New online platforms and mobile apps have made it possible to work as a freelancer in a wide range of industries. And you can do it practically anywhere. It’s an attractive scenario if you want to work from home, or if you’ve grown tired of working for a bureaucratized company with restrictive personnel policies that make it hard to get ahead by being conscientious and doing good work. Be aware that the gig economy is a trade-off: You gain independence and the discretion to work when and for whom you want, but there’s no guarantee that the work will be steady or that the money will always meet your financial needs and expectations. So if you’re looking for a reliable, 40-plus-hours-a-week situation, freelancing might disappoint you.
Freelancing doesn’t have to mean you’ll be writing articles for a magazine or developing computer software. There are many ways to make the gig economy work for you. For example, you can make good money as a dog walker or dog sitter, services for which there’s a rapidly growing need.
A gig-based worker must be prepared to work on demand, often on very short notice. Companies turn to freelancers when they need something done right away, which means you have to work when you’re needed and get the job done according to your employer’s timetable. It’s also important to network and keep networking between jobs—that’s part and parcel of working in the gig economy. Freelancers usually don’t have the luxury of extensive downtime. That can cost you business and money and cause you to miss highly rewarding opportunities and important relationships that can lead to months or years of work. As a gig worker, you’re in the business of marketing yourself and finding new gigs. You can’t afford isolation and disengagement.
As a freelancer, you’re your own CEO, CFO, and personnel manager. Set up your own invoicing system and forms and create marketing material, preferably something you can send electronically and at a moment’s notice. Many freelancers create a website, an essential element for establishing an online presence. These are tasks that can be done inexpensively, especially if you’re able to build a website or write and produce your own marketing materials. If not, you might look into developing symbiotic relationships with other freelancers who can help you produce elements that you can’t. Remember, as a freelancer, you can’t afford to be shy or modest about your qualifications.
Don’t forget the tax man
The gig economy is full of enthusiastic go-getters who launch into it with no idea of what it’ll mean come tax time. As a freelancer, you’re no longer filling out a W-4 form and having taxes taken out of your pay. It’s up to you to make your own tax arrangements. Many freelancers arrange to pay the IRS on a quarterly basis to avoid a large tax bill every April. If you’re committing to the gig economy, consider meeting with an accountant or tax advisor who can provide the guidance you need.
Set a schedule and a comfortable workspace
Establish a work schedule you’ll follow every day, and stick to it so you’re starting and finishing at about the same time. Otherwise, it can be easy to slip into bad habits and give into temptations that distract you from your objective. If you find yourself tuning in to “Oprah,” “Ellen,” and “The View” every day, you may need to reassess your priorities. Setting up a comfortable and efficient work space can help keep you on track. A desk or table in a well-lit space with a reliable internet connection is important for working efficiently and productively. And keep the TV in the other room.
Working in the gig economy requires a level of commitment and self-discipline that not everyone possesses. Some begin freelancing only to find they miss the social interaction and teamwork that comes with an 8-to-5 office job. Talk to other freelancers who can tell you what to expect and what to look out for, and help you decide if it’s for you.
Courtesy of Pexels