Six steps to launching a successful freelance career in the gig economy

We at Talentdesk24-7 reached out to one of our associates, Phiona Martin, who is an Industrial Psychologist, Career Strategist and thought leader in Human Capital development to give us her view on what it takes to launch a successful freelance career in the gig economy.

What is the gig economy?
The world of work is transforming from an ecosystem in which workers seek long-term or permanent employment with a single employer, to one where impermanence is the new norm. Switching jobs and career changes are more common and no longer deemed unusual, meaning conventional long service to companies is no longer considered the hallmark of loyalty or job security.

The proliferation of digital online platforms has been a major catalyst of these changes. The gig economy is certainly disruptive to the traditional set-up of permanent employment and what the baby boomers or Generation X used to call ‘jobs for life’. It has ushered in a new wave which gives way to micro-entrepreneurs and self-employment on a freelance basis. In the gig economy, self-starters trade services and businesses engage independent workers for short-term or project based work. Freelancers are self-employed and therefore not entitled to company benefits typically accessible to permanent employees such as paid sick leave, pension and health insurance. The “gig work” lifestyle has historically been confined to people working in the entertainment sector such as in the music, television, and theatre business or seasonal workers in the farming sector, etc. However, the corporate sector is now following the trend, which evidently helps them cut costs on employee benefits.

Today’s workforce is mobile and work does not necessarily have to be done onsite. This has also given rise to alternative workspaces such as co-working spaces which give freelancers the ability to work from anywhere in the world, either from the comfort of their homes or in shared spaces which incorporate a similar concept to ‘hot-desking’. Similarly, gig workers are not confined to local employment opportunities, but are in fact able to work even across borders almost seamlessly due to technological enablement.

6 simple steps to get yourself started as a gig worker
How then does one get started in the gig economy? The following are tips on what you can do to launch a successful gig economy career. They are outlined in a relatively sequential manner, although the process may not always be linear.

  1. Identify your expertise

In order to be a freelancer or a gig worker, you need to possess a skill that you can offer to clients. The logical first step is to define what your speciality is; preferably based on the skills that you already possess and something you are passionate about. You need to also interrogate your motives for freelancing for instance, is it to earn more money or have more flexible working hours? Whatever it is, ensure that freelancing is the solution`. Set clearly defined goals for your freelancing career to provide you with direction and focus.

  1. Build your portfolio

Most companies engage freelancers as they come highly skilled and require minimal training. As such, before approaching prospective clients, you need to put together your portfolio as evidence of the work you have done. A portfolio is necessary regardless of the target industry or specific skill on offer. Your portfolio should include samples of your work, accomplishments and testimonials. Even if you have not landed any clients, provide testimonials from individuals who can vouch for you professionally such as colleagues and even former bosses. Do not launch your freelancing career before you acquire relative experience in providing the services you plan to sell. A good way to build your portfolio and test your services is by doing some “pro bono” work for small companies or non-profit organisations.

  1. Brand yourself

In addition to your portfolio, you need to brand yourself by having an online presence – at the very least in the form of a website and LinkedIn profile. Having a good online profile will create the impression that you are serious about your work and not a “fly-by-night”. Other crucial branding tools include business cards, a letterhead and logos. To succeed as a freelancer you also need to be willing to offer value to your prospective clients in the form of content that speaks to their needs or concerns and establishes you as an expert in your field.

4. Consider the legalities and finances

As a freelancer, you need to be aware of the tax and other legal implications within your country. Determine if you will be trading as business entity, an individual and the tax implications thereof. Consider your business goals and assess the benefits that come with how you decide to legally trade. It is a good idea to engage the professional services of an accountant to advise on setting up the financial structures you need. It is also advisable to separate your personal and business finances in order to easily track expenses. Prepare yourself for dry spells as you enter the gig economy as income can be sporadic.

