Freelancers have always been a part of the job market and have had a prominent role in a number of sectors, including professional services, journalism and IT. This growing sector is poised to take off in greater numbers as an uncertain economy, stubborn unemployment figures and an overall reluctance to hiring full-time workers has pushed even most skilled professionals into the realm of freelancing.
So who is today’s freelancer? Is it the worker looking for full-time employment and will use a ‘gig’ as an entry point to a company? Is it the budding entrepreneur who believes he can be more successful on his own? Or, is it the person who just enjoys having the flexibility and autonomy over their work life? Truthfully, today’s freelancer is a combination of all three and now, more than ever before, companies are comfortable managing a project-based employee.
According to Elance’s Online Work Predictions, 2013 will be the Year of the Freelancer. A shift in work style and mobile technology has erased geographic boundaries and employers are looking for immediate access to highly skilled workers that will help their business thrive – regardless of where they are based.
Freelancers or independent consultants are very comfortable working remotely, which is rapidly becoming the norm, not the exception. The uncertain economy has also made this way of working a standard career path.
To capitalize on this career opportunity, here are some tips to help freelance professionals maximize their business prospects.
• Create a plan: In order to make this a viable career choice, you need to put pen to paper and set long- and short-term goals. How many hours are you going to work? What industries match your skill set? What is your pipeline of projects? Do you have enough savings set aside to carry you through lulls in your work? Be ready to alter the plan as business conditions change.
Walter Infante is a Miami-based consultant who works with companies in Latin America to help grow their business in the U.S. As he ramped up his business he made it point to watch his operating costs but was also very conscious of portraying a professional image to his clients. His plan was to set up an office at a top business address in Miami using Regus, a flexible office provider. The flexible terms allowed him to control his overhead expenses, grow with minimal risk and have access to space when needed during his travels to Latin America.
• Market your skills: Network, network, network. The key to freelance success is making you and your services known. Attend networking events and trade shows. Use social media. Create a blog to demonstrate your expertise in an area and use sites like LinkedIn to build your pool of contacts. Create a website with testimonials, case studies and recent work. If you work primarily from home, visit a business center on occasion. In this setting, freelancers are surrounded by other professionals from different industries and will have the opportunity to collaborate, network and interact with other like-minded individuals. Many of our clients report they’ve made valuable business connections at the coffee machine or in our business lounge while checking the latest business headlines on TV.
• Establish a routine: There is no one looking over your shoulder, so make sure you are disciplined. Whether you work from home, an office or on the road, stick to a routine that works for you. Freelancing provides you with flexibility and freedom. Make sure you have the mindset to properly handle it. Set boundaries with families and friends. Just because you are not working in a traditional setting does not mean you are not working.
• Make the most of business trips: As a freelancer it is very likely you will be on the road to support your clients. Business lounges and business centres are in nearly every market in the country. The setting is conducive to work and allows you to catch up on phone calls and emails keeping you connected and productive, even when travelling.
Infante subscribes to Regus’ Businessworld Program. As a member, he has access to business lounges and meeting rooms around the world.
• Maintain a professional image: Even if you work at home, most professionals do not want their clients knocking at their door and sitting down at the kitchen table for a meeting. Distractions by children and/or pets do not project the right image and can impact productivity. Meeting space can be reserved in a shared office environment for any amount of time. Clients will be greeted by a professional team who can ensure a smooth meeting. Freelancers can also retain the on-site administrative team for support.