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Everything You Need To Know To Build A Freelancing Career Now 

Lindsay Mott  |  September 23, 2020

COVID-19 has changed the work landscape as we know it. If you’re considering freelancing, here’s how to get started.

With the COVID-19 pandemic sending people in all professions to work-from-home (some us for the first time!) there have been some big changes in how we work. 

This year’s Future Workforce Report from Upwork found that “hiring managers are increasingly turning to independent talent as a result of quickly-changing business needs brought on by the pandemic,” says Nancy Van Brunt, senior director of talent success at Upwork. 

Specifically, the survey found that 45% of hiring managers expect hiring freezes on new full-time staff, but 73% of hiring managers are either maintaining or increasing their hiring of freelancers. Also, nearly half of hiring managers say they are more likely to engage independent talent in the future due to COVID-19.

Another interesting takeaway: the share of independent professionals who earn a living freelancing full time has increased by 8 percent since 2019, hitting 36% this year. Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the survey was that freelancing can actually increase earning potential — of the people who quit their full-time job in order to freelance, 75% say they earn the same or more in pay than when they had a traditional employer.

“It’s common for people to turn to freelancing during economic downturns for extra financial security or as a result of becoming unemployed or furloughed,” says Van Brunt. “Unlike other downturns, however, the ability to work remotely during COVID-19 has been critical, and some may have turned to freelancing because of a new ability for them to do so.”

An Uptick During A Downturn 

Since March, Van Brunt says Upwork has seen an increase in freelancer sign-ups, new clients and job posts.

“What we’ve seen amidst the pandemic is that businesses have had to adapt to new tools and strategies as they optimize for a remote world,” Van Brunt says. “As a result, many of them have turned to independent professionals to help adapt.”

As for what’s driving the uptick in the number of interested freelancers, if you’ve lost a job or have been furloughed, a freelance gig can help you bring in extra cash. Likewise, if you’ve been job searching for a while, a freelance job may be a good stop-gap during a period when there aren’t as many full-time jobs available. And, sometimes, a freelance job can lead to your next job if you build a good rapport with a company that isn’t hiring now but may do so in the future.

“In this type of situation where there is economic uncertainty and a lot of job loss, we tend to see interest in freelancing go up,” says Brie Reynolds, career development manager with FlexJobs. Also, businesses tend to turn to freelancers during uncertain times so they’re not investing long-term in a position. She says that FlexJobs has seen an approximate 50% increase in traffic this year over last year. 

How To Get Started As A Freelancer 

If you’re thinking about giving freelance work a try, take a look at some of HerMoney’s best tips for diving into those 1099 waters. 

Get Clear About Your Freelance Offerings 

You may be multi-talented, but it’s best to hone in on one or two things you do really well, and pursue those paths. Focusing on just a couple ideas can make it easier to search for specific gigs in need of your skill set. 

“While it’s tempting to market yourself as someone who can do it all, prospective clients want to find area specialists,” Van Brunt says, whether that’s someone who knows all the ins and outs of ecommerce, is an expert graphic designer, or a copywriting whiz. 

Market Yourself Appropriately

No, a resume isn’t just for your full time gig. Reynolds says a good resume is key to securing lucrative freelance work, as are knockout cover letters. No, you don’t necessarily need a full resume with all your career highlights, but you need to be able to “articulate your capabilities and demonstrate them through relevant experience, credentials, and professional testimonials,” Van Brunt says. 

You don’t necessarily need a website or portfolio site (depending on the type of work you do) but a good LinkedIn profile and/or a profile on Upwork or FlexJobs can go a long way toward showcasing your work. You can also put together a document that includes links to case studies or projects you’ve done for previous jobs that are good examples of your work’s impact. 

You can also help build your brand and credibility by writing blog posts, participating in speaking and network events, and sharing content related to your industry on your social media channels. 

Connect With Your Connections

If you’re having trouble finding work, reach out to people you already know who might have a project underway. You may even consider reaching out to the company you most recently left, or other previous employers to see if there is an opportunity for project-based work, Reynolds suggests. 

For a prospecting or cold call letter, Reynolds suggests finding a company that you want to work for, researching the work they do, and then figuring out who you might contact for that kind of work. The letter should say what you can do for them and what you’re capable of. 

When you’re first starting out, stay open to small jobs with promising clients. A smaller introductory job can lead to a long-term relationship with a company that will continue to offer you work. Oftentimes, clients may start with a test project to ensure they’ve got the right fit for the long-term.

Off To The Races 

Starting your freelance career can be incredibly exciting. Just keep in mind that you’re the one who’s responsible for keeping track of contracts, invoicing, and client communication. You may even find yourself focusing on business development, sales, brand and positioning, pricing, and market strategy. You’ve got to do it all… but you can do it all! 


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