniable risks associate with professional freelancing, if you are tough enough and capable to make the transition, you should most certainly jump ship and join the gig economy in the capacity of a professional freelancers. Wait no more…do it now.