5. Determine your fee

Probably one of the trickiest considerations in entering the freelance space is setting a fee for your services. This is something that you should research well by speaking to other freelancers in the market and individuals within your network. Take into account other costs such as administrative, marketing, travel, etc. When projecting your income, remember you are not going to utilise all possible billable hours in a year and will be unpaid when you are off sick, on holiday or attending to personal matters. You may have to quote lower rates in the beginning as you penetrate the market while trying to build your client portfolio, but as you progress you need to know when to walk away from contracts that are not worth your while.

Remember, in any industry, there are always a lot of competitors willing to charge much lower rates than you are, therefore do not fall into the temptation of underselling yourself to compete. Benchmark your service against what others are offering and price yourself based on the value you deliver. Also consider different pricing strategies such as per hour billing or pricing per project. As a general rule, always overestimate both time and money particularly when billing per hour.

6. Execute a client strategy

Now that you have the basics in place – define and approach your client base.  The first step is to identify which type of companies will make use of your services and can afford to pay your rates. Consider the decision makers within these businesses and how you can connect with them. This process may be trial and error in the beginning and you will eventually develop a good sense of the “buyers” market which is most suitable to achieving your goals. Once you’ve narrowed down your target market, the second step is to find them, approach them and hopefully secure your first contract. A great way to gain access to your potential client base is finding out where they “hang out”. As such, find out about associations within the industry, professional online platforms that you can join as well as events where you can network and build relationships. If you have the appetite for it, you can also try cold calling or emailing.

A great additional tool is using your existing network of friends, family and ex-colleagues since they are likely to be people that care about you and will be willing to support your endeavours. In this regard, let people in your network know the kind of work you are doing and inform them that you are available for assignments and contracts.

Final Insights
The gig economy provides a new way of working for individuals who do not want long-term commitment to one employer and technology that makes much of this possible. Managing a freelancing career requires putting several things in place to ensure longevity and success given that the work assignments are episodic. Identifying your area of expertise is a key starting point and following that with a solid portfolio as evidence of your expertise.  Professional branding as a gig worker should, at the very least, consist of a personal website and well-crafted LinkedIn Profile. Legal documentation and financial structures should also be in place to ensure compliance.

Freelancers, Contractors and the future of your business

The use of freelancers or Talent as a Service (TaaS) is gaining popularity for a number of reasons as businesses face new challenges and top talent seek more control over the way they work.

If you’re considering using freelancers or independent consultants on your next project, here are some of the reasons why Talentdesk24-7 talent pool should be your first port of call: 

  1. They have guts

Going it alone or even just offering one’s skills directly to clients (and not through a company) takes a lot of confidence – and self-assurance. It requires being completely accountable for your own work – and fully backing yourself and your skills. You have to be sure you can deliver at a standard that’s worth paying for – because if you don’t, you’ll feel the consequences in your pocket immediately.

  1. They’re the best of the best

Independent consultants and freelancers are the very best at what they do. They don’t have the option of hiding behind a large firm or team – and they don’t need to. They take full credit – and responsibility – for what they do because it’s all their own. It’s their own reputation on the line with every job they complete, so quality is a given.

  1. They’re cost-effective

Talentdesk24-7 itself was built using the expertise of a pool of trusted freelancers. In fact, everything from our CI to our web development and copywriting is the handiwork of freelancers who we trusted with our brand. Even this blog has been copy-edited by a freelancer. To have so many skills in-house would cost close to a million rand a year.

Had that been our only option, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now because we’d still be trying to do everything ourselves. Having talent available on demand without the overheads associated with full-time employees is a game changer.

  1. They’re available when you need them

Do requirements in your project teams often change? Of course. And how predictable are your budgets? Not at all? We know the struggle.

As customer needs change as quickly as projects come in, accessing the right skills at the right time (and handling the red tape associated with new hires) is a major challenge. That’s why we built Talentdesk24-7 – to give you access to the best talent, on demand, with quality service delivery you can trust.

Are you starting your own small business? We understand you need to focus on sales and decision making. Let our expert freelancers help build your brand, handle your financial admin and prep you for your next big pitch. Talentdesk24-7 is your own start-up kit just waiting to be tapped into.

