We are now living in a gig economy.
Gone are the days of bloated and bureaucratic organisations, buffered by layers of fat in each unproductive layer of the org chart. Instead, companies are trimming down the size their workforce, keeping their manpower lean, mean and focused on their core.
This is both good and bad news.
The bad news is that jobs no longer last a lifetime. The covenant between organisations and their employees are only worth as much as the financial viability of the firm itself. And we all know how tough market conditions have been for companies locked into traditional sectors in the economy — especially brick and mortar retailers.
The good news, however, is that the restructuring of the economy provides new opportunities for professionals like you and me.
Companies are now outsourcing “non-core” or highly specialised work to professionals in disparate disciplines. This represents a golden opportunity for solo-preneurs and freelancers in areas like marketing, HR, finance, IT, design, architecture, and others.
The challenge, however, is this:
How can you market and sustain yourself as a solopreneur or freelance professional running your own niche business?
After all, there could be literally tens of thousands of individuals out there doing the exact same thing as you do.
Launch a website and blog regularly
Yes, I know that this isn’t anything new but you’ll be surprised how reluctant people can be to blog regularly to showcase their expertise.
With so many web Content Management Systems (CMS) and platforms to choose from – WordPress, Wix, Square Space, amongst others – creating your own website is as easy as ABC.
Once you’ve set it up, you can blog regularly on your website and use that to share your thoughts, insights, and experiences. Focus on the professional area that you wish to make a living from, share valuable tips and techniques that your potential customers can use, and showcase your brilliance.
Build a solid LinkedIn profile
As the world’s number one professional network, LinkedIn is the most important place potential customers, employers and business partners look at when they evaluate your suitability as a talented professional to work with.
If you haven’t touched your LinkedIn profile for years, now is the time to do so. To begin with, consider the following:
- Complete all of the sections to make your profile complete. Yes, it can be a major pain in the butt when you first start. A quick way to reduce the time needed is to import your CV and to make adjustments thereafter.
- Improve and refine your profile little by little each day. Don’t kill yourself trying to get everything in all at once.
- Use the right keywords in the sections just below your name. This is especially useful if you are a consultant or a professional offering specific services. In my case, I have listed my work as a content strategist there.
- Fill your summary/headline and past employment. Focus on achievements – not job descriptions.
- If you wish, include past examples of your work. They may include slides, videos, graphics, images, e-Books, white papers and others.
- Make sure that you have a professional looking photo on your profile. Having a photo makes you 14 times more likely to be found.
Grow your social media networks
Producing solid content and building a robust LinkedIn profile isn’t enough to get your recognised as a freelancer of formidable prowess. You’ll need to build a sizable social network in order to increase the chances of your work being noticed.
If content is king, community must be queen.
To grow your social networks online, consider the following tactics:
- Participate in offline events and connect with the folks you’ve met by sending them an LinkedIn or Facebook friend invite.
- Add your friends, school mates, ex-colleagues, family members, and anybody whom you know on social media.
- Join Groups that are related to your professional interests on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and other platforms. Like and comment on the posts of others, and connect with selected individuals who seem to reciprocate.
- Share and promote your blog posts widely on multiple social networks, Whatsapp groups, and email groups.
- Respond to those who have commented or liked your posts on social media, and reciprocate by commenting and liking their posts.
Consider multiple income streams
To succeed as a freelance professional, you can’t be too picky about where your cheques are coming from each month. Unlike a traditional job, a freelancer’s income could be highly erratic. You may experience weeks of sudden intense activity followed by lull periods where you can literally count the hours off.
(Fortunately or unfortunately, I no longer have the luxury of lull periods.)
Here’s what I did as a freelancer while growing my business, and am still doing so now:
- Copy writing for ads and websites
- Edit web content
- Write articles
- Teach part-time at a polytechnic
- Conduct training – both public and private
- Mentor start-ups
- Manage and coach younger associates
Now your experience may differ widely from mine. That is perfectly fine. The key thing you need to prepare yourself for as a freelancer is this:
Your income will come in dribs and drabs, and you’ll need to manage your monthly cash flow carefully.
List yourself on freelance platforms
To get access to rich pickings for freelance jobs, you’ll need to be where potential freelance employers are hunting. A good place to do so would be the numerous freelance work exchanges and portals available out there.
Here are some of the most popular ones which I’ve written about before:
- Upwork: With over 1.5 million clients, Upwork allows you to bid for both short- and long-term projects, either on an hourly or per-project basis.
- Fiverr: Fiverr works like Upwork as a global online marketplace offering tasks and services. The main difference is that its jobs begin at a super cheap $5 per job done.
- Hubstaff Talent: In an increasingly “pay to play” digital world, a free platform like Hubstaff Talent is a boon to all. A 100% free resource for companies looking to find remote talent across the globe, the platform charges no fees and no markups.
- Toptal: Unlike other platforms, Toptal is a marketplace for seasoned, experienced and talented freelancers. Its meticulous screening process allows you to gain access to projects with top notch clients like Airbnb, Zendesk and others. Compensatio is also fairer with no low-bid contests.
- 99designs: Focusing on freelance designers, 99designs is a novel platform which allows freelancers to compete in design contests and clients to choose the best ones. While it’s a great way for talented designers to demonstrate their talents, it can also be brutally time consuming.
- AsiaWriters: If you are a freelance writer from Asia, you can consider tapping this platform to gain access to jobs. Translators, resume writers and copywriters can also tap on orders from this website.
- Momo Central: Anchored on software development and online design talents, Momo Central allows you to work with tech-savvy clients to deliver programming or design related projects on a per-hour basis. Like TopTal, however, you need to be verified, interviewed and tested before you are allowed to bid for client projects.
Now that I’ve shared with you some of the possibilities and opportunities available to freelancers, the next step you need to take is yours. If you’re a freelancer, I’d love to hear what your experience is like.
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