The pandemic has been good for freelancers. As weird as it sounds, businesses need to get things done no matter what, and freelancers typically mean less risk (even if the upfront cost is a bit higher in some cases). And the freelance industry is only growing, with predictions saying a majority of the US workforce will be freelance by 2027 – and this study was done pre-COVID. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend. Post-pandemic, 53% of people predict more demand for freelancer services, with a lot of freelancers turning to freelancing platforms to earn money.
So when it comes to getting work as a freelancer, should you use major platforms or should you go it alone? Let’s dive into that, cause the answer isn’t necessarily simple.
Option 1: Freelancing platforms
The promise of freelancing platforms is they bring the clients to you. No sales, no marketing, no fussing about – just clients coming to your door. As a thank you for this, they take a slice of your revenues.
A few of the major freelancing platforms are:
- Task Rabbit.
- People per hour.
Pros of freelancing platforms
The main pro is that the work comes to you, saving you a lot of time. This means you can focus on either working more or working your way up the value chain with experiments (this is a key law to successful freelancing).
Cons of freelancing platforms
Freelance platforms like Upwork typically have two main cons: you can’t control the quality of clients and the prices are often pushed much lower than true market value.
Let’s tackle the problems in order. You can’t control the quality of clients because the marketplace is so big. Further, many marketplaces (like Fiverr, for instance) were founded on the idea of getting cheap things done quickly, which can attract lower quality clients. The second thing is pay. Because the marketplaces are so huge – and there is always someone willing to undercut you to win the deal – it pushes all prices downward. Even high quality freelancers may need to lower their rates to seem competitive on major platforms.
Option 2: Going it alone
When you go it alone, you’re an entrepreneur with a business of one. You may call yourself a freelancer, but you need to think of yourself as a whole business. You are the CEO, VP sales, head of customer success, finance manager, and office manager all in one. This can be daunting or exciting, depending on your personality.
Pros of going it alone
When you go it alone, the clients are yours, the relationships are yours and, most importantly, the profit is yours. This is powerful because it not only gives you more control over who you work with (instead of taking whatever the platforms provide), but it also gives you opportunities to find efficiencies in how you run your business so you get even more profit and free time.
Cons of going it alone
The big issue with going it alone is finding clients and not being taken advantage of. While freelancing platforms might push the pay down, there is some standardization to it and payment is handled through the platform. When you’re alone, a big client can take advantage of you or people could skip out on paying with little recourse. Luckily, this is not common (and basic contracts can protect you), but it’s critical to remember if you choose to go it alone.
The third option: freelancing as a service
One new innovation that’s trying to bring the ease of freelancing platforms with the client relationships and scalability of doing it yourself is the idea of freelancing as a service. Platforms like Virtual Gurus and Magic aren’t just marketplaces. The platforms act as a layer in between you and the client – almost as if you were a consulting firm more than in a marketplace.
These platforms still bring you work, but allow you to set your rate, name your specialties, and join larger projects managed by them. These platforms have the benefit of giving access to higher quality, higher paying work. But on the flip side, they can be highly competitive and you’ll need to be specialized as a freelancer in order to stand out in the crowd.
Getting ready for the gig economy
One thing is pretty certain: the gig economy is growing and changing. What used to be seen as just a fringe type of work or the thing you did between jobs is now becoming the primary earning method for millions of people. Further, it’s also more profitable than ever before if you do it right. So as you’re thinking about clients and how to capitalize on all this increased demand, remember to focus on what makes you stand out, then choose the best route for you and your business.