Prepare to Prosper—The Golden Age of Freelancing Has Arrived
I was chatting with a Russian friend online last week about pandemic life in Kazan, Russia. She’s been working from home for more than a month now for a multinational U.S. company, and she told me “the company has saved so much money with us working from home that they’re closing the office and letting us all work from home permanently.”
A day later, this popped up in my news feed: Twitter announces that it will allow all 4,900 employees worldwide to work from home…forever.
Welcome to the official start of the New Normal.
This is a trend I started writing about more than a month ago, when, early in the corona crisis, I predicted that an increasing number of companies would come to realize that a stay-at-home workforce makes a whole lot of sense economically. It reduces the costs of office space, utilities, and insurance, so why pay to run a cubicle farm when all your workers already have a “cubicle” in the form of their kitchen, a home office, or even a table at a nearby coffee shop?
That’s now beginning to unfold.
But here’s the thing: Not everyone is work-at-home material. And that’s a boon to those of us who already have years of digital nomadism in our work history, or who now aspire to become a digital nomad.
We are on the cusp of a massive boom in demand for freelance workers across all manner of industries and skill sets. This new normal won’t just be easy pickings for creative types such as writers and web designers. We’re going to see an explosion in demand for skills such as system administration, database design, customer-retention marketing, project scheduling, lead generation, financial accounting, legal services, Google Analytics, SQL programming, accounts-receivable and accounts-payable management, branding, usability testing, budgeting and forecasting, product design, media relations, video production and editing…the list goes on.
And it’s a long list.
Indeed, I recently talked to executives at Upwork, one of the leading freelance websites, and they’ve identified 8,000 skills across 70 job categories that freelancers are marketing and profiting from online.
So, I’m willing to bet there’s an opportunity for just about everyone.
All of which means that right now is the time to prepare yourself for the Golden Age of Freelancing. But you need to do so with a bit of savvy. You want to position yourself as someone who stands out in a narrowly defined niche. Don’t aim to be a jack-of-all-trades because, in the eyes of a potential client, you’re a master of none. And in the Golden Age of Freelancing, masters are what companies will want.
Here’s why: Executives and managers reflexively understand that some workers will fail in a work-from-home setting for any number of reasons. And, I bet, they already have a good inkling of who those workers are, based on what they’ve seen during the current crisis. Assuming they already haven’t begun, those managers and execs will soon start wading through online freelancing sites looking for two overarching characteristics:
• Freelancers who, by virtue of reviews and ratings on their online profile, have already proven they have the right work ethic to succeed working from home;
• And freelancers who have specialized skill sets that fit a specialized need.
I’ll use me as an example. I think I’m a decent writer, but if I’m a manager going through Jeff Opdyke’s freelance profile, he’s not the guy I’m hiring if I need technical manuals written to in-service physicians on a new medical device. That’s a highly specialized skill; it’s not a job you give to just any ol’ wordsmith, no matter how good he is at smithing words.
As such, if you’re a freelancer—or a wannabe freelancer—–thin-slicing your skill set makes a whole lot of sense these days.
By that, I mean build multiple online profiles at multiple freelance sites, and pull apart your arsenal of talents to appeal to specific needs clients will be looking for.
Maybe you’re good at web design. If so, fine, market yourself broadly for the companies that aren’t sure what they want. They might be attracted to the scope of your skills and contact you to help them figure out what they really need.
Many companies, however, know exactly what they need and they’ll soon be looking for freelancers with those highly targeted skills. So, if you are that web person, you want separate profiles explicitly noting your skills in designing and building landing pages…or your skills excelling at search engine optimization…or working with Amazon Web Services functionality…or building online databases.
Highlight specific successes in your profile. Ask those for whom you’ve completed projects to leave a review and rating on your profile for other potential clients to see. And create profile headlines that immediately speak to what you offer. Don’t pitch yourself as “Best Web Services for a Great Price.” That tells would-be buyers bupkis. Pitch yourself as “Landing pages that translate into sales,” or “My SEO lands you on Page One.”
The point is that you want to stand apart. Potential clients have thousands of profiles they might explore. To get those potential clients to engage with your profile, you have to immediately let them know how your skills can address their needs.
So now’s the time. This is our moment as freelancers and digital nomads. Corporate America is about to beat a path to our door. Prepare yourself to prosper.
Written by Jeff D. Opdyke