A recent study commissioned by the Freelancers Union and elance-oDesk found that at least one third of the workforce in the United States are freelancers. This number is anticipated to increase in the coming years, and will change the future of work as we know it. In fact, by 2020 it’s estimated that one in three workers will be freelance.
The job market of the past was pretty straight forward. You go to college (or not), pick a career path, and stick with it for life. When someone asked you what you did for a living, you would pick one title. But these days it’s not unusual to have several titles. Publicist/marketer/writer/photographer, etc.
The idea of freelancing is nothing new. It’s been going on since the 1800’s. What is new is the number of jobs and industries that are now included in the freelancing realm. With the advent of the Internet the number of jobs and industries has increased dramatically. You can now easily hire a freelancer from anywhere in the world, and the opportunities for freelancers is only going to get bigger.
But freelancing isn’t exactly for the faint of heart. Unlike a conventional job, a freelancer is constantly hustling for their next gig. As an actor, I’ve been doing that my entire life. You spend most of your time looking for work. Interviewing, auditioning, callbacks. And when the job is over, you start the hustle all over again. It’s never-ending. The life of a freelancer, like that of an actor, can be feast or famine. Not everyone is comfortable with that level of risk and uncertainty. But if you want to chart your own path as an independent contractor, there are some ways to make the journey a little smoother:
- Learn how to network – In my course “The Street Smart Job Search” I talk about how the best way to connect with anyone is face to face. You can show your sparkling personality, and it’s harder to say no to someone when you’re face to face. The next best way is by phone. Sending out blanket emails rarely works because it’s too easy to delete them and there’s no human connection. Join an association in your particular industry and get out and meet people. Even if they aren’t in the position of hiring you, they may know someone who could. Ask for a referral.
- Seek out prospects – Trade publications are a great place to start looking for freelance jobs. If a company is advertising that probably means they’re doing well, and may be open to hiring freelancers. A database company like Hoovers, not only provides contacts, but valuable corporate insider information that can help you find companies who would need freelancers. They also include financial informational to help you determine which companies are doing well and what their current needs are. This information is constantly updated to give you a picture of their inner workings and financial stability.
- Learn to use social media – Sites like Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter allow you to keep up with companies and what they’re doing in real time. Connect with and follow them to find out if they’re using freelancers or will be planning to in the near future.
- Search Google – You can also set a Google alert to find out more info on what the company is doing, and search through Google with keywords to find your best prospects.
- Have prospects come to you – Sign up at every freelancer site you can. Here is a list of some of them:
- Project for hire
- Demand Media
If you want to earn a living working freelance you have to be able to generate leads, turn them into customers, and then get repeat business and referrals from them. You have to feel comfortable with selling, outgoing with people, and be able to deliver as promised and on time.
If you can do that then the world of freelance is right for you. The future of work is changing and those who have the skills to be independent contractors have the potential to be successful.