The gig economy enables income opportunities that once seemed like pipe dreams. Technology has not only mobilized workers with remote tools, but it has also changed how we all work together. Mobility and connectivity have forever changed how people interact, and the same communication advances have seen businesses evolve as well.

Today, almost anyone can embark on a freelance career, but to be successful, one needs to identify a marketable skill set. Luckily, there is no shortage of freelancer-friendly work categories. From coding to marketing copywriting, businesses are increasingly looking to outsource many tasks for short and longer-term projects.

Often, freelancers interact with full-time resident employees in a hybrid team setting. Since more companies are becoming comfortable with bringing different types of workers together in a virtual team environment, remote work freelance growth opportunities will only continue to grow.

What Is Freelancing?

Freelancing is done on a project-by-project or contract-by-contract basis by a professional who isn't employed full-time by the person or company paying for their services. Freelancers are typically paid on an hourly or project basis, and freelance work can be done from almost anywhere, making it a flexible career option for remote workers. Freelancing offers workers the flexibility to decide how much or how little work they want to do in a given period, so it can be a full-time or part-time source of income.

What Is a Freelance Job?

A freelance job is one where a person is self-employed instead of working for a company or other organization. Freelance jobs are often contracted jobs where the freelancer will work on specific projects for different organizations.

1. Create a portfolio of your work.

Freelancers need to create an online portfolio of work. If you're thinking about taking the next step and have identified your marketable skill, you need to find a way to present your best work so potential business partners can quickly and accurately evaluate your skills.

Unlike full-time work, where the strength of resume will play a large role in your success, businesses seeking someone to handle a project are less interested in many of the entries in a standard resume. Showing examples of what you have accomplished is more impactful than talking about what you can do.

Freelancers can host work examples on a variety of portals, from portfolio-specific sites such as Portfoliobox or Adobe Portfolio, or quickly set up a portfolio website through Wix, Squarespace, or any other website creation and hosting service. Your portfolio should be a dynamic document, too. As you embark on freelance projects, make sure to update your portfolio with samples of your work continuously.

Once you get rolling on a freelance career, it becomes increasingly difficult to find time for administrative tasks, so establishing a system to edit your portfolio as you go along can save a lot of time. Don't be stuck losing out on an opportunity because you didn't have appropriate work samples at the ready.

2. Use freelancing websites to apply for jobs and contracts.

While many businesses are turning to freelancers, it is up to the gig worker to find a way to drum up clients. There are a few ways to approach prospecting, and whatever method you use, it should also become a set part of your workweek.

It is always much more difficult to find work when you have not built up a pipeline of potential assignments. Sign up for sites like Fiverr, Upwork, Nodesk, Freelancer, and Creative Circle. Depending on your area of expertise, these sites might not be sources of the highest paying jobs, but many of their opportunities can develop into steady gigs.

3. Share your skills and services on social media to your professional networks.

Post that you are available for freelance work on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, since word of mouth can be a great source of steady work. Create business portfolios for social sites where appropriate and join industry groups.

If you plan to freelance full-time, proudly wear the banner of a gig economy worker. A successful freelancer is not someone who shuffles from project to project. Be the best at what you do and be unafraid to advertise and tout your skills and accomplishments. As a freelancer, you are a small business owner, so treat your work like a real business.

Make your social media posts authoritative. Create value-added marketing material and publish content that establishes your expertise. In this way, your social media activity can augment your portfolio pieces.


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4. Drive visitors to your portfolio and social sites.

Portfolios and social sites only work for you if you get visitors. Add links to your freelancing social networking sites in your email signatures and carry the signature to any content that you publish, be it an article on LinkedIn or a comment on a discussion board.

Overall, the key to success is a consistent effort. A common mistake with newer freelancers is failing to manage workloads. There are a lot of opportunities, so if you work hard at freelancing, you may well find that you are overwhelmed with work.

While that might seem wonderful to your finances, missing deadlines or creating poor quality work will cause your pipeline to slow to a dribble. Use these tools to create portfolios and advertise for work, but always remember that, as a remote freelancer, it is up to you to manage your schedule and handle unpaid administrative tasks.

5. Keep track of your invoices and finances.

Freelancers should keep close track of all of their financial transactions so they're prepared to plan for monthly expenses and yearly taxes. Most U.S.-based freelancers will end up submitting Form W-9s when they begin freelancing for a company and will receive Form 1099s from each company that pays them at the end of the year, which will involve a lot of paper documentation to keep track off. You might consider hiring an accountant or using accounting software to help you plan your income, budget, and tax preparation.

To learn more, read our list of home office setup tips for maximum productivity next.

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