Freelancers, Listen Up: The Gig Economy Isn't For You
We live in changing times.
Since 2013, when Carl Benedikt predicted that 47% of the jobs that exist today will be automated and taken over by robots (!), there’s been mass media panic about where we’ll be when the jobpocalypse hits.
In an attempt to protect humankind and preserve capitalism, one response to this fear has been the creation of the gig economy. Founded upon the principle that every single one of us has something that someone else needs, the gig economy monetizes even the most basic skills, abilities, belongings, what have you, for short-term arrangements and often on-the-spot payments.
The entire concept is predicated upon self-awareness; it only works if you know how to identify your skills and your needs. Knowing what sets you apart — you’re willing to drive someone to the airport at 2AM, you have the phone number of a hard-to-reach guitarist — is what empowers you, within the gig economy’s constraints, to establish your worth.
The gig economy is changing the world, and it’s not inherently a bad thing.
But it’s not for you.
The Career Freelancer
As a freelancer, you know that clients don’t care about services — they want solutions.
When a client hires you to join their project, they’re hiring you because you’re talented, smart, and trustworthy, but also because you’re the person who can solve their need. Whether you’re a designer, copywriter, developer, animator, whatever, you’re coming in not just to do your job, but to make their idea better.
Doing this right takes a lot of thought.
You have to know your clients well enough to see their needs through your services. What you’re doing somehow plays into their bigger picture. Do they want more users for their product? Do they want a simpler marketing flow? Do they want to refresh their brand?
Identifying your clients’ goals is dependent both on taking the time to understand your client’s needs and knowing your industry well enough to figure out how your skills address those needs. Additionally, you’ll want to have a network of professionals you can partner with on projects, resources you can share with your clients to help them understand what you’re up to, and the initiative to help them really take their project to the next level.
A good freelancer is a thoughtful freelancer.
As such, rare is the gig that fits the career freelancer.
Building relationships with your clients takes significant time and investment — which pays off in trust, referrals, and a strong network. You have to constantly prove yourself as creative, thoughtful, insightful, and talented, all while building your brand and improving your skills.
The gig economy is about quick solutions and quick money. Relationships aren’t built this way. When you’re willing to invest in making yourself the best solution to a client’s problems, you’re making yourself indispensable to them. The best compliment a client can give you is not wanting to let you go.
Push, push, push it baby
Gigs are one-night stands, and a series of one-night stands does not a thoughtful lover build. Working on a gig-by-gig basis provides neither the challenge nor the satisfaction of working closely with a client to see a project grow, change, and become its best self.
As a freelancer, it’s up to you to challenge yourself. You’re the one making sure your skills aren’t stagnant — you have to find projects, side projects, classes and friends that will continue to push you and help you get better. Staying in your comfort zone is easy, but it won’t help you get better clients, make more money, or stay competitive.
This challenge only comes with consistency. Developing skills is a long, difficult process; that’s why good freelancers are so coveted.
The gig economy isn’t built for personal growth. Your career is.
The gig economy? You’re better than that.
You’re a freelancer because you have the guts to go out on your own. You’ve built your own skillset, network, and brand. You’ve invested in yourself, and now it’s time for clients to invest in you.
Shayna is the Head of Friendship at The nuSchool, doing all things blog/community/biz dev/happy. She's a freelance copywriter working in art and design, and has two dogs named Chuck and Alma.
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