Freelancing is rapidly gaining momentum in several parts of the world. Recent research studies point to the rapid adoption of flexible working schedules and freelance-like work arrangements.
In this guide, we take a comprehensive look at how freelancing is taking shape and how you can set yourself up for success. We’ve covered everything the modern freelancer needs to know, from recent freelancing stats, freelancing challenges to freelancing best practices.
- The Current Freelancing Trends
- Why the Uptick in Freelancing Market
- Challenges Faced by Freelancers
- Starting your Freelance Career
- Managing Your Time as a Freelancer
- Freelancing Best Practices
1. The Current Freelancing Trends
Today’s freelancer economy – powered by global marketplaces, social media, smart collaboration tools, and online payment platforms – equips the global workforce with all the resources needed to chart their own career path and develop their professional network. Many are now leveraging the flexible work schedule to build a full-time career, a profitable side-hustle, or even extend their fulfilling careers post-retirement.
Throughout the COVID-times, the gig economy saw an upward trend, thanks to an elaborate freelancing system and ready market. A 2020 Upwork’s seventh annual study dubbed Freelance Forward surveyed 6,000 plus U.S workers over the age of 18.
Below are some of the findings from the survey:
- Fifty-nine million Americans participated in some form of freelance work in the past 12 months. This represents 36% of the U.S. workforce, an increase of two million freelancers since the last survey in 2019.
- More professionals are willing to take up freelancing jobs in the future – 58% of new freelancers said they would consider freelancing in the future.
- More professionals are freelancing full-time – the number of full-time professionals increased 8% points to 36% in 2020 since 2019.
The survey further hints that freelancing is helping young professionals to hone their skills. According to the study, 59% of freelancers have participated in some skills training in the last six months, compared to 36% of non-freelancers.
This trend in freelancing can be primarily attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it’s worth noting that the freelancing market was already mature pre-COVID. In fact, 2019 stats show that freelancers represented about 35% of the global workforce, and 75% said they wouldn’t trade their freelancing job for other types of work.
2. Why the Uptick in Freelancing Market
Before the pandemic and during the booming job market, workers chose freelancing or contract jobs because they preferred flexibility. However, during the first wave of the pandemic, the freelancing market took a steep dip. Between April, May, and June, the freelance market saw a steady rise. According to Forbes industry coverage, some of the high-in-demand areas like game design and development saw a 60% surge in the second quarter of 2020.
A new Payoneer survey shows that COVID is accelerating freelance growth, but there’s more to this than meet the eye.
According to the survey, there are three main reasons why there’s a significant rise in freelancing activities:
- COVID has expedited organizational demand for freelancers; likewise, it has accelerated freelancing as a respected, legitimate, and alternative career path.
- Several organizations are creating structures needed to establish the blended and flexible workforce more firmly – an example is the professional platforms that connect corporate organizations to highly curated and specialized freelance mini-marketplaces.
- Individuals working full-time are now demanding freelance-like employment experience in pursuit of a more flexible working schedule and better work-life balance. Some are also asking for more professional development opportunities, and their employers are doing all they can to retain and empower them for professional success. With this kind of work experience, the shift to freelance working is more of a hop than a high jump.
And as Scott Galit, CEO, Payoneer puts it, “Freelancers from all walks of life and every corner of the world are empowered to acquire work, set their own wages, market their skills, and get paid how and when they want.”
But while cost competitiveness, flexibility, creativity, and diversified talent pool are some of the major highlights of the freelancing work arrangement, the absence of a well-thought-out organizational culture, communication challenges, and inconsistency of work are some of the potential challenges. We’ve covered them in detail below.
3. Challenges Faced by Freelancers
Among the main challenges faced by freelancers include:
Poor communication can occur due to any or all of the following reasons:
Some clients may fail to specify what they expect from a project. In some instances, the instructions may seem simple to the client but complex for the freelancer. If the client fails to give clear instructions, both parties may not have an excellent working relationship.
Working with a micromanaging client is frustrating. Some clients give freelancers no space to do what they do best. Signs of micromanagement include constant calls, texts, or emails, especially at odds times or several instructions meant to tame your creativity. This habit negatively affects freelancers and may also compromise the quality of work.
Wrong choice of Communication tools
Lack of proper collaboration between the client and the freelancer, especially in terms of file sharing, sending and receiving updates, asking for clarification, etc., may lead to poor time management and poor execution of the required task. Without the right tools and detailed information, a freelancer may fail to deliver optimum results.
It is, therefore, necessary to choose the right remote collaboration tools that will foster proper communication. A variety of tools exist in the market –
serving different purposes from texting, screen sharing, video conferencing to asynchronous communication. However, it’s necessary to identify the best communication channels that will work effectively.
Fixing the communication challenge: Choose the right blend of Tool
To solve the communication challenges above, you should set clear expectations with your client or employer and suggest the right mix of remote collaboration tools.
Besides using scheduling tools such as Trello, Asana, or Airtable, you want to choose an asynchronous communication tool for every-day communication. You would also want to consider asynchronous video messaging, which helps ease communication, builds trust, and add a human touch to your communication.
