Contributed by Cindy Tan
It's now easier than ever to be a freelancer, thanks to the Internet. Many people are leaving traditional 9 to 5 jobs to for work that gives them flexible ours and allows them control over their time. The gig economy paved the way for platforms such as Fiverr, TaskRabbit and Upwork, which connect service providers to business owners or individuals who are looking for people to execute tasks. It also provides freelancers a space to market their skills and generate income.
However, most freelancers who participate in the gig economy often have to lower their rates in order to gain a competitive advantage over others. Go on Fiverr and Upwork and you will see advertisements for work being charged at ridiculously low rates of $5 to $10, which not only devalues the skills these freelancers have, but also saturates their respective fields of expertise.
For those who value their skills, navigating an ever competitive society and evolving workforce means that freelancers could benefit from being a multi-hyphenate instead of specialising in only one field of work. Multi-hyphenates are people who are have more than one profession. For example, actor-director-singers are able to draw an income from different sources. This is when being a jack of all trades comes in handy. Millennials recognise that and are able to make it work in their favour. Learning new skills doesn't have to take place in a classroom anymore. There are several resources on Coursera, Udemy and even free tutorials on YouTube, if you're cash-strapped.
While freelancing gives you more freedom than a regular full-time job, it is not without its challenges. "My biggest challenge is getting used to understanding that income doesn't come in as regularly as it used to, so a great deal of discipline is needed for managing your finances," Freelance art teacher-designer-DJ, Amanda Keisha Ang, says. "Also, my schedule becomes so flexible, weekends don't feel very much like weekends anymore, and you tend to sometimes neglect proper routines and eating healthy. I think overcoming them involved making some changes to my new lifestyle such as keeping lots of lists on my expenditure and invoices, and watching what I eat and when I sleep."
However, the pros of freelancing make the cons worthwhile. "You get more time with family, which I'm happy for, and there's space to pursue more creative endeavors that a regular job might previously have not been able to accommodate. I wouldn't be able to DJ as much as I wanted to if I had a full time job," she adds.
Amanda candidly tells me that wasn't disciplined enough to manage her finances as well as she had imagined herself to, and briefly stopped freelancing two years ago to enter the workforce to "figure herself out". Since going back to freelancing a year ago, Amanda is also currently pursuing a tattoo apprenticeship and aims to add this to her list of skills that would allow her to continue working as a freelancer.
As a freelancer in the creative sector, it is still manageable for her when it comes to getting a regular flow of jobs. "Sometimes it's difficult if you are a midweight DJ and sometimes as a teacher classes don't come in as often as you want to teach, but it's okay. I found a good balance and I have good connections that allow me to have regular engagements," she adds.
Amanda goes on to say that one of the most important qualities a freelancer should have to be able to draw a decent income is to have a plan. Having a safety net to fall back on is also important. "I saved up a bunch of money before I embarked on this freelance lifestyle and made sure I have enough to keep me alive for at least half a year even if I didn't work. That move definitely helps build confidence and allows you to breathe a bit easy," she reveals.
As a freelancer, building a network of connections and maintaining relationships with client are key. "I was always still keeping myself active by hustling shows, keeping in touch with clients and being enthusiastic about working together."
The most important piece of advice? "If you want to freelance you need connections to trust you to be able to deliver the work they want, so I think it's really just being prepared, sociable, hardworking and keeping yourself relevant and media savvy by constantly building a digital presence," she concludes.
That makes total sense. The Internet has provided us with a myriad platforms and resources to learn, market and sell our skills. Why not use it to your advantage?