The No-Boss Bosses: Highlighting the growing freelance economy

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Many people have sought ways to get flexible jobs or a side hustle to support their main jobs, especially in the advent of COVID-19. Others are simply not comfortable with the idea of being an employee and working for one person or company their whole life. If you’re of one such person, you should probably consider freelancing as a side hustle or a full-time job.

In the western part of the world, freelancing is very popular and seems to be a go-to option for most people as approximately 57 million Americans were freelancing in 2019 according to research by Upwork, a large freelancing platform provider. Here in Africa, freelancing isn’t as popular.

So, what is freelancing?

A freelancer is an independent or self-employed individual who doesn’t commit to a single long-term employer but instead works for several clients independently. Charges are made by the hour, day, or per project and they are not required to register as a business since they operate in their own name.

It is a fast and inexpensive way to start working as your own boss from the comfort of your home.

Today, most freelancers offer their services to clients via freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and TaskRabbit. Others also offer their services directly to clients without using these platforms, since they usually take a part of their as service charges.

Some of the popular freelancing services being offered today are proofreading, graphic designing, marketing. website and mobile app development, project management, and writing/editing. Other freelancing platforms like TaskRabbit give cleaners, carpenters, plumbers, and man-power workers a chance to offer their services as well.

How does Freelancing Work?

You might have some of the skills mentioned above or more and would want to explore being a freelancer. Well, that’s quite simple thanks to the proliferation of freelancing platforms today. With these platforms, you can sit comfortably in your home and get access to thousands of on-demand job offers. Here are 3 of the popular ones that are available in almost any country.

Upwork

This is the overall best freelancer marketplace in the world. It was formerly known as Elance-oDesk until 2015 when the name was officially changed to Upwork.

Upwork has over 12 million registered freelancers and over 5 million registered clients, with over 3 million jobs worth over 1 billion dollars posted annually.

This platform allows clients to interview, hire, and work with freelancers and freelance agencies from any part of the world. All they need to do is post a description of their job along with a price range and other preference details and wait for freelancers to bid/apply for the job.

They can then interview or invite specific freelancers to work for them and reach out to via chat.

Freelancers bid for jobs using special units called ‘connects’, which is like the official currency for bidding on the platform.

Once a freelancer is chosen, they hire the person by sending a contract with the set hours, pay rates, and work deadlines.

Upwork offers options for both hourly and set-price contracts, depending on what clients or freelancers may prefer. The platform also offers a timesheet application, that allows freelancers to track their actual time spent working on projects with verified screenshots.

To sign up, visit www.upwork.com/signup to register as a client or freelancer.

Fiverr

Fiverr is an Israeli freelance service platform which was launched in February 2010 to offer services to customers worldwide. By 2012, Fiverr was hosting over 1.3 million gigs and was ranked among the top 200 most visited websites in the world since 2013.

Fiverr provides a two-sided platform that allows people to buy and sell a wide range of services offered by freelance contractors.

Unlike Upwork, Fiverr services are posted in small one-off listings known as ‘gigs’. Gigs are basically advertisements that include details of your service, just like is done for e-commerce products.

Gigs are normally sold for as low as $5 and can go up to thousands of dollars depending on the freelancer. Here, the freelancer is mostly in control of pricing, and buyers or clients decide which freelancer they want to patronize based on their pricing and ratings or experience.

 

To sign up to Fiverr, visit www.fiverr.com/signup to register and buy or sell your first gig today.

Freelancer

This is the largest crowd-sourcing freelance marketplace with 32 million registered users. It is an Australian crowdsourcing website where employers post jobs that freelancers can bid to complete and was founded in 2009.

Freelancer also allows its members to host and enter contests for prize money.

Members of the site receive a specific number of bids to use on the site which replenished monthly.

Freelancer works a bit like Upwork, where you create a profile and bid for posted jobs but has contesting options as well for people with a competitive spirit. Most Freelance users come from India, Pakistan, Philippines, the UK, and the US, but is available in 247 countries worldwide.

To register, visit www.freelancer.com/signup to begin your journey as a freelancer today.

How do I start?

Getting started as a freelancer is as simple as visiting any of the freelance websites mentioned above and signing up to be a part of the freelancer network or simply looking through your current network to find your first client.

However, there are certain factors you’ll need to consider before starting.

  • Services to offer

Deciding what service you want to offer is probably the most important part of getting started because there is a wide range of services to offer and definitely a lot of freelancers saturating the market.

In order to get noticed, you need to offer a service that you are really good at and enjoy doing. Getting a gig or a bid is sometimes easy, but once you flop out on any of your projects, you’re done for, and bouncing back up might be harder than starting itself.

You need to make sure you’re working not just because of the money, but because you can deliver the best projects that can help you get even better clients.

  • Deciding rates

Setting the right rate means getting paid what you’re worth for your service without scaring off clients. Not charging enough would mean your work is of low quality and charging too much means finding clients will be hard.

To get the right rate, you might have to research to know what other freelancers are charging for the same service. You should also decide if you want to be paid hourly or per project and make sure to change rates according to the difficulty of the project.

Certain platforms like Upwork gives clients the exclusive right to decide on pricing for their projects, but for Fiverr, you decide how much you want to charge.

You also need to consider the platform service charges in your rates. Upwork and Fiverr charge a 20% fee on any income you get which lowers the gross income. Freelancer charges a 10% fee which can be lowered by paying for their monthly subscriptions.

  • Online Portfolio

To get bids and gigs regularly, you need to build a profile that promotes what you want to offer. Building this takes a lot of time and effort, but once you have a great portfolio, getting bids and gigs becomes very easy. Clients get to see proof of your work and are easily convinced that you can do the job they want.

You can build your portfolio using LinkedIn or by creating a document or file that has all your projects, especially if you’re going to offer graphic design, web, or writing services. You can also use websites like Dribble or Behance to create awesome looking portfolios of your work.

  • Setting up payments

You need to set up your payment system which will be used to make and receive payments. Most platforms have debit and credit card options that you can link to your account. You can also use Stripe or PayPal if you have one.

For Upwork, you can link your bank account directly to your account to receive payments, but you would need a Visa or MasterCard to buy “connects”, which are very important if you want to submit proposals.

ADVANTAGES

  1. Flexible work hours

Freelancing allows you to pick and choose what you do and when you want to do it. Although clients will give you deadlines, you’re free to control how the work is completed.

  1. Affordable to start

Freelancing literally requires no capital to start. As long as you have a phone or laptop and internet connectivity, you can begin your journey as a freelancer from any part of the world. You only need to pay for platform service fees if you decide to use any of the platforms for your freelancing and that is usually inexpensive.

  1. There is a high demand

Many businesses today prefer to hire a team of qualified, reliable freelancers rather than employees because they cost less.

DISADVANTAGES

  1. Work isn’t always consistent

Unlike working in an agency, you need to find your own clients after a gig is done. Your clients may or may not be recurring especially if you’re offering a one-and-done service.

  1. Requires a lot of time

You may not be successful overnight because getting enough clients can take a while. You have to bend your rates sometimes to accommodate some clients and be ready to work hard to deliver work on time. You might also find it difficult to meet deadlines you have multiple projects running.

Patience is a key factor in freelancing because getting clients can be frustrating in an environment that is saturated with freelancers.

As a new freelancer, you need to be able to state the services you offer clearly in your bid and sound convincing if you want a client to pay attention to you.

Make sure to get reviews from your clients every time you work for them to enable future clients to gain more confidence in your skills and award you more contracts.

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