Statistics show that as many as 58 million Americans were freelancing in 2019, with the trends indicating that an ever-increasing number of individuals are choosing to participate in the so-called gig economy. This fact of course begs the question of just what freelancing is and why so many individuals are choosing to freelance rather than signing agreements with companies.
Freelancers are individuals who are self-employed and who choose to stay independent rather than working as an employee for one organization.
They offer their services to other companies, often working with many at the same time, completing projects as they are assigned. One of the principal challenges for a freelancer is to consistently find sufficient work opportunities seeing as, generally speaking, each project that they take on only takes about 5-30 hours a week. Therefore, in order to make an income that is equivalent to individuals who work full time, a freelancer needs to find multiple companies to work with and therefore they may work on a few different projects at the same time. This is a key challenge for many freelancers and most of the established freelancing platforms do not sufficiently assist freelancers in finding enough projects to work on a full-time basis. However, SkillSoniq’s technology makes use of advanced algorithms in order to predict when a freelancer may be free and consequently proactively sends freelancers additional project and interview offers in an effort to minimize their idle time, to keep platform utilization high, and ultimately in order to ensure that any given freelancer utilizing the platform makes more money.
On the other hand, however, many companies hire freelancers on a full-time basis wherein a freelancer works for a company for over 40 hours per week. In these cases, freelancers resemble regular contract workers to a greater extent, with the key differentiator being the fact that they remain independent from the company and are typically not committed to the same degree as individuals directly employed by an organization.
It is also worth noting that freelancers participating in the gig economy can be either full-time or part-time freelancers. The former type of freelancer can either work full-time for a single client or alternatively work full-time with a number of different clients. The latter work full-time with a company as W2 employees and also perform projects as part-time freelancers.
There are many different types of freelancers, specializing in a variety of disciplines including data analysis, design projects, development, product management, sales, and marketing. The key advantage for a freelancer is that they can work remotely and can therefore be located anywhere in the world. However, particularly for intensive projects, companies are increasingly starting to prefer to hire local freelancers, other than those in other parts of the world. The reasons for this preference are abundant, but the most common reason is to enable regular and timely communication without the delays and difficulties that can be caused by time zone disparities. Due to this reason, freelancers are often concentrated in certain regions where demand for them is the highest. For instance, freelance opportunities in New York are among the most numerous in the United States with many local companies in and around New York looking to hire freelancers.
Another key question that you may be asking is what kind of companies choose to hire local freelancers? The reality is that just as there are many different types of freelancing opportunities, there are also a variety of companies that hire freelancers. These companies vary in size from startups to extremely large, established enterprises and they choose to hire freelancers to complete projects in order to avoid certain issues that arise from hiring full-time workers. For example, when companies hire freelancers, they can simplify payroll administration and can also avoid going through expensive and time-consuming processes to hire individuals when they require a task to be completed only once. Therefore, instead of being forced to go through a lengthy interview process to hire an individual to fill a temporary position, companies can find significant savings by simply choosing to hire a freelancer to complete the necessary project instead. Ending a project with a freelancer is also significantly easier than firing an employee, therefore providing additional flexibility to companies.
Companies also have a variety of options that they can use to find local freelancers. Some companies hire freelancers directly while others choose to make use of agencies and headhunters to get connected with the individuals that possess the expertise that they desire. There are advantages and downsides to each approach which is described in more detail here. In a nutshell, however, while agencies and headhunters can often generate good results and can be effective in connecting a company with a local freelancer, they also charge sizable commissions and in addition frequently require significant amounts of time to complete this task. On the other hand, if a company chooses to find local freelancers independently, it needs to invest the time and effort into putting out job postings or alternatively searching through online freelancer job boards. An additional issue with the latter option of trying to find local freelancers on job boards is that it is frequently the case that the individual that best fits the job description is not a local freelancer and rather resides in some other part of the world. In short, it is clear that there are significant challenges with both options, but the good news is that new alternatives have recently emerged which provide companies the best of both worlds.
These new options allow companies, regardless of their size, to quickly and effectively find and hire freelancers which fit their exact requirements. Even better, these new platforms empower companies to specifically hire local freelancers rather than freelancers from across the world. One such platform is called SkillSoniq which gives companies access to a highly curated selection of freelancers, including over 6000 individuals who currently freelance in New York. A key advantage of using this platform is that a company using SkillSoniq can hire freelancers within just 7 business days, as opposed to the many weeks and even months that the hiring process frequently takes in other cases.
Another advantage of the SkillSoniq platform is the fact that it offers a unique “contract-to-hire” model wherein a freelancer is able to work on a project for a company and then can be hired by the company as a regular employee following the first month of work. In this way, freelancers are incentivized to test their fit with a variety of different companies and projects. At the same time, a company can determine whether a given individual is a good fit for the organization and the project that the company needs completed prior to offering a full-time commitment. This process works best when a company works with a local freelancer, seeing as the transition from freelancing to full-time work can be especially smooth and fast in those instances.
In addition, SkillSoniq has also defined its mission as working to level the playing field between freelancers and full-time contractual employees. As part of this, the company has partnered with insurance providers in order to empower freelancers to receive access to affordable insurance, comparable to the benefits that full-time employees receive. Moreover, SkillSoniq also offers a bonus structure to freelancers on its platform, making bonus payouts to those freelancers who receive positive feedback from clients in order to encourage them to continue to perform outstanding work.
