In sports, talented athletes look forward to the day they become free agents. They can then shop their services around to the highest bidder or look for the best “working” environment. A certain basketball player named Lebron James—maybe you’ve heard of him—is doing this right now.
Aren’t freelancers in many ways the business world equivalent of professional athlete free agents? This is especially true today when a lot of very talented businessmen and women have lost full-time corporate employment.
It seems that many agree with my premise. Freelancers are American’s fastest growing workforce and almost nine out of 10 freelancers say they would keep their independence even if offered a full-time job somewhere, according a survey released by Freelancers Union.
We discuss work-life balance a lot here; it’s an important topic and it’s one reason freelancers deeply appreciate their situations. Other top benefits of freelancing are
- Schedule control,
- Being one’s own boss,and
- Doing what one loves.
The boom in freelancing is probably attributable to a “perfect storm” that involved the collision of telecommuting and the Great Recession. We know that recessions always give a boost to the number of small business startups, so when the last one hit—and the Internet had made telecommuting effective and efficient—everything was in place to create a bumper crop of solopreneurs.
The salient question today is, are you thinking about joining this revolution? If so, here are a few tips to help you get off to a strong start.
- Make sure you have enough money in the bank to get you through your lean startup months. As an alternative, you can piggyback a freelance business onto your current gig and then transition to the freelance lifestyle as it grows. Not recommended: forcing a reluctant spouse back into the workforce.
- Be on the hunt for a couple “anchor” gigs. If you’re currently working for someone, perhaps they would want to keep you on in a freelance position that could provide a sizable chunk of the new business you need to drum up. In any case, without a few steady clients you will end up spending far too much time running down jobs. Tip: On sites such as Elance.com, when projects are posted that say something like, “We have a lot of work for the right freelancer,” it’s a lie. They just want you to lower you bid in hopes of future work.
- Leverage collaboration and networking. Sometimes there will be gigs or elements of jobs that you cannot handle yourself. Develop a network of like-minded freelancers who you can turn to in situations such as these. They will end up doing the same for you. Not only will you get additional work through networking, you will be able to offer more services to potential clients. Wow. It’s almost starting to sound like a business, isn’t it?
One of the promises of the Internet was that it would liberate and empower individuals. The move toward freelance employment is one tangible measure that at least some of the web’s promise is being fulfilled.