The gig economy has become a powerhouse of employment for nearly 59 million Americans, according to a 2021 Freelance Forward report published by the work platform Upwork. In the same breath, it’s now become more apparent than ever that working from home and freelancing is more than a side-hustle for some workers as they’re able to rank in multiple figures. Here is how to start scaling up your freelancing career to a small business career.
Technology and the Internet Will Help Your Scale to a Small Business
With the rapid digitization of the workplace, as companies are becoming more open to remote job roles, freelancers have simultaneously found themselves in a comfortable position amidst the transition.
Nowadays, technology and the internet have enabled employees and companies to communicate with one another effectively, as well as with their clients and potential customers. This means freelancers can now grow their freelance businesses faster and more efficiently.
Basic Communication is an Organizational Tool Your Will Need to Scale Your Freelancing
Basic communication and organizational tools are now more digital and easier to use. In addition, the internet and cloud-based software allow businesses and freelancers to improve their workflow more seamlessly without the need for traditional tools. A Freelancing America report indicated that roughly 77% of freelancers say that technology and software capabilities have made it easier to find freelance work.
With freelancers now having easier access to the right tools, how can they scale up their business, moving from part-time to full-time development, enabling them to run and operate as a small business?
While it’s a challenging road that leads up to freelancers having the opportunity to establish themself as a small business – here’s a look at some key metrics that freelancers can use to improve their business prospects.
Freelancing vs. Small Business vs. Contractors vs. Consultants
Before we can jump right in, there are some defining differences between freelancers and self-employed individuals, i.e., small business owners, contractors, and consultants.
Here’s a look at each of their characteristics.
Freelancer: In the gig economy, freelancers tend to work on a part-time or assignment basis. This means that these individuals can work for more than one person or company at a time, and work is related to a pre-approved assignments framework.
Small Business Owner: It’s not a direct definition, as it can vary across the board, but a small business owner can be seen as someone who has developed a service or product for the greater good of the consumer marketplace, either alongside other employees or stakeholders.
Contractors: These individuals work for one specific person or company at a time, with an approved work agreement. Usually, a contractor will be employed by a company or firm to complete a set of pre-assigned job specifications.
Consultants: Consultants are usually seen as the brain behind specific jobs and projects. A consultant usually consults on a project, giving insight and industry knowledge. Consultants aren’t traditionally involved during the final length of the project.
What we can take from this is that freelancers are more flexible, and can work on a set of projects and jobs simultaneously. This means they’re not, in most cases, contractually obliged to one specific employer.
Freelancing is a lot more flexible, and creatives in this industry tend to work on various projects throughout their time. Still, it can sometimes be challenging to juggle multiple deadlines or project formats. And, of course, freelancers aren’t treated as full-time employees, meaning they don’t receive work-related benefits from their temporary employer.
Scaling up your freelancing career to a small business
For professional freelancers, there might have been a time when they noticed their business becoming increasingly more demanding. Other times, they stumble upon a new and fresher concept that will help them further develop their current niche.
Whatever it may be, it’s possible for a freelancer to move their practice into the small business ecosystem, and here’s how.
Perfect Your Skills To Find Your Niche
An excellent place to start for any freelancer, is to look at their skills and expertise and start narrowing down one or two specific skills they can improve.
What this means is although you might be the Jack of all trades when it comes to your scope of practice, often larger firms and more established companies tend to look for individuals who are an expert in their field. Continuing education is what helps to overcome hardships and unpredictable challenges, and for freelancers, this could mean more business and more money in their pockets.
Find what you are good at, whether photography, design, or writing, and focus on that niche. The more time and effort you put behind it, the quicker you can hone those abilities.
Create an online presence
In the gig economy, it’s easy to look up any job portal, browse through the hundreds of different jobs and apply to those that seem applicable. The digital world has made it easier, and more convenient to find jobs that suit your range of skills.
Step up your online presence — this means social media
While working on your online presence is convenient and sometimes effective, it can also seem less personal. As a freelancer, who’s now ready to step up their game, consider how an online presence, whether it’s a website, blog, or online portfolio, will help you become more professional and link with affiliated clients.
As you’re growing this niche, you should focus on channels where you are bound to find most of your potential clients and customers. The easier it is for clients to find your business online or your portfolio, the easier it can be for them to contact you.
Being online is one of the many ways you can establish yourself as an individual entity and a professional service provider. It helps you manage your projects and clients better and is a perfect starting point for someone looking to scale up their freelance career.
Grow Your Network
Networking helps to get your name out there. More so, it’s one of the easiest ways to connect with people in your field or industry.
Growing your network is not only for the sake of building a strong referral list but also a way to connect with people who can link you to potential jobs and clients.
A freelancer is just as good as the people they work and associate with, so it’s essential to keep an open mind when it comes to connecting with new people. The digital landscape is flooded with platforms such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Fiverr, where professionals can network with one another.
Offer A Product Or Service
Entrepreneurs start businesses to find solutions to current problems within their marketplace. When freelancing, consider how a service or product you’re offering can be offered as a solution to potential clients.
If you start to notice that there is a shortage of graphic designers or UX experts in your area, create services and packages that are tailored toward your direct consumer market.
It’s not as easy as it may sound, as it does take a bit of time to piece it all together. From market-related research to networking with competitors, finding a shortage of skills in your direct community, which you’re already equipped with, can eat up a lot of time and resources.
Raise Your Prices
Freelancers tend to work part-time or contractual, stipulating what they can expect to receive as compensation once work has been completed.
If you’re now looking to move into doing things more full-time, and perhaps in the near future, increase your intake of work to establish yourself as a small business, then it might be time to raise your prices.
Raising your prices is not for selfish reasons, but rather for the known fact that those people looking for help on a specific subject matter will pay for high-quality skilled individuals. Therefore, if you have a skill that is in high demand, consider how you can monetize it, while not overcompensating.
Use A Contract For Everything
It may seem a bit tedious to set up a contract for your work, even if it’s something simple such as proofreading articles or editing photos. Nevertheless, you offer your expertise and skills to a paying client, and there should be clear ground rules on how it will work.
At first, your contract won’t need to be a formal, 10-page document that outlines the terms and conditions of use. Instead, focus on what the client can expect from you, and what is expected of them in return.
The contract helps create a legally bound agreement between you and the client, helping to give you more peace of mind during the completion of the project. Contracts can be seen as one of the many insights freelancers can take from enterprise businesses.
If in the event a customer ends up not being satisfied with your work, or progress, or even worse, they refuse to pay; you at least have the contractual agreement as a safety net.
Always ensure that whatever is being stipulated in the contract is viable for you and your clients.
Working as a freelancer gives creatives a space in which they can be more flexible with their work. In addition, it allows them to network with companies and business leaders, which can lead to potential job opportunities or more full-time agreements.
Whether you’re a novice freelancer or someone who has now reached a point where your side hustle is starting to take off – there’s always space for it to grow in the right direction.
Moving from full-time or professional freelancing into operating a small business is now an easy caveat, and it takes some time to smooth out all the edges.
There’s potential for your freelancing hustle to turn into a small business venture, but be aware that you will have to work for it. Remember to hone your niche, sell a skill, and network as much as possible, and you’re already on the right start.
Image Credit: Pexels; Thank you!
Carma Khatib is a passionate innovator and product manager with significant experience driving digital products from conception to launch. My mission is to find and create solutions to real-world problems that ultimately impact a company's triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit.