One of the great things about the gig economy is that you can make a good living while working as your own boss, thanks to the internet and a growing demand for freelance workers with specific job skills. If you like the idea of working from home (or anywhere you like) and making a good living without a demanding supervisor hanging over your shoulder, the gig economy could be the perfect job situation for you.
Of course, if you’re new to freelancing, be aware that there are trade-offs: as a freelancer, there’s no one withholding taxes from your pay. There’s also no one (other than your clients) monitoring your work and checking your progress, so it’s also up to you to meet deadlines and to be self-motivated.
At Your Service
Before you do anything else, it’s paramount that you determine your niche, the services you can offer, and whether you have the characteristics necessary to running your own business. Take a long hard look at your skill set. Where you’re strongest and where you excel the most might not line up with a freelance career. On the other hand, you could have just the right experience to start a consulting business, to become a freelance writer, or to become a graphic designer. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something you can provide on a consistent basis. Avoid jumping into something you’ve never done before and where you have no background. It could be a nasty surprise when you can’t deliver what clients are looking for.
It’s crucial to have the right workspace at home to help maximize productivity. If you’re used to having an office, cubicle or some other dedicated work area, it might be helpful to set up something similar at home. All you really need is a desk or table large enough to accommodate your computer and any other necessary equipment. If possible, choose a quiet space and arrange it so you’re less likely to be distracted. Creating a defined space that’s yours alone to work in can help keep you focused mentally.
Getting paid and how you get paid are other critical factors. If you don’t already have payment practices set up with clients, think through how you’ll handle invoicing, and making sure you’re paid in a timely fashion and according to terms. If you’re the type who struggles to balance your checking account, you may want to use an invoicing application. Square Point of Sale, for example, handles all your invoices, payments and sales information in one convenient location. It’s a good way to centralize and track the information you need to check your profitability and productivity, and it beats trying to maintain a ledger and multitask as a number cruncher if you don’t have the inclination or experience for it.
More than likely, you’ll need to call on friends and old business contacts as you get started. Networking is important in the gig economy just as it is in the mainstream workplace economy. Social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, are good places to begin when you’re getting started. Social media is the landscape for marketing and job prospecting these days for companies and freelancers the world over.
If you’re considering moving into the gig economy, remember that you don’t absolutely have to make a wholesale jump. Try building some business for yourself on the side before deciding to leave your full-time job, if that makes you more comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with hedging your bet.