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Tips for Success in the Gig Economy

February 03, 2021 / COURTNEY ROSENFELD

Ever since the recession of the last decade, the way people earn a living has changed. Increasingly people have options to make money outside of traditional employment. Instead of a nine-to-five schedule, Monday through Friday, workers can choose flexible schedules. The gig economy enables flexibility and opportunity, and it is setting a template for how careers will be in the future.

Flexible employment is on the rise

In a 2016 survey, 34 percent of workers were freelancers or were involved in some level of freelance work. This number is expected to rise to 43 percent by 2020. As our society progresses toward half of all workers freelancing, the definitions of career and employment will change.

If you are looking to join the ranks of those taking advantage of gig-economy opportunities, there are some skills necessary for success. As a type of self-employment, there can be several potential stumbling blocks. Here are some tips on how to grow a gig-economy business and prepare yourself for a flexible future.

Self-employment success requires organization

Even though working in the gig economy provides flexibility, at its core, your freelance business must be well-organized and managed just like any other small business. Set up a workflow, and schedule your projects. Time management is crucial because you will not have supervisors or coworkers to prod you to complete projects. Depending on your type of freelance work, you may have clients who are just as demanding as employers, but it is also much easier for a client to fire you if they do not like your services.

In addition to time management, ensuring that there is a divide between your work and personal life is crucial for freelance success. One way to keep work and life separate when you are working from home is to quarantine an area of your house just for your gig. If you have space, a separate home office is ideal, but the same effect can be realized with organization. Make sure that everything is in one place so you can work uninterrupted when needed. If your gig involves speaking with clients, make sure that your workspace is away from distractions and noise.

Freelancers have to be comfortable with pitching themselves

Another necessary skill is the ability to drum up new business. Many freelancers make the mistake of building up a book of business, then focusing most of their attention on working for those clients without considering future business. Although your work for the client may be good enough to warrant lots of steady work for the foreseeable future, you cannot control your client’s decisions. Having a large pipeline of clients can ensure that your business weathers losing an important client. When scheduling your week, set aside a small portion of time, such as one hour, to devote to pitching new business. Even if you spend the time simply looking at potential opportunities, you will be more prepared in the event of losing a client.

Stay connected, even with competitors

It’s vitally important to avoid isolation as a freelancer. There will be many temptations to stay in your home office, such as deadlines, comfort, and productivity, but a freelancer can benefit greatly from some level of networking. Even if you’re not using them as a source of referrals, develop a network of other freelancers or clients that you can interact with on a regular basis. Strike up some professional friendships that allow for in-person meetings. These contacts can be sources of business knowledge, moral support, or just camaraderie.

Some freelancers avoid networking with people whom they perceive as competitors, but they can often provide valuable support. Even veteran freelancers sometimes have difficulty pricing their services. Knowing what others charge can help you avoid both under- and overcharging.

Start a business of your own

Are you ready to take the plunge? Before you get too excited, there are some business basics to tend. This starts with registering your business. Determine your business structure first. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you decide on an LLC, which is a very popular choice. An LLC provides asset protection, tax advantages, and will grow with your business. It’s also easy to register if you go through an online service.

You should also create a practical budget, which will require projecting both your income and expenses. There are software applications that can help you with this. Once completed, create a business plan that reflects your goals. You can find templates to help you, and it’s useful if you need funding or want to attract investors. With that completed, you can start thinking about attracting customers.

The gig economy brings exciting opportunities for people to earn a living on flexible terms, from home, at a client site, or anywhere. Freelance work is poised to continue growing. By organizing and developing some key skills, you can prepare yourself for success.