The final, and perhaps the most crucial differentiator of the SkillSoniq platform is that it connects local freelancers with opportunities that are located close to them. In this way, freelancers are able to discover and understand the culture and atmosphere of a company in depth prior to making the decision to convert one of their freelance projects into a full-time position.
It is important to note that the compensation that a freelancer receives can be highly variable. This generally depends on a large number of factors, the most important of which are experience, specific skills, location, and educational background. Therefore, a freelancer can earn anywhere between $20 all the way through to $250 per hour. There are many advantages to becoming a freelancer and joining the burgeoning gig economy. A freelancer has the freedom to set their own hours, to work from home or any other location that they wish, to be independent, and to determine the compensation that they desire in a highly flexible fashion. Additionally, dependent on where one is located, the demand and competition for freelancers can be very high.
So, let’s say for instance that you reside in New York and you are ready to freelance in NYC (New York City). What do you need to do to get started?
1. Services to Offer
One of the key reasons why companies hire freelancers is because they are seeking to complete projects which require special sets of expertise. Naturally, the list of different services that a freelancer can offer is virtually limitless but it is also true that there are certain types of industries that have a greater demand for freelancers and that should be something that one considers when thinking about starting to participate in the gig economy.
Therefore, there are two primary ways to go about solving the question of which services one should offer as a freelancer. On one hand, one could research the specific requirements of existing freelance job postings online and work on acquiring or refining those skills. For example, if one finds that there is a great deal of demand in NYC for freelance social media managers, it may be worthwhile to invest time into certifying in that field through programs such as those offered by Facebook or HootSuite prior to trying to become a local freelancer in that field. On the other hand, if one is aware that they already possess a set of versatile and unique skills, one could instead focus on finding positions and projects from companies that are seeking an individual with that specific experience.
Ultimately, the decision of which option to pursue depends on a variety of factors and is somewhat of a personal choice, but the latter option generally makes more sense for freelancers with more extensive and lengthy backgrounds in a given field. Conversely, if one is just starting out in a new area, it likely makes most sense to acquire relevant and marketable skills first and to try to tailor that process to the requirements that are currently in demand.
2. Target Industry/Market
Another key determination that needs to be made by either an aspiring or an established freelancer is the industry and market that they wish to target with their search. As previously mentioned, local freelancers have a number of advantages over those freelancers which are seeking to work remotely. Therefore, one of the things that an aspiring freelancer needs to consider is whether they would be able to find local companies with which they could work or if perhaps they may be willing to relocate to another city, region, or even country in order to find freelance work. Of course, it is not absolutely necessary to be a local freelancer and many freelancers do indeed work remotely. However, the factor of proximity increases in importance particularly in those instances when one is seeking to work under a “contract-to-hire” model.
In addition to the specific location, a freelancer should also consider which industry or ‘vertical’ they wish to work in. As one can likely guess, there is an immense diversity of industries which employ freelance workers and therefore one has significant freedom in determining their preference. This decision can be based on simply what seems interesting, on experience, or even on the individual’s network of who they know. Each industry is slightly different from the standpoint of requirements and the conditions under which a freelancer is expected to work but it is apt to say that the gig economy has now found roots in virtually every industry.
A very important factor that companies seeking to hire freelancers consider is the cost of bringing someone on-board to complete a given project. On the other hand, nearly every freelancer is naturally interested in maximizing how much they earn. Therefore, it is crucial to find a balance in between these two opposing standpoints.
When a freelancer is working on determining the rates that they plan to charge, there are a few considerations that typically need to be made. Firstly, the rate that one charges is dependent on the length of one’s prior experience, the number of unique skills that one possesses, as well as the depth of one’s expertise in each. Secondly, the rate that a freelancer chooses to charge may also depend on the complexity of a given project. Thirdly, the typical rates that a freelancer charges may vary between the various industries. Finally, a local freelancer will typically charge more than one working remotely, and this is especially true in large metropolitan areas where freelancers are in high demand such as in New York City.
4. Create Portfolio
Once a freelancer has determined which services they will offer, the industry and market that they will target, and the rates that they plan to charge, the next step is to create a portfolio of past work. Depending on the specific industry that a freelancer plans to enter, the exact nature and presentation of this may vary greatly but the general pattern is that one needs to have a highly polished document featuring samples of prior work. For example, for a graphic design freelancer, this may come in the form of visuals that they have developed, perhaps a few artistic pieces, as well as samples of past work. In the case of a web developer, this would instead take the form of a number of personal and professional sites that the individual had created in the past.
While having a portfolio is not absolutely necessary, it is often a very helpful material to have and may just make the difference particularly when one is looking for their very first freelance position.
5. Market Services and Network
At this point, all of the preliminary steps are completed, and it is time to start marketing yourself as a freelancer and harnessing your professional and social networks. Although there are a wide variety of professional networking sites that now exist, the big player is of course LinkedIn. It is important to keep one’s profile up-to-date and it may even make sense to invest into a professional rewrite. Once the profile is perfect, it is time to connect with your existing network, see whether there are any individuals in your circles that are looking for local freelancers, and also to get introductions to new people as the greater one grows their network, the more likely they are to find someone who is looking for a freelancer with their particular set of expertise.
Of course, networking one’s skills does not end with LinkedIn. It is also definitely worthwhile to take the time to post one’s profile on the various freelancing portals including UpWork and SkillSoniq.