This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
From blog writing and logo design to ukulele song recording, if a service exists there’s probably a site that connects freelancers with buyers. There each “gig” is packaged up neatly, creating a simple online marketplace for various skillsets.
Whether you’re just getting started with the online gig economy or a veteran who wants to learn some new best practices, here are five simple tips to up your gigging game.
Understand the cut you’re giving up and price accordingly.
Some gig sites poorly advertise the cut they take from your freelance revenue. Fiverr, for example, takes 20% automatically off of all gigs you deliver (which was news to me when I completed my first order.) This sounds like a lot — and really, it is — but it can be justified if you calculate the costs you may be saving.
For example, the cost of marketing yourself, the time investment to SEO-optimize or update your personal website to get more traffic, and the cost of messaging, timekeeping, and project delivery apps to interface with clients. There’s also a huge security aspect to using gig sites, because you’re not chasing down payments or worrying about bounced checks. While there is a time delay on most payments of a week or so, and longer for foreign currency payments, you can rest assured that payment is automatic upon your delivery of the final product. Some platforms also provide intermediary services if there is some kind of discrepancy with your gig. So consider that in your equation, too.
As a result of the cut, though, you’ll need to price accordingly. Price up 20% or more above your regular rate to make sure those small cuts don’t add up.
Supplement your creative work with consulting
Are you a writer? A designer? A video producer? Are you good at what you do, with some years under your belt? If so, then you’re also a strategist and/or consultant. A consulting gig often takes less time, without the messy back-and-forth often involved in creative deliverables. And you can charge more too — often by the hour.
To market yourself as a consultant, make sure to include accolades and results you’ve driven in your profile. Include descriptions of the kinds of companies or clients you’ve worked with before What size? What industry? Where are they located? If the gig platform offers them for your skill set, take tests to showcase and quantify your knowledge.
Make it very clear in your gig description what you’re offering from a consulting standpoint. A one- or two-hour session conducted over a video interview is a great way to package your knowledge. Create a bulleted list of everything a client can expect to take away from the session, including any actionable steps you’ll leave them with.
If consulting is already saturated in your space, find unique angles for yourself. For example, do you specialize in creative work for retail companies specifically? Do you have a niche in global or local clients? Find ways to differentiate and you will edge above the competition.
Write actionable, buyer-centric gig descriptions.
Freelancers have a tendency to underprice their services, but position your services around the value they provide for your client. Understanding value goes a long way for freelancers in raising their rates and building longer-term relationships with good clients.
What does value look like? If you’re a blog writer, a description like “I have X years of experience and I am very detail-oriented in my writing” is less compelling than “Earn more website traffic for your company, and position yourself as a thought leader with your blog.” It may take you some time to figure out the true value you’re providing, but ask your clients about the impact of your work and use their feedback.
Reserve cash for taxes.
Boring but critical advice: On top of the percentage you’ll pay freelance gig sites like Fiverr for their cut, you’re also likely required to pay tax on that income. So make sure to factor that into your revenue projections.
As soon as you receive the money, set aside 25-40% of that amount (depending on your current tax rate) into a high-yield savings account, or wherever else you keep your owed taxes. With Fiverr, you don’t need to withdraw your funds right away, so it can be a good place to keep a little nest egg of income and pay yourself back over time.
Set expectations on availability early, for your wellbeing.
One unfortunate aspect of gig sites like Fiverr is the emphasis on timeliness of responses. It’s an “always on” system: Your average response time to new messages is highlighted on your profile, and your new orders come in with a countdown clock.
You may very well be working with people from different time zones (my first client requests came in from Australia, Germany, and India), so set expectations early about your local time zone and also when you will be available to answer questions or respond to feedback.
At all costs, avoid being a 24/7 freelancer, because that’s not healthy and it also devalues you as a service provider. Take advantage of features in the platform like the “online/offline” setting. Set yourself away when you’re away.
Great customer service (on your terms) can make up for that. My first five-star review was a huge boon to business and resulted in a steady stream of orders, even though my “response time” was quite high above the platform’s recommendation.
Getting involved with the gig economy has many benefits, and can come with a reliable new revenue stream for freelancers looking to diversify their projects. But be aware of the implications, and market yourself and your services so you get what you deserve.
Kayli is based in Queens, NY and freelances as a digital marketing consultant, content strategist, and writer for B2B, B2G, and B2C companies. She loves travel, and her passion project is personal essay writing on mental health and human rights: https://medium.com/@kaylikunkel.