The way people work has been changing. No longer is it commonplace for a worker to spend their entire career at one company. In some cases, even working a single full time job at all is a thing of the past. Many workers have eschewed the structural limitations of the 9-to-5 and the physical office in favor of becoming independent contractors; freelancers; in short, by becoming entrepreneurs. While the flexibility and autonomy is enticing, being a freelancer means hard work, networking to land good gigs, and producing great work to boost your reputation. Here's a look at the lay of the freelancing land and some advice on how to succeed out on your own.
According to a study by Upwork and Freelancers Union, 60 percent of freelancers in the U.S. started freelancing by choice versus necessity, and 67 percent of freelancers agree that more people are choosing to work independently today compared to three years ago. [See Related Story: The Gig Economy's Growing Influence on the American Workforce]
Freelancing offers freedom and flexibility, and many workers are opting for this lifestyle over traditional, full-time opportunities. For instance, Nick DiUlio, a freelance journalist and adjunct professor of journalism at Rowan University in New Jersey, had been freelancing in his spare time and assumed it would be a stopgap between full-time gigs.
"It started as a way to get out of a toxic workplace where I was unhappy," DiUlio told Business News Daily. "I loved the flexibility and variety. After a year, I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else." [See Related Story: Want to Be a Full-Time Freelancer? What You Need to Know]
Companies hiring freelancers
Whatever your skill set, it's important to recognize market demand to keep your freelance business running. According to a study performed by FlexJobs, these are the top 15 companies for hiring freelancers so far this year.
1. CyraCom: Language Services
2. Haynes & Company: Research
- In-field Quantitative Market Researcher (multiple locations)
3. LanguageLine Solutions: Language Services
4. K12: Education
5. Razorfish: Marketing
6. EXL: Business
- High-Value Insurance Consultant (multiple locations)
7. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Education
8. Edmentum: Education
9. Connections Education: Education
10. VIP PetCare: Animals & Wildlife
- Relief Veterinarian (multiple locations)
11. US-Reports: Insurance
12. About.com: News & Journalism
13. GreatAuPair: House & Family
- Local Childcare Coordinator (multiple locations)
14. Shutterstock: Ecommerce
15. Sony Corporation of America: Entertainment
Running a one-person business
DiUlio advises having a well-thought-out plan and doing your research before you begin looking for freelance work.
"You need to know and approach [freelancing] with an economic plan," DiUlio said. "Web-based writing is a little easier, because the payment turnaround is quicker, as opposed to print which could have 30-, 60- or 90-day turnarounds."
Knowing payment structure, how much you'll get paid and when is invaluable information for your freelancing career, he added.
Most importantly, think of yourself as a business of one, said Ryan Johnson, director of categories at Upwork.
"Budget time to build your personal brand and market yourself," Johnson said. "In addition, allocate some of your time to refreshing your existing skills and adding new ones. Businesses are increasingly turning to freelance marketplaces to access skills that an in-house team doesn't have. Keeping yourself up-to-date with new and emerging trends will make you more desirable."
It's important to remember to keep in touch with your contacts, and to make new ones, said Michael Parker, vice president of collaboration at join.me. Networking is especially important for freelancers, to help get new client leads.
"Attend industry events you're interested in," Parker said. "Go to other events to network with prospective clients and sources."
The best way to start once you're ready? Just do it.
"Once you set up [an online] profile and land your first project, you'll be able to showcase your work, receive client reviews and start building your online reputation," Johnson said. "You should view your profile as a more innovative, better version of a résumé, since it provides proof of your work."
Whether you make a career out of freelancing or use it as a part-time platform, acknowledge your worth and don't work for free, DiUlio said.
"[For] your work, whatever that may be, you deserve to be paid," he said.
Additional reporting by Adam C. Uzialko.