There’s never been a better time to be a freelancer. Why? Because of the advancements in technology! Not too long ago, an entrepreneur had to rely on the phone, the U.S. Mail and physical traveling to drum up business, produce a marketable product or service and deliver it to customers. The necessities of business were relatively slow and awkward.
The percent of the US workforce freelancing in 2021 was 36%. Out of these workers, a higher percentage is highly trained, there was a drop in temporary workers, but an increase in skilled freelancing.
New Technology for Entrepreneurs
Today, there’s a tool at your fingertips for just about anything a one-person operation needs to accomplish. Here are some key aspects of technology that you’ll want to take advantage of as you launch your freelance career or work to make it more rewarding.
Not so long ago, anyone working at home had to rely on the phone and the mailbox to stay connected. Now almost everybody has access to high-speed internet. With email, texting and IM, you can stay in touch with anyone. You can keep in contact with individuals and businesses by punching a few keys. Document-sharing tools such as Dropbox make it a cinch to pass ideas around. FaceTime and Zoom put you face-to-face with anyone.
Marketing and Customer Relations
If you wanted to reach new customers in the old world, you had to hang out a sign, distribute flyers or advertise in traditional media. Today you can reach out digitally more easily and with greater impact. You can offer your wares on social media. You can draw in prospects with a blog. You can build a website, and your customers are able to come to you without leaving their homes.
Technology also offers ways to serve your customers and deepen the relationship. There are trackers that monitor hits and conversions on your website. It’s easy to build chatbots that make it easier for customers to engage. Online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey make opinion gathering easy for both you and your audience.
Job Sharing Platforms
Formerly, you had to cast a broad net to find work in your specialty. Now sites such as Upwork and Fiverr match freelancers to those who want to hire them. Whether you’re a writer, a graphic designer or a website designer, there are quite a few platforms you can engage with to bring in a steady stream of work.
If you’ve built a product, you no longer have to convince a store to stock it or open a shop yourself. Now, if you’re a crafter, you call sell on Etsy. You can push anything you have to offer through Amazon, eBay or Facebook Marketplace. If you want to differentiate yourself, there are software packages you can use to build your own virtual storefront.
3D printing has revolutionized what people are able to manufacture at home. In addition, more high-quality 2D printers are within the budget of the average freelancer. If you’re an artist, you can use digital artistry as well as the more traditional canvas and sculpting materials. If you’re a graphic designer, the work is much easier with modern tools.
Administration and Office Infrastructure
The new entrepreneur can face a confusing new world of bookkeeping, legal compliance and taxpaying. You don’t go into business because you want to do these things. Fortunately, there is software aimed specifically at the small business that hasn’t gained sophistication in business accounting. Whether you want to set up as a limited liability company (LLC), get your accounting under control or automate your billing and payment process, there are apps that can help you.
If it serves your business to sometimes meet a client face-to-face, or just meet and network with some other like-minded freelancers, organizations such as NextSpace will rent you a shareable workspace.
Maybe you’re itching to make the move into freelancing but aren’t sure that your marketable skills are up to snuff. Or maybe you’re already on your own but want to expand into a hot new area. Vendors such as Udemy, General Assembly and Lynda.com offer online classes in the most sought-after fields. Online study is available for colleges and universities as well. You can upgrade your freelance employability while still working your day job.
The Move to Mobile
There’s a stereotype of a freelancer with an open laptop at a coffee shop or even in a hammock. However, many freelancers seldom crack open a laptop but do just about everything on a phone. When evaluating tech tools, give extra points to those that have a good mobile version. Also, mobile is where your customers are, especially if millennials are your target audience. With the advent of 5G, mobile is going to get better and even more dominant.
Creating New Types of Jobs
Advancing technology not only makes it easier to do jobs that have been around for a while. It also creates totally new jobs. At the turn of the century, WordPress didn’t even exist, and today there are thousands of freelancers making a living building WordPress websites. Or consider search engine optimization (SEO). The term first appeared in the 90s, and Google took off with it in the 00s, and now there is a virtual army of freelancers specializing in SEO. (Even if you’re not a specialist, you need to understand it.) The first blockchain was created in 2008, and now blockchain expertise is one of the most marketable skills you can have.
What Freelance Work Is Right for Me?
However, there are plenty of freelance opportunities in non-technical fields. Writing, editing and copywriting are solid areas with plenty of work for those who are willing to diligently build a career. With writing, it pays to have a niche, and technology and finance are at the top of the list. There’s demand for photographers and videographers. Bookkeeping, financing and other business administration are needed. Translators are in demand. There are even freelance HR types such as recruiters.
Also, let’s not forget about crafters and the boom they’ve created with Etsy. The structure is there for anyone who wants to either sell or resell a product.
And this was inevitable: there are people who make a living coaching others on how to freelance. That includes blogging about freelancing, offering classes and creating online communities.
All this, of course, is subject to change. Five years from now, the most in-demand freelance skill might be something that’s not even on our radar today. Think of how fast blockchain rose to the top.
Ready To Take the Plunge?
If so, you’re not alone. Freelancers, consultants and temps now make up a quarter of the workforce, and that number is only going to grow. It’s getting easier to freelance all the time. Every week, it seems, some new technology emerges that extends an independent worker’s reach or makes their job just a bit easier.
If you’re standing at the edge of the pool thinking about diving in, remember that you don’t have to immerse yourself all at once. You can build up your new business a little at a time until you’re ready to cut the cord to your steady paycheck. Also, you don’t have to adopt the latest technology all at once. You can start by using a few new tech tools and add more as you grow your enterprise.