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Not so long ago, it dawned on me: I have been freelancing for 10 years.
My first freelance job was back in 2005. I was a sophomore in college and broadband was a relatively new phenomenon. The demise of dial-up and the freedom from parentally restricted computer time meant that I practically lived on the internet.
It was around that time that I stumbled upon a job ad about looking for a writer who could work from home. I applied and received my first project.
This was in the dark ages of SEO mind you, so my "writing" job involved stuffing as many keywords into an article as possible.
And for my skillful stuffing of keywords, I was paid a fee.
Hooked on freelancing
That first job – as mind numbingly boring as it was – got me hooked on freelancing.
I was a full-time university student and these freelance jobs gave me the opportunity to make an income by working around my schedule. What a revelation!
Between finishing my degree and moving to Australia in 2007, I had 8 months of boredom to fill.
8 months wasn’t long enough to apply for a "real job" but it was definitely long enough to get better at freelancing.
I took on as many jobs as I could and learned the difference between writing website content, marketing copy, blog writing and more.
Over the next 10 years, my freelancing career became both my primary source of earning and my primary source of learning.
I freelanced while I was a full-time international post-graduate student unable to get any other jobs; freelanced while working part-time as a waitress; freelanced alongside my full-time marketing job just so I could keep learning; and have been freelancing since becoming a digital nomad in 2013.
For me, the flexibility freelancing offers has made it a life-long no-brainer.
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How Freelancing is Different in 2015
Freelancing and the internet has changed dramatically in the past 10 years.
Starting a freelance career is, in many ways, a lot easier now. Sustaining it and developing it into a full time income takes hard work but it’s definitely possible.
More opportunities than ever before
There are more freelancing opportunities now than I could dream of in 2005.
Quality content is also much more appreciated now than it used to be. For freelance writers, there are many, many more media outlets looking for good content than there used to be 10 years ago.
Companies are also more open-minded today and understand the value of outsourcing to a freelancer if they can’t find the expertise in-house.
For freelancers, this means an opportunity to score long term, consistent work rather than working on bite-sized projects all the time.
Freelancing is a valid choice
Not many people took me seriously as a freelancer back in the day. That outlook is definitely changing.
Being a freelancer is a valid (and much sought after) career option now. Especially if you’re aspiring towards a location independent life.
A study of the American workforce found that, "almost 54 million Americans are now freelancing and 65% said freelancing as a career path is more respected today than it was three years ago.”
And for some Australian context:
A survey found 3.7 million people in Australia undertake some sort of freelance work!
Freelancing pays better
One of the reasons freelancing is becoming a viable career choice is because freelance jobs are starting to pay much better than they used to.
Clients realize the value of expertise and are willing to pay for it rather than wasting time over hiring someone with cheaper raters but fewer skills.
The rise of freelancing platforms
Back in 2005, freelancing platforms like oDesk (now Upwork)* weren’t what they are today. When I first signed up, the opportunities were limited and the jobs were largely very poorly paid.
However, in 2012, I signed up for Upwork again - out of curiosity. Since signing up, it has been a great source of jobs and contacts for me. Upwork also taught me a lot about the type of clients I like to work with.
For freelancers who have no idea what to do or where to start, I highly recommend signing up to Upwork.
It not only helps you get your first job but also teaches you how to sell yourself, pitch for projects, work with clients and various other valuable freelance skills.
A competitive space
Freelancing today is definitely more competitive than it used to be 10 years ago. Many millennials are choosing to freelance over stuffy corporate jobs and it’s a trend I only see growing. Competition doesn’t make any career impossible though. I believe competition is good because it will improve the world of freelancing.
*Full disclosure: I currently work on the Upwork social media team as a freelance contributor. However, my professional affiliation with the company has had no bearing on the opinions about Upwork expressed in this article. My opinions are 100% genuine and based solely on personal experience as an Upwork freelancer.
Hi I'm Radhika! I help businesses achieve their social media and marketing goals with creative copywriting and strategy techniques. I write for conversions, for engagement, for information, for SEO and yes, for humans too!