The gig economy has become a source of employment for nearly 59 million Americans, according to a 2021 Freelance Forward report published by job platform Upwork. In the same breath, it has now become more apparent than ever that working from home and freelancing is more than a hustle and bustle for some workers, as it can run into multiple figures. Here’s how to start transitioning your freelance career into a small business career.
Technology and the Internet will help you grow into a small business
With the rapid digitization of the workplace, as companies increasingly open up to remote positions, freelancers have simultaneously found themselves in a comfortable position in the midst of the transition.
Nowadays, technology and the Internet have allowed employees and businesses to communicate effectively with each other, as well as with their customers and potential customers. This means freelancers can now grow their freelance businesses faster and more efficiently.
Basic communication is an organizational tool you will need to grow your freelancer
Basic communication and organizational tools are now more digital and easier to use. Additionally, the internet and cloud-based software allow companies and freelancers to improve their workflow more seamlessly without the need for traditional tools. A report from Freelancing America indicated that about 77% of freelancers say technology and software capabilities have made it easier to find freelance work.
With freelancers now having easier access to the right tools, how can they grow their business, moving from part-time development to full-time development, allowing them to manage and operate like a small business?
While it’s a tough road for freelancers to establish themselves as a small business, here’s a look at some key metrics freelancers can use to improve their business prospects.
Freelancers vs Small Businesses vs Contractors vs Consultants
Before we can dive in, there are some defining differences between freelancers and freelancers, i.e., small business owners, entrepreneurs, and consultants.
Here is an overview of each of their features.
Independent: In the gig economy, freelancers tend to work part-time or on an assignment basis. This means that these people can work for more than one person or company at a time, and the work is tied to a framework of pre-approved assignments.
Small business owner: This is not a straightforward definition, as it can vary from field to field, but a small business owner can be considered someone who has developed a service or product for the most great good of the consumer market, alongside other employees or stakeholders.
Contractors: These people work for a specific person or company at a time, with an approved work agreement. Usually, a contractor will be employed by a company or business to complete a set of pre-assigned job specifications.
Advisors: Consultants are generally considered the brains behind specific jobs and projects. A consultant typically consults on a project, providing insight and knowledge of the industry. Consultants are traditionally not involved during the final duration of the project.
What we can take from this is that freelancers are more flexible and can work on a range of projects and jobs simultaneously. This means that they are, in most cases, not contractually bound to a specific employer.
Freelance work is much more flexible, and creatives in this industry tend to work on various projects throughout their lives. Still, it can sometimes be difficult to juggle multiple deadlines or project formats. And, of course, freelancers aren’t treated as full-time employees, which means they don’t receive work-related benefits from their temporary employer.
Expand your career from freelance to small business
For professional freelancers, there may have been a time when they noticed that their business was becoming more and more demanding. Other times, they stumble upon a new, fresher concept that will help them further develop their current niche.
Either way, it’s possible for a freelancer to move their practice into the small business ecosystem, and here’s how.
Hone your skills to find your niche
A great starting point for any freelancer is to look at their skills and expertise and start targeting one or two specific skills they can improve on.
This means that even if you’re the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to your field of practice, larger companies and more established companies often tend to seek out people who are experts in their field. Continuing education is what helps overcome unpredictable difficulties and challenges, and for freelancers, that could mean more business and more money in their pockets.
Find what you’re good at, whether it’s photography, design, or writing, and focus on that niche. The more time and effort you put into it, the faster you can perfect these abilities.
Create an online presence
In the gig economy, it’s easy to search any job portal, browse the hundreds of different jobs, and apply to the ones that seem applicable. The digital world has made it easier and more convenient to find jobs that match your skill set.
Strengthen your online presence – that means social media
While working on your online presence is convenient and sometimes effective, it can also feel less personal. As a freelancer, who is now ready to step up their game, think about how an online presence, whether it’s a website, blog, or online portfolio, will help you. become more professional and connect with affiliate customers.
As you develop this niche, you should focus on the channels where you are bound to find most of your customers and potential customers. The easier it is for customers to find your online business or portfolio, the easier it will be for them to contact you.
Being online is one of the many ways you can establish yourself as an individual entity and professional service provider. It helps you better manage your projects and clients and is an ideal starting point for someone looking to grow their freelance career.
Expand your network
Networking helps get your name out there. More so, it is one of the easiest ways to connect with people in your field or industry.
Growing your network isn’t just for the purpose of building a solid referral list, but also a way to connect with people who can connect you with jobs and potential clients.
A freelancer is only as good as the people they work and associate with, so it’s essential to keep an open mind when it comes to connecting with new people. The digital landscape is awash with platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Fiverr where professionals can network with each other.
Offer a product or service
Entrepreneurs start businesses to find solutions to current problems in their market. When freelancing, think about how a service or product you offer might be offered as a solution to potential clients.
If you’re starting to notice that there’s a shortage of graphic designers or UX experts in your area, create services and packages tailored to your direct consumer market.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, because it takes a bit of time to put everything together. From market-related research to networking with competitors, finding a skills shortage in your direct community that you are already equipped with can be time- and resource-consuming.
Raise your prices
Freelancers tend to work part-time or on contract, stipulating what compensation they can expect to receive once the work is completed.
If you are looking to do things full-time now, and perhaps in the near future, to increase your labor input to establish yourself as a small business, it may be time to raise your prices.
Raising your prices is not for selfish reasons, but rather for the known fact that people looking for help on a specific topic will pay for high quality, qualified people. So if you have a skill that is in high demand, think about how you can monetize it, without overcompensating.
Use one contract for everything
It can seem a bit cumbersome to set up a contract for your work, even if it’s something simple like proofreading articles or photo editing. Nevertheless, you are offering your expertise and skills to a paying customer, and there should be clear ground rules for how this will work.
At first, your contract won’t need to be a formal 10-page document that describes the terms and conditions of use. Instead, focus on what the customer can expect from you and what is expected of them in return.
The contract helps to create a legally binding agreement between you and the client, which gives you more peace of mind during the completion of the project. Contracts can be considered one of the many pieces of information freelancers can get from companies.
If in the event that a client ends up not being satisfied with your work, or your progress, or even worse, they refuse to pay; you at least have the contractual agreement as a safety net.
Always make sure that everything stipulated in the contract is viable for you and your customers.
Working as a freelancer gives creatives a space in which they can be more flexible in their work. Plus, it allows them to network with companies and business leaders, which can lead to potential job opportunities or more full-time deals.
Whether you’re a newbie freelancer or someone who’s now reached a point where your side business is starting to take off, there’s always room for it to grow in the right direction.
Going from full-time or professional self-employment to running a small business is now an easy caveat, and it takes some time to smooth out all the edges.
It’s possible that your freelance job will turn into a small business, but know that you’ll have to work for it. Remember to narrow down your niche, sell a skill, and network as much as possible, and you’re already off to a great start.
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