Part 1: The realities
They say an average professional changes 6-7 jobs in their career. Today, an average freelancer/contractor/what-have-you may be doing 6-7 project work in a month alone. The work/gig is getting shorter. Nearly 54 million Americans, around a third of the U.S. workforce is now involved in some type of freelance, self-employment or “gig economy work. And this number is increasing by the day, more so now that the 'sharing economy' shapes up. By 2020, experts believe 50% of the American workforce will be doing gigwork to survive.
Some elite professionals may be making the big bucks, $100,000/year and above, a BBC report says that '2.9 million freelancers earned more than $100,000 in 2014', but most of the rest are just slugging it out. The hours of work have gone from 8 to 12 hours. Everyone is working, working, working all the time. There are no health or insurance benefits. The barriers to entry are very low, so there is constant competition to edit the rates down.
Companies, being more reliant on contract work, don't think much about firing in-house staff at will, even ignoring to keep some of the 'developed over the years' organizational knowledge inside the organization. Short-term thinking plagues both sides of the 'fence'.
Part 2: Succeeding, despite the realities
It is not surprising that to survive this jungle of a market, successful people make do with what they have, and compensate for what they don't by working harder than anyone else, networking harder than anyone else...they have become relentless hustlers.
Successful hustlers/freelancers/contractors of the 'gig economy' keep trying out new stuff as they work hard to make a living - Trying to come up with new and unique products/services to stand out in the market, thinking like a business person, being open to ideas from all fields and most importantly, being okay with the pace of change, comfortable with the idea that nothing is permanent in the working world.
- Successful freelancers build their careers by focusing on skills and problems of clients they can solve, and are not limited to their original education and experience.
They never say, 'I didn't study it in college it, so I won't do it.'
- Successful freelancers are self-directed professionals: There is no boss. But they know their goals and outcomes.
- Successful freelancers are able to work with people from other fields to finish a project, creating ad-hoc teams effortlessly, by indulging in a lot of 'give and take'.
- Like all other successful people, successful freelancers keep a note on what is working for them, and what isn't, so they can work on improving their scope of performance all the time.
- Successful freelancers also excel at the 'soft skills', the people skills: They communicate better, they negotiate all the time, they understand the importance of networking, and of being of value to others ('give and take'), they can persuade people using many methods and media, and they are always eager to learn.
They are also good at building their personal brand, and consider work hunting as a full time job.
- Successful freelancers are also very realistic: They keep track of their accounts. They watch their money. They make sure their assets are safe (insurance). They look after their health. They do customer relationship management proactively - getting in touch with previous clients, thanking recent clients, etc. They manage their service like a full-time businessperson,
- Most importantly, and I already mentioned that at in the beginning of the 'making a living' guide, successful freelancers always provide that something extra. They do these little things for their clients, which they think will make the client happy, and one day may come back with more business or provide generous word of mouth.
Thank you for reading.
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