Mind shift: Talent as a Service

In the increasingly competitive business landscape, there’s unrelenting pressure for companies to be more productive, with fewer employees and resources. Technology has become a key enabler in this shifting model. But it has major implications for what the idea of ‘work’ itself is becoming.

What’s emerging is a new model for the workforce and the workplace known as ‘Talent as a Service’. In the same way that Netflix virtualised the video shop on the corner, Talent as a Service (TaaS) sees the digital dissemination of expertise replacing the old-school model of organisations hiring people full-time (and of physically going to work every day).

Talentdesk24-7 is one of the first TaaS platforms of its kind in South Africa. Our goal is simple – to seamlessly connect highly-qualified professionals with projects that match their skillset on an on-demand basis.

For businesses, this means lower capital investment, less guesswork in allocating contract work and higher productivity. For people with the right expertise, it means flexibility and the opportunity to be your own boss.

Talentdesk24-7 uses technology to disrupt the traditional labour model. Clients and consultants register for free. While clients can submit projects, consultants submit their CVs and references and undergo a rigorous vetting process ensuring only the best candidates are listed.

We then use an algorithm to match expertise to projects – giving clients a shortlist of experts to choose from. After agreeing to the fee and deadlines, the project commences. On completion, the client can rate the consultant based on their performance. This ensures the best results for both parties – and ensures that great work, results in more work for the consultant.

So whether you’re a consultant or business, Talentdesk24-7 is designed to meet your most pressing challenges.

 

Consultant challenge Talentdesk 24-7 solution
 

Need more flexibility

 

 

Access to a constant stream of projects, with the ability to pick and choose from those that suit your skills and capacity

 

 

Need to grow my earning potential

 

 

Tailor your earnings to suit the type of life/work balance you want.

 

 

Want to focus on what interests me

 

 

If you’ve got the skills, on Talentdesk 24-7 you choose the projects that interest you. It’s your work, on your terms.

 

 

Business challenge Talentdesk 24-7 solution
 

Need for business agility

 

 

Forget having staff sitting idle between projects. Get expertise on-demand. Save money while having access to a constant pool of talent resources.

 

 

Need to cut costs

 

 

Forget exorbitant mark-ups. Now, even small businesses can access a high-quality, on-demand talent pool without being locked into expensive long-term contracts.

 

 

Need peace of mind that the experts we hire will get the job done, in time

 

 

Our rigorous vetting process means we ensure only the best talent is available to be matched to your projects. The consultant rating system also makes sure they deliver only the highest-quality work.

 

 

Beyond the immediate benefits for workers and organisations alike, the shift toward the TaaS model also holds a lot of potential for big data. Over time, we’ll be able to gather insights on demand for skills – which can in turn help people plan their studies and next career moves.

We’re incredibly excited to be embarking on this journey and look forward to working with you, to change the way we all work.

The Talentdesk 24-7 Team

Introducing a new way to work

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Sitting behind the same desk, at the same company, every day from 8 to 5 for your whole working life is a foreign concept to the new-generation workforce. Not only are we changing jobs more frequently than ever before, we’re also seeking out novel ways to work – and mostly for ourselves.

Simultaneously, businesses themselves are evolving. Employers are increasingly looking to outsource work to the right people, with the right skills, for the right projects. Gone are the days of having to get every kind of skillset on your permanent payroll.

Companies want on-demand, reliable talent – and the talent want flexibility and fulfilment. And we make it happen.

Talentdesk24-7 is all about connecting talent to projects. Going freelance can be a huge leap of faith – for both the freelancer and the organisation. Securing ongoing work can be a source of immense stress and sleepless nights. While for an organisation, finding the right freelancer or consultant can also be a gamble. But it doesn’t have to be.

By joining Talentdesk24-7, you’re plugging into a constant source of high-quality projects, matched to your unique skillset. You choose what to work on and when. We handle the rest.

If you’re a business owner or organisation looking for highly-skilled talent for contract or project work, Talentdesk24-7 gives you access to pre-vetted freelancers and consultants, guaranteed to deliver high-quality work on deadline.

So take the first step toward a new way of working. Sign up as a business or a consultant. Registration is totally free.

Let’s get to work!