Have you ever dreamt about setting your own hours and working from home? If so, you’re not alone.
A growing number of Americans are turning to freelance and short-term contract work, also known as the gig economy, to make their living.
In fact, the gig economy now accounts for more than a third of the American workforce — roughly 57 million people. That’s a lot of competition.
If you want to hack it as a freelancer, you’ll need to take steps to stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips for how to survive — and thrive — in the gig economy.
1. Broaden your horizons
When you’re first starting out, you might find that gigs in your specific field are few and far between. Rather than get discouraged, try expanding your search to see if there are other gigs out there you qualify for.
Using an online marketplace like Fiverr is a great way to not only sell your work, but also see what services other freelancers in your field are offering — and what they’re typically charging. You may realize that your skill-set applies to a ton of potential gigs that you didn’t even know were an option.
2. Hone your brand
One of the best ways to stand out in the gig economy is to develop a solid personal brand. Do your best to post regular updates on social networking platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter that highlight your personal strengths and successes.
It’s also crucial to have a portfolio of your work online. Your portfolio should highlight the projects that you’re the proudest of, and showcase both your skills and your versatility. By regularly updating your portfolio and resume to include your most recent gigs, you’ll show potential clients that your services are in high demand.
3. Manage your time well
One of the main benefits of freelancing is that you don’t have to go to a physical office every day. That can also be a drawback if your time management skills aren’t…well, great. Make use of the calendar app on your phone or computer, or task manager apps like Todoist, and schedule reminders for all of your due dates, meetings, and phone calls.
Another useful time management strategy is to establish a solid routine for your workday.
Having a routine will increase your sense of control, enhance your focus, and ensure that you’re maintaining a healthy work-life balance — you’ll know when it’s time to eat, time to take a break and time to set your work aside for the day.
You’ll also be much more productive if you have a distraction-free workspace. If there isn’t a quiet space in your home to work, look into whether there are any co-working spaces in your area. For a monthly fee, you’ll get access to a desk, printer, and wifi network, as well as other amenities you’d find around a typical office. Maybe even cucumber water.
4. Go the extra mile
You should always strive to go above and beyond what your clients expect from you. Before you start a new gig, read up on both the organization and its industry so that you have a better understanding of your client’s needs.
Be flexible with your availability for meetings and teleconferences, and plan to submit your work ahead of the deadline if possible. Make an effort to come up with ideas of your own that could benefit the project; even if the client doesn’t use them, they’ll likely appreciate that you took the initiative.
5. Supplement your income
It’s not uncommon for people working in the gig economy to have slow periods from time to time. If you happen to hit a patch where your regular clients don’t have any work available, there’s no shame in supplementing your freelance income until things pick up.
Food delivery services are great options for freelancers looking to make some quick cash. They allow you to choose your own hours, and you don’t even need to have a car — you can use a bike or a scooter. Even if you do have a freelance gig on the go, food deliveries are a fun and easy way to make a bit of disposable income.
6. Stack up gigs
The more income you have coming in the better, so whenever possible you should aim to stack up gigs – have a few things on the go at once so you’ve got several different sources of revenue. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking on multiple freelance projects at once; there are other ways you can earn extra money without adding to your work hours.
If you’ve got a spare room in your home, consider listing it on Airbnb to make some extra cash. Airbnb hosts can make thousands of dollars a month, depending on the size and quality of the space they’re renting. There are even some hosts who manage other people’s properties on Airbnb and take a cut in exchange.
You can also earn additional income by renting out your car on an app called Turo – just nine days a month could be enough to cover your entire monthly car payment.
Both of these gigs are easy to “stack” on top of your normal work without adding much effort on your end, so you’ll get paid from multiple sources for the same hours. Not a bad gig.
7. Maximize your downtime
Working in the gig economy you might feel pressure to constantly be on the clock. But taking some time for yourself each day is important too. Luckily, there are ways that you can earn money even when you’re not working.
Companies like Swagbucks allow you to earn rewards for just going about your everyday business online. You can earn points by shopping, watching viral videos, and searching the web, then redeem them for gift cards from retailers like Amazon and Walmart, or get cash back from PayPal.
8. Make money on your savings
Once you get into a groove and develop a stable of regular clients, you might find that you have multiple paychecks coming in every month. It’s easy to just dump them all into your checking account and let them collect dust, but by opening a high-interest savings account with a company like Credit Karma, you can give your money a chance to grow.
The more you’re able to stash away in your savings account each month, the more interest you’ll accumulate. It’s like another form of gig-stacking – earning revenue outside of your main freelance income – only this time it’s your money that’s doing all the work.
9. Nurture client relationships
It’s important to develop strong working relationships with each of your clients; if you’re easy to collaborate with and you do solid work, there’s a good chance that a client will hire you for another job in the future. Check in with previous clients now and then – even just a quick email around the holidays will help you stay on their radar.
Once you’ve worked with a client on a few jobs, it’s a good idea to request a review or testimonial that you can use to attract new customers. It doesn’t have to be long – just a few sentences that explain why they enjoy working with you and what you bring to the table.
Some online freelance marketplaces like Fiverr will automatically prompt your clients to review your work, so you don’t even have to ask. The more positive reviews you have on your profile, the likelier you are to get new gigs in the future.
10. Master your money
Managing your finances as a freelancer can be tricky, especially if you want to start planning for your future. Unlike most full-time employees, workers in the gig economy don’t have access to a company retirement plan like a 401(k) – but that doesn’t mean that if you’re a freelancer you can’t save for your retirement.
Facet Wealth can connect you with a Certified Financial Planner who will teach you how to save and help you get the most out of your money. Regardless of your financial situation, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead.
11. Never stop learning
To be successful in the gig economy you need to have a well-defined set of skills; a checklist of traits and qualifications that companies in your field expect their candidates to have. But even if you tick all of those boxes, you can’t just rest on your laurels.
Modern industries are constantly evolving, and if you want to keep up you’ll need to evolve too. Stay on top of the latest trends and technologies in your field, and whenever possible make an effort to broaden your skill-set.
A great place to start is the online job board ZipRecruiter. Aside from offering millions of daily job postings, ZipRecruiter also provides valuable information on more than 35,000 job titles, including what makes a successful candidate.
ZipRecruiter’s insight can help show you which new skills will help you up your game and score more gigs.