Life as an independent contractor (IC) or freelancer can be tricky. You have to leverage your time and skills to maximize your income. You are partially self-employed and partially not. It can be a difficult thing to explain to people when they ask what you do for a living.
(Honestly, I never liked asking or being asked this question, but I am an extro-introverted weirdo.)
What You Need to Know
One of many things you have to understand is that a single gig may not cover your living expenses unless you have highly marketable skills (IT, medical coding, SEO, etc.) and hit the jackpot. You have to keep getting clients and/or gigs to keep the income going. I have several IC gigs and the one thing that never changes is the fluidity of the work.
Work availability and length of the contract depends on the company’s client. If they pull the contract, or it runs out and doesn’t get renewed, they don’t need you anymore. Hopefully, you will get a timely heads up, but in some cases, you may have no more than days to prepare for the end of that gig.
In many cases, the company you’re working for will try to roll you to a new contract or project. This can take a matter of days or weeks, depending on the company and their clientele. In the meantime, if you have no other work, contracts, or clients at the time, you are out of money for the time being.
This is never a good place to be.
Some companies have a clause that prohibits you from working for a competitor. So, if you are selling your services as a remote data entry worker, for example, you may be locked out of adding another gig while you’re under contract.
Of course, once the contract ends, all bets are off.
There are ways to make sure you can have some redundancy into your freelance or independent contractor income. That way, you don’t suffer too much if you lose a gig through no fault of your own.
If you have more than one skill set -as many of us do- you can pick up a few gigs that do not conflict. Say data entry and ad tagging.
You can also find companies that do not have the Non-Compete clause as well as pick up multiple gigs within companies that do. One company that allows you to work on multiple projects is Appen Global.
At the moment, Appen is hiring what they call Raters to view and rate or tag ads, posts, and links. The work can be tedious, but it often pays about $10.00 an hour. Most contracts there pay monthly, so you have to budget accordingly.
They usually require a minimum of 10 hours a week, up to 20 or 25 hours a week, depending on the job and the client. Sometimes they can offer up to 30 hours a week as long as you are meeting minimal performance metrics.
The flexibility of the scheduling is wonderful. Appen usually asks for 4-6 hours a day, totaling no more than the project maximum (10-25 hours) for the week. They prefer you work the hours Monday through Friday, but you are allowed to make up missed hours (schedule conflict, system down, no work available) on the weekends.
Appen has Non-Disclosure Agreements for each project, which means you can’t chatter too much about the work you do or who you are specifically doing it for. As an IC or freelancers, it is vital that you maintain this confidentiality.
Another way to build some security into your IC income is to specialize. Whatever you do, do it exceptionally well. Build a portfolio of work that you can submit with your resume and keep it up to date.
You can also request reference letters from previous or current clients. This creates credibility as well as shows potential clients that you complete the work you’re hired to do.
Another way to add to your credibility is through LinkedIn. LinkedIn has been described as a business networking site. It’s basically Facebook for business people. You can connect and build a network of people who can then Endorse you as an expert in your field(s).
A lot of potential employers will check your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles while considering hiring you.
**Tip: If you have Facebook and/or Twitter for personal use, it may be a good idea to create a separate account for business contacts.
The difference between Facebook & LinkedIn is that you can post blogs in LinkedIn that can be specific to the work you want to do. The blogs are shown to the entire network and can lead to you getting contacted by people in your industry.
You can also post a resume on LinkedIn and use it to apply for jobs all over the place. A LinkedIn resume carries a decent amount of weight in the freelance world. It shows that you take your work seriously and you want to be gainfully engaged for a reasonable fee.
A lot of people starting on the road to becoming an independent contractor have their skills on point, the resume and portfolio are good to go, but they aren’t getting much work.
You have to market yourself, of course. This can be done through any number of methods, but one of the simplest is social media.
As I noted before, you may want to separate your business Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and such from your personal account. I suggest this because you might have some rather colorful content, shares or posts that are not conducive to being perceived as a professional.
We all have at least a few friends that let it all hang out on social media, and many of us have had these accounts for years. I prefer to keep my business contacts separate from my personal ones. I am not suggesting you present a false face. I am suggesting you present a professional face.
There are conversations I will easily have with personal contacts that I would not dream of sharing with people I work with. Political and religious views, as well as social justice leanings, have very little place in the workplace unless that is your job.
So, the first step to marketing yourself is to create professional accounts on all the social media sites you want to use to sell your services.
Once you have these ready, start adding friends and colleagues in the same industry. Follow successful people or leaders in your field. Once you have a few contacts, start putting your work to work. Post links to companies you have worked for. Share posts about your industry or something within the niche that interests you.
You can also add blogging to your pages. This can be done at any number of sites, including Blogger.com or WordPress.com. I use the platform at Wealthy Affiliate to build a website and create content. If you are fortunate enough to own a piece of the internet -a domain- put it to work.
Link all of your new business social sites to the website. Link the posts, pictures or whatever. Share your accomplishments, new gigs, and completed projects. Wealthy Affiliate includes an enormous network of freelancers, independent contractors and online marketers who have been where you are or are just starting out.
Besides social media, there are sites where you can bid for gigs. One of them is Upwork.com. On Upwork, you can search for employers who are searching for independent contractors or freelancers.
You can target the specific work you want to do and submit a proposal to them with your desired rate of pay. If they like your proposal, you will hear from them through the Upwork platform. Once you come to an agreement, you can complete the work and get paid.
The downside of a site like this is that there are thousands of contractors and freelancers here. They are all looking for similar work, and some may be better positioned than you. It is a process. It takes patience and persistence, but you can get work here if you put in the time.
Other gigs you can pick up as a freelancer or independent contractor include:
*Favor is only active in Texas
Each of these has its own set of rules and regulations. Make sure you have the skillset and the desire to do the work of making yourself visible. As mentioned, there are thousands of people looking for these jobs, just like you.
Do not be discouraged by the odds. Consider it a challenge. I have earned a good amount of money driving for Uber, Lyft and Favor. I tried Postmates, but there was not enough work available to make it worth the gas. I also tried Fiverr, but I have not seen much that suits my skill set there.
Putting it Together
Some of these gigs can be started almost immediately, as long as you pass the background checks, and meet the basic requirements (reliable car, insurance, driver’s license, certifications, etc.). Also, Uber and Lyft have incentive programs that you can take advantage of once you meet their minimums, including discounts on gas and car maintenance. They also offer same-day pay, but only after you have worked on the platform for at least a month (this may have changed, as I have not driven for a few months as of this writing).
Once you have everything in place, it is then just a matter of building up your portfolio. Word of mouth is digitized these days and maintaining a good reputation is crucial to your continued success.
You can gain and keep trust by working with integrity. Respect your clients’ time and exceed their expectations. This is how you get repeat work. To gain the trust of your potential clients, continue to share your work, your insights, and your experience.
Do you have any experience with any of the gigs mentioned? Have questions or comments? Let me know below and I will get back to you soon.