In recent years, the UK has experienced a boom in both the demand for freelancers and the percentage of its workforce turning to self-employment.
Particularly since the pandemic, the value in being able to access flexible talent has resulted in changes in the employment market, most notably an upward trend in freelance work.
It seems there’s no shortage of opportunities for both freelancers and businesses to benefit from increased demand. In 2020, 64% of UK employers said they planned to outsource more work to freelancers, making 2021 an exciting time to be self-employed.
So, how can freelancers maximise their offerings and stand out in a growing market? We share some of the sector’s best kept secrets.
Time is valuable, so is money
“Freelancers often have so much work to do that they don’t have the hours to improve their situation. By cutting back on work to increase free time, many freelancers can start streamlining and implementing systems.
For those who are too busy, or can’t afford to cut back, outsourcing certain tasks can be a good way to get back small chunks of time.” - Mason Hipp, The Unlimited Freelancer
Despite the benefits that accompany self-employed work, freelancers face unique challenges. From maintaining a healthy work-life balance, to the pressures of inconsistent income and sourcing new clients to secure work - one thing’s for sure, it’s not easy.
Mason Hipp (freelancer-turned-CEO & author) believes that the secret to succeeding as a freelancer is to treat it as a business, rather than a job. Your business should work to help you achieve your goals, and it should have systems and processes in place that will make your life easier.
Rather than working all hours and not benefiting from the freedom and downtime you originally set out for, think about how your workload can be better managed. ‘Working smart’ means figuring out how you can be most effective at your job, and what resources you can leverage to free up more time.
Are there things you can outsource that will reduce your to-do list and save you more money in the long run? The answer is probably yes!
Payment is even more important than you think
“Change how you’re paid, change your life” - Richie Norton
Richie Norton is an entrepreneur and bestselling author among other things. He believes that the single most important factor for freelancers to think about is how they get paid. He states that how you get paid dictates how you are able to live your life, but that the ‘gospel of pay’ is that you can change your life by changing how you’re paid.
A huge 41% of UK freelancers are consistently paid late, and some even go years without payment. There are a number of reasons why freelancers choose to continue to work for late-paying clients, however it is vital that freelancers recognise their worth and make smart decisions when it comes to clients.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important that you have processes in place to mitigate late payers. From drawing up a contract, to seeking legal action, there are always steps you can take to help ensure payment gets made.
Many freelancers manage to avoid this altogether by selling their invoices in advance to platforms like Penny. For a small fee, Penny buys freelancers’ invoices and quickly issues the money owed, often on the same day.
And whilst selling your invoice for a percentage of its value might feel like you’re losing money, it’s likely that the amount of time you spend chasing overdue payments works out as more time lost and money spent in the long run. It all comes back to what was mentioned earlier about using time wisely. The fees for such services are generally also tax deductible. (Click here to find out more about this)
Don’t aim for ‘better’, aim for ‘different’
“Even if your idea is already out there, you can put a different spin or a unique angle to it and create a meaningful, lasting asset for your business. No matter what kind of freelancer you are, there are always different assets that can compliment your particular skills and knowledge set.” - Mason Hipp
Growing up, we are mostly told to do better, or be better. However, by aiming for ‘better’ you are really looking at mimicking what someone else has already done. If you think differently, challenge the status-quo and create new ways of doing things, then you are far more likely to succeed in standing out from the crowd.
The truth is that there is a serious amount of competition out there, and as a freelancer you should be a maverick of sorts, ready to trailblaze your way to the top.
You need to establish a personal brand
“To believe you, they should see you.” - Shivanshi Bhatia
As mentioned, in the competitive freelance market, it's imperative for freelancers to build a personal brand that gives their products or services a unique look and feel. It’s more than likely that prospective clients will Google you to find out more about your services, which is why having an online presence is important.
If you have a website, then make sure you are using it to tell your story and showcase your portfolio of work. Client reviews and testimonials are always important. Remember, when a client decides to work with a freelancer, they are investing in you as a person, so you need to sell yourself. Shivanshi Bhatia, a freelance writer and poet, also notes that in order to be successful, your personal brand needs to be authentic and selling it should come naturally.
The time for learning never ends
“No matter how much experience you have, how many degrees you have, or how well known you have become - there is always something new to learn. Don’t rest on your past experiences. If you do nothing to improve your skills, you won’t stay where you are.” - Laura Spencer (Freelance writer)
There’s always going to be things you can learn to help you become a better freelancer. Life becomes easier if you accept that mistakes will be made along the way, and remember that overcoming obstacles is a necessary evil to success.
As well as being open to learning and recovering from oversights, you should proactively find ways to improve your offerings. Whether it's taking a course, reading a book, finding a mentor or talking to like-minded individuals, always keep your ears and mind open.
One of the great things about the freelance community is the supportive network of people that it's made up of. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice along the way - you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!