freelance strategies

“The gig economy is currently estimated to be about 34 percent of the workforce and expected to be 43 percent by the year 2020,” Intuit (INTU) CEO Brad Smith said during an earnings call in September, 2017. “We think self-employed [work] has a lot of opportunity for growth as we look ahead.” Successful gig workers already know that.

Smith wasn’t exaggerating. It’s also been found that on-demand workers in the U.S. is expected to double in the next four years. That means there will be 9.2. Americans working in the gig economy by 2021. For comparison’s sake, there will be more gig workers than those in finance or construction.

Gig workers — which is a term borrowed from the music industry — has been driven by a surplus of independent contractors and freelancers who are choosing to work on-demand instead of becoming full-time employees. This has only been possible thanks to the technology that lets them find gigs via a digital marketplace. As a result, gig workers have the flexibility to choose who, when, where, and how to work.

Tips From Successful Gig Workers

Of course, for successful gig workers to thrive they also need to become proficient with the same technology that gave them this opportunity in the first place.

These 10 tips will help you see what you will have to know and understand in order to make your own IT-gig business.

1. They identify and strengthen their skills.

In order to be successful gig workers, you first need to possess the skills that you can provide clients. In the past, they may have gained these skills by attending a class in-person. Today, however, there are a variety of online courses you can use to identify and strathern their skills.

Let’s say you wanted to code. You can learn how to on sites like Codecademy or Coursera. Even if you work for Uber or TaskRabbit, you can take virtual classes to improve your skills. For example, Uber’s Quality Course helps you strengthen your customer service skills to discovering hotspots in your area.

2. They tap into the power of analytics.

Gig workers also harness the power of analytics. That’s because this data can be used to identify and understand your demographic. With this knowledge, you know where and how to connect with your audience online.

Analytics can also be used to improve your performance. If you checkout ratings, for example, then you know what areas you need to improve-on to become a more effective gig worker.

If you have a website, then Google Analytics should be your go-to analytics tool. You don’t have a website? No problem. Search for a third-party tool like SherpaShare. It’s a useful app that can help Lyft and Uber drivers earn the most from their trips.

3. Build their portfolios and brand themselves online.

Regardless of the target industry or specific skill that independent workers offer, it’s necessary to have an online portfolio. This gives prospective clients a chance to view the contractor’s work, accomplishments, and testimonials.

With Behance, Coroflot, Portfolio Box, and Adobe you can easily create your own online portfolio — by the way, most of these tools are free.

On top of building an online portfolio, gig workers brand themselves. This varies from industry-to-industry, as well as from worker-to-worker, but it usually involves having a strong social media presence. This is usually achieved by creating and sharing relevant and engaging your target audience online by asking questions or commenting on blog posts, forums, and Q&A sites.

You may think that this is easy for the professional freelance accountant who focuses on LinkedIn, but think of what works best for you. For instance, if you pick-up gigs on Instacart, use Facebook Live or Periscope to show how quickly you can locate products in the grocery. If customers can see that you know you’re way around the grocery, they’ll more inclined to hire since they’ll know you can be on-time.

4. Use an online calendar and scheduling tools.

While having the luxury to create your own schedule is a major perk of being an independent worker, you also have to remember that it’s your responsibility to keep your schedule organized. If not, you’ll end-up double-booking projects or meetings. Additionally, if you don’t use these tools, you won’t be able to create a healthy work-life balance.

So, if you rely on appointments, you can use Square Appointments for clients to book your services. If you need to plan a meeting, then a calendar app suggests when and where you and a client should meet. Once a meeting is set, the event will be added to your calendar.

5. Are educated about staying secure.

Security should be a major concern for gig workers. Not only because much of their work is online, but also because they’re transferring sensitive data like their customer’s payment information.

As such, they take the time to educate themselves on effective security precautions like:

  • Not leaving their devices unsupervised in public settings. They also don’t use strange USB drives or devices since they may contain viruses.
  • Using secure connections including HTTPS and a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  • Getting a public/private key so that they have a unique, digital signature.
  • Encrypting all files — especially when emailing them to someone else.
  • Using strong passwords. They’ll use a tool like LastPass to manage and even share these passwords if needed.
  • Being aware of scams like phishing.

6. Use the right communication channels.

Unlike traditional employees, gig workers can’t just pop-in their colleague’s office to ask a question or collaborate on a project. As such, communication tools have become absolutely essential.

These tools include Skype, Slack, and Google Drive. Each tool has a different function, such as to call, message, and share documents with clients and colleagues. Hangouts and WebEX are used for virtual meetings, while Trello and Basecamp are popular project management tools.

7. Gig workers think mobile first.

Gone are the days where you’re stuck behind a desk all day. At the same time, you’re expected to respond to clients and colleagues ASAP. As such, gig workers think mobile first.

This doesn’t mean that they just have smartphone to respond to emails, texts, or direct messages. All of their tools are mobile-friendly so that they can effectively run their business wherever and whenever they are.

8. They embrace the cloud.

Storing data, such as receipts, invoices, contact information and project files, can be expensive. Between the cost of paper, filing cabinets, and the time to manage these files, relying on paper files can cost you thousands of dollars per year. But, you already know. That’s why you’ve moved to the cloud.

This not only eliminates those costs, but it also allows you to access and manage these documents from your mobile device. And, if your device ever crashes, your files are still these since they’re on the cloud.

Storing your data on the cloud can also get pricey. It’s been found that storing a single TB of file data is $3,351 a year. Thankfully, there are free cloud storage options like Google Drive, Mega, Box, and pCloud.

9. Know how to to get paid quickly and reliably.

Unless working with a third party, independent workers use the right tools to get paid quickly and reliably. For some, that could be through gateways like PayPal or in-person payments like Square or Flip. Other times they’ll need an invoicing tool that also accepts a variety of payments.

10. They stay up with emerging trends.

Finally, successful gig workers keep up with emerging trends that will improve their business. For example, they’ll look into AI-powered chatbots that can handle customer service inquiries and schedule meetings. It can also be used to provide real-time support, such as tax advice for freelancers.

They’ll also pay attention to technology like the blockchain. This could make receiving payments faster, cheaper, and more secure. Additionally, it could be used to create smart contracts and help become aware of the tax, legal, and other regulations within their country.

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Renzo Costarella is an entrepreneur, avid learner, and startup enthusiast currently living in Silicon Valley. He consults for several startups in the Bay Area and is pursuing a few ideas of his own.

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