More and more people around the world are now working temporary and short-term contracts. This is the gig economy. Whether it’s through one of the major freelance platforms, such as Fiverr and Upwork, by marketing yourself and cold-calling clients the old fashioned way, or driving for Doordash or Uber, it’s undeniable that the trend toward the gig economy is showing no sign of slowing.
It’s predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of Americans will be working as independent contractors. It’s also important to note that internet access around the world has risen sharply in the past decade. This is allowing an unprecedented degree of access to labour from around the world.
If an economy can be explained through supply and demand, the gig economy’s supply can exceed entire national populations because nearly anyone can participate.
If you find it hard to compete for jobs where you live, your challenges become much more complicated when competing with the world. This doesn’t make it impossible; it just means that you will need to understand very well where you can provide value and how you can satisfy someone’s need for that value.
How can you set yourself apart from the pack?
1. Provide consistent levels of quality.
This applies whether you’re a complete novice or seasoned expert in your niche. Providing high-quality content adds value to your clients and builds a good reputation.
Take writing for example. Poorly written content, or even worse, “scraped” or plagiarized content can result in SEO punishment for the client if they’re trying to get their blog or website on the first page of search engine results. Proverbs 10:4 says that “the hand of the diligent maketh rich.” Good quality work done diligently can result in your ability to command higher prices than competitors.
2. Diversify your sources of work.
Platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork can be excellent for connecting freelancers with clients, but both come at a cost. 20 percent of your earnings will be lost in exchange for your ability to use these platforms.
While it may be worth it when starting out to accept this 20 percent hit, you’ll eventually want to look for clients on your own and negotiate for fair rates.
Connecting to potential clients in your niche requires drive and persistence, but eventually, you can begin to build up your network and get noticed outside of these platforms.
3. Build a portfolio.
Related to the previous point, you’ll want to assemble a portfolio exhibiting your proficiency in your niche.
Whether it’s video editing, translation, programming, or anything else you excel at, be sure to have some examples of your work ready to show potential clients. This will let them know that you’re serious, organised, and capable of getting the job done.
Websites such as about.me, or better yet, your own blog or website can be a good foundation to introduce clients to your portfolio. Be sure to include a good photo, a little blurb about yourself, and a catalogue of some of your best work. New freelancers should consider building a portfolio as they go along with their work. Don’t be afraid when starting out to ask clients if they’d mind if you can use your work for them in your portfolio.
4. Set fair prices.
One mistake a lot of budding freelancers make is that they set their prices extremely low for exposure. This is a debatable topic, whereby some will claim that it’s recommended in the beginning whilst others will maintain that you should not sell yourself short. This will be one of the first things that you should consider, because if you set too low a price initially, you may find it harder to justify raising them later. On the other hand, if you start out with high prices for your labour, you may find it hard in the beginning to win contracts. This is up to you.
5. Know your competition.
Online, you’ll be competing very often with people from all around the world where wages may be far higher or lower than where you live. Be prepared to be underbid for prices that are already far below minimum wage (if there is one) in your country.
It’s not uncommon for clients to request native English speakers for writing or editing, yet offer rates that are abysmally low. “Good work doesn’t come cheap and cheap work doesn’t come good.” It may take some time, but if you are persistent and set your work at a fair price, the market will decide what you’re worth and you can re-evaluate from there.
As the gig economy continues to grow, you’ll surely find that there’s more competition but also a greater demand. It can be argued that there will always be a demand for good quality work in any niche. Look at your competition as a way to benchmark your own skills and talents. Most importantly, learn how to be adaptable and always look to get better at what you do. Hopefully, these tips can set you on the track to success.