• Advice

How to maintain your edge in the growing independent workforce

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.

Experts predict that by 2020, 50% of the work force will be freelancers, some type of independent contractors, or temporary workers. Clearly, this is the future of work.

And those who have become freelancers have done so for very common reasons — they dislike the traditional corporate environment with its required work hours and required presence on site; they want more control over their income, their work life, and their time. And they want the flexibility to work from anywhere. Fortunately, technology allows all of these things.

Businesses are seeing the benefits as well. They can get projects completed without the need to hire full-time employees with all of the overhead costs.

What’s not to love from both sides of this aisle?

It’s growing extra competitive out there

As the freelance economic sector grows, it's the responsibility of each individual to ensure that they are as competitive as possible in their niche marketplace. They have to gain and maintain a reputation; they have to engage in marketing themselves; they have to deliver, even while working with difficult clients.

So, how is all of this accomplished? By a number of activities that are not your actual work and that will not result in short-term revenue. But long-term, it will, and you will be happy you took that time.

Get a website

You must look like an authority in your niche – an expert. One of the best ways to do this is to make your resume credentials, degrees, other education and training, and major accomplishments easily searchable.

Having a portfolio is a must, as potential clients want to see samples of your work. When you have that portfolio, accompanied by positive client feedback, your reputation grows.

Maintain a blog

You already understand the needs of your potential clients, or at least you should. Do some research and identify their pain points. Use these as topics for your blog posts. And provide opportunities for readers to share them with their colleagues.

If you do start a blog, understand this: You must maintain it with regular posts, so that your readers will return for more and stick with you.

Prioritise social media

Most of your target clients are on LinkedIn. And you will need to find them through networking activities. Join related groups and actively participate in discussions. Have a profile that engages readers; have links to your website/portfolio/blog; publish articles on LinkedIn and refer your contacts to them.

Companies have long realized that a presence on Facebook is a great marketing tool. It definitely takes time to develop a following, so patience is key here. The other key is frequent and regular posts. Like a blog, no one will follow you without engaging content posted regularly.

This is a tall order, and you may want to get some professional help. Check out freelancing websites or writing services, like Wow Grade – those that have creative copywriting departments. Such individuals can also assist with your blog posts.

Facebook also has great tools for segmenting out your audience, and targeting just those types of clients that would be potentials for your freelancing niche. Check out all of the options you have to get your name in front of the right “eyes.”

While Instagram is newer than Facebook, its business presence has increased exponentially over the years — especially since there are now Instagram business accounts with lots of benefits and methods of reaching target audiences. Not only can you set up a business account and market yourself as a freelancer but you can connect and network with, as well as follow, targeted clients.

Outperform your competition

All of the marketing and the activities to obtain clients is certainly important. What is more important, however, is your professional behavior as you work with and for clients. Here is a list of “non-negotiables” that you must keep front and center, if you expect to be in demand.

  • Be transparent. Never promise what you cannot deliver. If there is any specific gig that you are uncomfortable with, either decline the gig or commit to bringing in someone else to help. Yes, you’ll earn less. But, in the end, a project finished that fully meets the expectations of a client is more important.

  • Get everything in writing so that the parameters of the project are clear and “tight.” What you don’t want are any misunderstandings that will upset or anger a client.

  • Go above and beyond. When you exceed a client’s expectations, you earn their loyalty and their willingness to recommend you to others.

  • Communicate often and on a regular basis. Nothing irritates a client more than being left in the dark. Don’t ever fail to respond, and set a schedule of regular updates throughout the project completion.

  • Be diplomatic. Some clients can be difficult. But press on and finish the project. You don’t have to take any more work from that client, but you do need to finish what you have begun.

  • Meet deadlines – no exceptions, unless the client changes the scope of the project and a new deadline is negotiated (and put in writing).

  • Stay current. There is not a single freelancing field that does not involve continuing education and training. Upgrade your skills regularly. If you don’t, you will be left in the dust by more skilled freelancers in your niche.

Your reputation is the most critical aspect of your career. It is what continues to grow your business; it results in repeat business; it results in referrals. Everything you do adds to that reputation.

Lori was once a shy office clerk but is now an empowered writing fanatic. She continues to broaden her horizons as a content creator and contributor.