You may also need to set up meetings depending on the nature of the work. Meetings will help gauge the level of satisfaction based on the job done; however, too many meetings may kill productivity. In fact, live video conferencing has been associated with employee burnout, and many organizations are now shifting to asynchronous communication.
An example of an asynchronous remote collaboration tool is our bee Weet platform, which allows you to communicate using short videos, screen recordings, and even emojis. This makes communication fast, convenient, and more interesting.
Freelancing is sometimes a feast or famine kind of work arrangement. Some days you may have a ton of work, then comes the low seasons when your clients are on holidays and long vacations.
Before taking a freelance role or job, you should have a straightforward conversation with your client to set realistic goals and define the scope of work, the workload, payment terms, means of communications, etc.
After understanding what the client hopes to accomplish, it is wise to admit if the project is operable. A few interconnections with the client from the beginning can provide discernment on what kind of client you are working with.
Before working with a client, it is needful to analyze the other freelancers’ past experiences with the very client. This will protect you from working with clients who fail to make payments or those who are hard to reach through the various communication channels.
As much as you want to set expectations with the client, keep in mind that you can’t force them to deliver on their promises.
Dealing with low or late payment
Freelancers may encounter payment problems due to several reasons. One being irregular income streams and untimely payments. Clients may delay payments due to their busy schedules, and it’s best to establish prior communication before launching complaints.
Negotiating with the client gives you the privilege of getting a down payment before beginning a project. Joining freelancer unions may also be helpful as they provide legal resources to help deal with breaches of contracts.
When sending invoices, always use invoicing software to track all your projects and payments. Some invoicing software can also help you set reminders after specific days have passed since the invoice date.
4. Starting your Freelance Career
Freelancers represent about 36% of the global workforce. Anyone with expertise, knowledge, skills, and experience can become a freelancer. Freelance consulting is another area that’s seeing rapid growth, thanks to the many benefits of working remotely, such as flexible working schedules and better work-life balance.
Before venturing into the freelancing world, there are a couple of things you should consider. Likewise, once you are in the market, you should equip your freelancing skills to remain competitive. Below are some of the freelancing success tips:
- Understand what you do best – if you can offer distinctive value to other businesses at competitive rates, then you can start advertising your services.
- Pick an area of specialty – Based on the market demand, you want to focus more on the areas of expertise, especially where there’s a ready market.
- Pricing of services – A reasonable pricing policy will make you competitive in the marketplace. Always make sure you are charging based on the value you are delivering to the market – i.e., based on experience, working hours, the complexity of the projects, etc.
- Join professional groups – Networking is a good way of finding new clients. Showcasing your skills through business proposals and highlighting your work experience may land you high-value clients.
- Work on yourself – to gain additional skills; you can sign up for online courses. This can help you stay competitive in the freelancing market.
Your professional website acts as your portfolio; hence, it should be tailored to allow for easy navigation and understanding. Always indicate the services you offer on the homepage to avoid confusing your site visitors.
Your website should also be detailed in a manner that will attract new customers. Once you are running your freelance career as a business, you are responsible for finding clients, invoicing, filing income tax, hiring your assistant, and taking charge of the entire freelance entity.
5. Managing Your Time as a Freelance Consultant
Have a schedule
Freelancers tend to use their private hours for work, ending up with a complex schedule. A schedule enables one to achieve maximum performance, as well as work within the stipulated time frame. This prevents overworking. Scheduling also allows for prioritizing tasks; hence one can work on the crucial tasks and push others to the end of the list.
With a routine, similar tasks can be clustered and performed at the same time. This allows one to predict how much a project will cost therefore assigning the necessary resources. A schedule is also imperative when working with others since it keeps everyone on the same page, thus avoiding mistakes such as missing deadlines.
Lastly, scheduling keeps one in control of their personal life and guarantees the achievement of goals. It also makes one a better person by teaching the aspect of meeting deadlines and time management.
Some of the tools you can use for scheduling and organizing your projects include Airtable, Trello, and Calendly.
Set up a block time and use it for deep work
Time blocking is a technique of managing a particular time in a day by allocating it to specific tasks. Block time allows you to focus on a particular task at a time, helping you prioritize demanding tasks.
Procrastination is conquered with the help of this method. It also promotes focused work, as it enables one to concentrate on work without distraction. Block time boosts productivity and ensures faster completion of tasks.
Time allocation is another factor to consider to have a good block time. Some freelancers will set their morning hours as block time to maximize the peace of mind and high concentration levels. Energy is another consideration since block time will make less impact if you don’t have the energy to concentrate and get the job done.
Minimize distraction by all means
Social media is a source of distractions. Making rules and following them will help one maintain the discipline of working. Proper time management may also help avoid the chances of drifting away from work. You can do this by allocating personal and professional time.
Building a professionally productive environment enhances concentration. Learning a way of handling interference is an added advantage as it is impossible to perform the work in a designated manner without experiencing some interruptions.
Work can also be a distraction if there’s a lack of proper prioritization. Priority must be set based on the significance of tasks. Freelancers often handle multiple tasks in a bid to meet deadlines, and in cases where they cannot divide their attention among several tasks, they get distracted.
