Experts across different fields all agree on one thing: the way that we work is rapidly changing. While the influences driving these changes range from globalization to automation to cultural shifts, the impact is that today’s workers have to be more flexible, self-motivated, and creative than ever before. It also means that many people are going to find themselves finding work within the “gig economy” rather than in the traditional workplaces they’ve seen modeled by previous generations. In fact, some estimates say that by 2020, half of the workforce will be made up of freelancers.
This freelance lifestyle comes with a host of perks for workers including more control over their time and the ability to choose which projects they work on, but it also comes with some challenges including social isolation and a lack of income stability. In order to succeed in this new economy, workers will need to shift their skills and focus to meet the changing demands.
Tip 1: Find solid places to work remotely
You might be tempted to skip this step, thinking that you already have a home office, and—if you do—that’s great! But you should still take some time to find some alternative places to work before you dive too deeply into the freelance life. You never know when the WiFi might go down at your house, and having a back-up work location can save you from missing a deadline or an important meeting.
You also may find yourself needing some variety when your own space simply isn’t motivating you. Finding the perfect coffee shop or hotel lobby to hunker down and get the work done can eliminate the distractions and help you focus.
Tip 2: Find your productivity flaws…and fix them
We all have skills at which we excel and areas that have always been a struggle for us. If you are moving from a structured and monitored work environment to a remote freelance situation, you may find yourself struggling with productivity. There’s often no one checking in on your progress, and doing the work of finding clients in the first place is half the battle.
What’s worse, is if you don’t address your productivity flaws before taking on clients, you may end up with a reputation for not getting work done on time, and your entire freelance future could crumble before your eyes. If you know that you have trouble meeting deadlines or motivating yourself to get work done without someone holding you accountable, you need to fix that before you have a big project due.
Tip 3: Know your work limits and stick to them
One of the hardest parts about being a freelancer is that there is no clocking in and clocking out in the traditional sense. You might get the opportunity to do a rush job in a single weekend that pays the bills for the next month. How could you turn that down? The trouble is that if you say “yes” to every opportunity, you may soon find yourself burnt out and unable to meet all of those obligations. You also have to know how to charge your worth and not be afraid to say no to clients who are taking advantage of you.
It will take some trial and error in the beginning, but you need to set both income goals and time goals and find a way to successfully balance them so that you don’t end up working around the clock.
Tip 4: Get money smart
When you are working in a traditional workplace, a lot of the money issues are taken off your plate. You know you are going to get a set amount of money on a regular schedule, and taxes, health insurance, and retirement plans are often automatically deducted.
When you’re working as a freelancer, those responsibilities of running a business fall to you. You need to make sure that you are saving enough money to have a cushion if you get sick (you won’t have sick days, after all) or if you run into a client issue where your pay doesn’t come when you expect it. You also need to know how much to set aside for taxes and investments in your health and future. Do the research, hire an accountant, and make sure you have a smart money plan from the beginning.
More and more people are going to find themselves working within the gig economy. While there will be some growing pains as people shift to this new mode of work, knowing what to expect and setting yourself up for success from the beginning will make the transition a lot smoother.