Despite an unsteady job market overall, freelancers should be optimistic. Online labor marketplaces oDesk and Elance have both released data showing strong growth in demand for freelance workers over the past three years. Elance’s latest quarterly report showed a surge in demand for online work, with a 38 percent increase in the number of jobs posted on the site over the same quarter the previous year. oDesk has also published its latest monthly report, and its figures are similarly encouraging for freelancers. The number of jobs posted to the site has grown by a very healthy 92 percent increase over the previous year.
There are many advantages to freelance work, such as:
· Flexible hours. Working from home or from a remote workplace as a freelancer allows a worker to dictate hours and times most convenient to them.
· Building an asset. Owning and operating a successful freelance business allows a freelancer to create an asset than may be saleable down the road.
· Work load control. A freelance worker can control the amount of work they take on.
· Autonomy. Freelancers are highly autonomous. As business owners, they generally answer to no one other than their clients.
· Quality of work. In some cases, freelance work may be more fulfilling than the work assigned at a regular day job.
· Exposure. Freelancers are not geographically confined or limited to serving local clients.
· New skills. Freelancers learn new skills out of necessity that they might not gain as a traditional employee.
· No office politics. Office politics are non-existent for solo freelancers.
· No commute. Working from home eliminates the daily commute to and from the office, saving hours and cost of travel.
Work-life balance. Because they work from home, freelancers often have a better work-life balance.
Some careers are more conducive to freelance work than others. But for everyone who is going to try their hand at freelancing, there are certain facts to know.
First, searching for freelance work is very similar to a traditional job hunt. It will be critical to know what the target audience wants. It’s important to know if the product or service wanted is critical or “nice to have”. It is also important to know that the product or service can be consistently delivered in a timely fashion. Reliability of the freelancer becomes one of the most important facts.
Second, a freelancer needs a solid plan of action. Putting an ad in the Yellow Pages or on Facebook is not going to be enough to bring business in. Freelancers are always salesman, selling their knowledge, skills, services, ability, reliability, etc. Freelancers need to convince customers that they are worth the financial investment.
Freelancers are almost always on the job in one fashion or another. Unlike traditional jobs, freelancers have to keep finding new as well as repeat customers. Searching to expand the customer base is an ongoing process.
Freelancers need to provide excellent customer service. Word of mouth can do more to promote good references than anything else. Technology is all well and good, but other potential customers will ask existing ones about their satisfaction level. So it is critical that freelancers provide outstanding customer service. That includes frequent status updates, solid completion estimates, and easy communication methods.
It also includes an outstanding finished product. Whether it is a wood shelf, a computer program, or an installed furnace, a freelancer has to stand behind their work. When a freelancer is just starting out and is still building a reputation, those first few projects can make or break future business.
It is not always easy for someone to make the transition from a traditional employee to a freelance worker. Some workers prefer the security that comes with a more traditional work role, especially if it is a job with benefits. For others, the challenge of being one’s own boss makes it worth the risk.
Most experts agree that freelancers do better if they do it for the love of the work, not just for the money. The intangibles of freelancing, listed in the advantages above, make the longer hours worth it to many workers.
One good idea is to start out freelancing part-time as a moonlight job. For many, this becomes the ideal situation. Freelancing on the side allows workers to keep the security and benefits of a more traditional job, while they can expand their creativity working as a freelancer.