In the last three weeks, more than 10 million people have filed for unemployment. Millions more are working from home and wondering how much longer they will have a job. Fortunately, there’s an alternative. Many are already discovering what the 67 million freelance and gig workers in the US already know — you can make a living online without a traditional employer.
To make that pivot, however, you must quickly identify the skills you have that can be marketed online, how to deliver them in a virtual setting, and the first steps in setting up and executing a freelance business plan. Let’s take a closer look at what that entails, and how to get started.
How to Identify Virtual-Ready Skills
Technology makes it possible to offer a range of services online as a freelancer. Your skillset will determine what you can provide, but keep an open mind. Especially in times of financial uncertainty, the number of companies that go lean and rely on contract labor increases.
Freelancers are effective in a number of areas online, including:
- graphic design
- website design and development
- administrative support
- voiceover and phone services
- sales support
- software administration
- marketing and sales strategy.
The list goes on from there; pretty much anything you can do on a computer can be done in a freelance capacity. Technology makes connectivity easier than ever, and most people are working from home right now anyways, so you’ll slot right into their business model.
To learn more about the types of jobs people post, and how people promote themselves as freelancers, spend some time on freelance directories such as Upwork. Creating an account is free to start and you can view thousands of freelancers and the projects they are bidding on, as well as the categories those projects fall into.
Delivering Your Skills Online
There has never been a better time to work entirely remotely. With tens of millions of people around the world now doing so, companies are rapidly expanding their infrastructure to support the business model. Working from home was once a taboo subject, but it’s likely to become the norm in the future, especially with so many people becoming accustomed to it.
As a freelancer, it will be important to be able to deliver your skills in a virtual setting that may not immediately be as conducive to work as an employer’s office. Thankfully, everyone is in a similar situation right now. Some things to consider include:
- Where you will work — You need a clean, quiet space where you can join a video chat with prospective and current clients. If you have children and they are home, this can be particularly challenging, so take the time to plan for it now. Don’t get stuck on a conference call in the dining room with chaos around you.
- Setup a workspace — A digital workspace should feature an easy way to manage projects and share information with clients, and to organize and share files digitally. Office 365 or G Suite are both good, low-cost options for this, at less than $10/month for a single user.
- A brand you can build on — You can certainly operate as an independent contractor under your own name, but if you plan to be in this for the long haul, invest now in a business name and a website to match. You can then give yourself a more professional, branded email address, and you can start building a website to attract business.
- Build a portfolio — In a virtual setting, you’re far more likely to undergo additional vetting and to be asked for examples of your work. People need to know they can trust you. Have email-ready samples, whether it’s something you personally produced, a project case study, or a testimonial from a former employer or client.
- Just starting? — If you are trying to build a new skill or want to gain some experience without ‘selling’ services, you can offer your expertise to friends and family on a limited basis. Alternatively, volunteering your skills is a great way to gain exposure and experience.
- Use your network — Don’t underestimate the power of your professional network when you are looking for ways to promote yourself and your services. Be sure to share updates about your freelancing endeavors with your network (and ask for referrals when appropriate).
Freelancing, you will use your skills in much the same way you’ve always used them, but the means of delivery and communication will be very different. Be ready for those changes and you’ll be more comfortable, and ready for what comes next.
Setting Up and Executing a Freelance Business Plan
A big part of your new freelance efforts is the tools you’ll use to execute your plan. In addition to the resources mentioned above, consider the following resources from IAW partners.
- Dotlogics — If you are going out on your own, you need a website. Far more than just a branded email address, your website is a place to showcase your work, provide resources to prospects, and attract attention online. Dotlogics has worked with Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike and can support your website efforts. Schedule your free consultation.
- Zoom — By now, you’ve no doubt heard of and been involved in several Zoom meetings. The predominant conference call software provider has grown from just 10 million users at the start of the year to more than 200 million active calls at the end of March. We’ve partnered with Zoom, and they are offering IAW members a 15% discount on services.
Acting Fast in a Time of Uncertainty
We’re likely in for months of unpredictability in the job market. The best way to prepare is to take matters into your own hands as a freelancer. Using the tools outlined above and your existing skills and experience, you have a jump start on many others who are still trying to make a plan.
Know your worth and don’t be afraid to start building new connections and preparing for what comes next.