Developing a batch process may increase efficiency, as scheduling work for a specific time will allow you to focus on work. You can also innovate a way to beat distraction. For some people, that could mean putting on a pair of headphones to listen to their favorite music, and for others, it’s moving to the most silent room in their apartment.
Push meetings and socializing for low-energy hours
A freelancer should identify what time works best for big tasks and small tasks. Working under pressure reduces one’s creativity level. Mapping tasks based on energy levels promotes efficiency. Most creative work is done well during high-energy hours. These hours should be allocated to high-level tasks.
Low-energy time helps generate new ideas and for performing basic activities such as:
attending meetings, responding to emails and texts. A freelancer should be able to prioritize their tasks and time-block their most productive hours. One can set up a habit of transitioning from one energy level to another, such as having a cup of coffee or stretching for a few minutes.
The habits should be specific and easy to repeat. Productivity Quotas can also help one stay focused on the tasks. It provides motivation hence making goals easily achievable.
Learn to Say No
As a freelancer, you should learn the skill of saying no to avoid overwhelming yourself with too many projects or assignments. Negotiations before working is key to identifying the number of hours to put in the project.
Clients who prioritize quantity over quality do not value freelance work and thus should be avoided. A rule of thumb is to reject projects which pay below-average rates. One should learn to say no to unprofessional projects that will be embarrassing to share with potential clients and projects that will not add any professional value.
When it is impossible to meet the set deadline, saying no can be difficult, but it is sensible to decline the work to avoid too much pressure and bad quality work.
6. Freelancing Best Practices
To succeed in your freelancing career, here are a few takeaways you should consider.
Invest in the right collaboration tools
Remote work is all about leveraging technology to ensure effective communication. Freelancers often work on various projects, which requires planning and scheduling to ensure proper time management. Investing in the right collaboration tools come with the following benefits:
- It allows for easy planning of records taking into account prior project pipeline/workload
- It promotes proper allocation of resources hence saving on money.
- It allows for project tracking to ensure that you meet deadlines.
- It provides an easy time to register projects into the system.
As the freelance revolution continues to grow, the need for efficient remote collaboration tools will continue to grow. By investing in the right remote collaboration tools, you can leverage technology to boost productivity.
Separate work from home
Having a dedicated working space at home helps boost concentration. Working in the living room will only affect your productivity since you’ll have tons of distractions from the TV, visitors, family members, etc. Bringing family members and friends on board creates an understanding of expectations to prevent them from bringing in disruption.
Self-control is another great value that allows you to focus on one task. It will also help you avoid getting caught up in other distractive activities, such as checking the trends on Twitter or replying to Facebook messages, etc.
As a rule of thumb, always create a realistic schedule that will help you allocate tasks effectively.
This also helps avoid overworking and keep off the last-minute pressure. When dealing with high-intensive projects, it’s recommended to have separate phone contacts and email addresses. This helps to separate work-related stuff and home and personal related tasks, thus allocating your priorities well.
Use the Ivy Lee method to manage tasks.
This method is a simple daily routine that will help you achieve peak productivity. It entails writing down six critical tasks for the day that you need to complete. Tasks are ranked in order of their priority.
You should start working on the first item in the list to the last item, and when the day ends, uncompleted tasks should be moved to the next day. Using this method, one should focus on one activity at a time, giving priority to the most important. This method will also push you to be honest with priorities as it teaches you to identify what needs to be done.
The Ivy Lee method also acts as a monitoring tool, helping you look at what you’ve spent time on and what you are spending time on in the present. It is useful in eliminating cluttered thinking. Cluttered thinking triggers a stress response, which may prevent you from prioritizing what to do.
At the end of the day, you will look at the tasks accomplished and get a feeling of relief and confidence. As time goes by, you will have a larger list of completed tasks, which discourages the act of multitasking.
Create structure and discipline
Having a routine encourages discipline and structure. Setting a schedule and sticking to it is a functional method of discipline. Freelancers should learn to involve themselves in social activities such as hanging out with friends, hiking, etc. One should also know when to stop working to avoid mental breakdowns.
It can be helpful for a workaholic to find strict-working hours. This creates a boundary between work and other social activities. Self-discipline is achieved when one decides to own their day. Time management is part of self-discipline. You should have a plan on what projects to work on, and you can have these tasks broken down into manageable pieces, each with an assigned deadline.
Remember to incorporate break times into your schedule to avoid continuous working, which is not good health-wise. Getting dressed for work is underestimated as a freelancer. It puts one in a working mindset hence increasing productivity.
You should approach the market with a strategy. You can also establish your own freelancing concepts, terms of services, or whatever you’ll want to call it. Every time you enter into a contract, let the client know what you are up to and whether working together will benefit both parties.
Succeeding in your freelancing career requires that you pick a niche that you are an expert in and showcasing your services to potential clients. Managing your time as a freelancer is another important factor you should consider. There are also some freelancing best practices that will put you ahead in your niche.
The choice of your remote collaboration tools will also determine how best you communicate with your clients and how productive you are in you day-to-day duties. Using asynchronous communication tools, and leveraging video messaging will boost your communication with clients, employer or colleagues and will have a huge impact on your productivity.