Did you enter the gig economy via platforms like Fiverr, Freelancer, and Upwork? Were you full of hope, looking forward to exciting tasks, autonomy, and high levels of income? Did your dreams turn into reality – or did you quickly find yourself struggling to pay your bills?
If you are a programming whiz, you probably love the gig economy – but if you don’t posses skills in a lucrative, high-demand area, you may have found that the gig economy isn’t exactly the paradise you thought it would be. If the latter sounds like you, you aren’t alone: Data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that income and benefits of contingency workers are below those of traditionally employed workers.
Of course, I don’t mean to discredit the gig economy entirely. It can be great, and there are winners and losers in any market system. If you want to be a winner in this particular system, you’ll need to do some careful strategizing. Last week, I shared four tips to help you boost your freelance earnings. Today, I’d like to offer three more:
1. Give Customers Accurate Quotes
When you are quoting for work, you undoubtedly consider the time it will take to do the work, but do you also consider those equally necessary peripheral tasks, like client calls, on-site meetings, and so on?
In the early days, you might neglect to account for these activities when offering quotes for your services. The result? You’ll find yourself spending a significant amount of (unpaid) time on these tasks.
A great way to boost your income is to put a little more thought into your quotes. Make sure you account for all of these peripheral tasks up front. You can include them as parts of your hourly rate, or you can bill for them separate.
Of course, it’s important to be flexible. If the client is prepared to reduce the amount of time you have to spend in calls and meetings, then you should be prepared to shave some dollars of your price tag.
2. Set Aside Some Time for R&D
Perhaps a free or low-cost accounting app could save you several hours a month by streamlining your bookkeeping and invoicing efforts, giving you more time to do billable work.
Of course, you wouldn’t know that unless you set aside some time to research accounting options.
You’d be amazed at the cost-savings and efficiency gains that you could achieve in your business – if only you had the time to analyze your work processes and tweak the parts that don’t work so well.
Why not block out an hour or so every week to do a little research and development, with an eye toward improving your processes? You can even keep yourself on track by setting a goal like “Introduce one efficiency-gaining/cost-saving initiative every quarter.”
3. Schedule Weekly Sales and Marketing Time
The freelance life comes with its share of peaks and troughs. It’s inevitable, but that doesn’t make these troughs any less financially damaging. Long periods without work are tough. That’s just a fact.
If you can minimize the number of troughs you experience or shorten the average length of each one, you can increase your annual income.
Dry spells tend to occur after periods of heavy work, during which you were too busy to solicit any new clients or land any new projects. If you want to eradicate or soften the troughs you experience, you need to make sure you are marketing your services consistently – even during peak periods.
The best way to ensure you are marketing consistently is to build marketing efforts into your weekly schedule (e.g., “Every Tuesday is ‘New Business Tuesday’”). It may seem like a lot, especially when you are buried under work, but trust me: You’ll regret not doing it when all of your clients suddenly disappear for a few months.
Surviving in the gig economy requires more than just hard work and talent. Instead, you need a supporting set of comprehensive business skills. Remember: When you’re a freelancer, you’re not an employee – you’re a one-person business, and you have to act accordingly.