Professional freelancers don’t do gigs

Across the globe millions of people work independently, turning their backs on the security of traditional nine to five jobs. This is hardly a new phenomenon, yet never before has the scale started to tilt so dramatically towards independent professionals.

The introduction of hybrid work, automation and remote working environments have now become the norm. Add in the constantly changing operating conditions as the result of COVID-19 and more companies are being forced to adopt a more agile approach, shifting towards ‘contracting’ self-employed individuals with specialist skills in order to remain competitive. All of this is changing how and where we work, resulting in a new appreciation for skilled individuals and their impact on companies. As a result, more relevant models and systems are being considered that enable individuals to negotiate the value of their skills and sell their services, opening up new opportunities.

New paradigms

Where there was once just the freelancer, the advent of the side hustle means that there are now distinct flexible and on-demand work opportunities that have come about, and with them new terminology:

  • Gig workers: most often active within online labour-sharing platforms where intermediaries connect them to buyers of short-term services. While they perform a vital economic function, they usually possess little to no specialist skills, are often not active in these markets by choice and find themselves operating in a space where work is commoditised.
  • Freelance ‘lite’ employees: these are full-time employees who are testing the boundaries of the transforming work environment. They are experimenting and discovering what is commonly called ‘side-gigs’ to find out if they can make it on their own as independent operators.
  • Professional freelancers: Skilled professionals often boast a high-degree of expertise in a particular field. They win assignments at companies based on their ability to deliver a comprehensive solution related to specific capabilities and skills needed by organisations.

In summary, a professional freelancer has a talent or skill that is often (but not always) in short supply, and by serving a wide range of organisations, as opposed to a single company, a freelancer can choose a flexible and financially rewarding career.

You need to be committed

It is critical to view your freelance career in much the same way any business owner views their company. Approach projects with sustainability in mind, instead of grabbing ad-hoc opportunities. A structured approach gives long-term stability and identifies you as a professional, not a worker in the gig economy.

In fact, leading freelance professionals differentiate themselves through the following:

  • Continuous development: ongoing skills development ultimately helps you provide more value to your clients.
  • Marketing: securing quality face time with prospects and pitching solutions that will complement their business objectives.
  • Culture and brand: building client trust by acting with confidence, credibility and dependability.
  • Clear objectives: if nothing else, professional freelancers are set apart by their career objectives. Whether this be becoming highly skilled in a particular field, reaching a specific financial target or establishing a consulting firm, harbouring these aspirations sets you apart from gig workers and positions you as a career freelancer. 

Searching for and creating opportunities, while providing the best possible service during engagements, are the hallmarks of professional freelancer. If you’re considering a career as a freelancer, there are a few approaches you may use to make the transition easier.

Stepping into a new world

In the USA approximately 32% of companies are first considering freelancers when filling vacancies. This number is rapidly being replicated in emerging markets as well. This points to bright future prospects, but it is wise to plan how to take the step carefully.

To give yourself the best chance at success give some thought to the following:

  • Play to your strengths: as a professional you will have a good idea of what you do really well. It might make sense to first take a ‘side-gig’ to see if your strengths match market needs.
  • Perfect your proposals: technically strong but all adrift when it comes to developing proposals? Proposal writing can make or break your career. Start paying closer attention to how sales professional approach this challenge.
  • Ride-along: if you are considering becoming a freelance professional, you probably know individuals operating in this space. Secure an opportunity to join them at a client engagement, this will give you important insights into this world.
  •  It is a numbers game: any transition will have its ups and downs, but none will be more dramatic than the loss of a steady income. Is the time right for you to take this step and will you be able to secure enough business? Even if you are a financial professional, sit down with a specialist to draft a workable plan.
  • Focus on market needs: consider the types of questions, challenges, and pain points that companies in your area of expertise face. Do you have proven experience in adding value in these environments? You’ve probably already tested your strengths (as stated above) but do you have the ability to compete sustainably in the freelance market?

If you do step into this new world be sure to keep up with industry trends and make sure you are giving clients outcomes they desire.

Your next career move

For many skilled individuals the move into the professional freelancer arena is a question of ‘when?’ as opposed to ‘if’. The world of work is changing dramatically, some scenarios suggest that by 2030 as little as 9% of the American workforce will be in permanent positions.

A PwC survey of workers in major economies reveals that 60% believe, ‘few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future’. This view is underscored by Willis Towers Watson’s research showing 25% of organisations are already ramping up the hiring of freelancers – a figure predicted to reach 51% over the next three years.

There is a new world of collaborative, hybrid work and for individuals who want to branch out and establish themselves as leading freelance professionals in their chosen fields, the time to take the leap and become a career freelancer is now!