It’s no secret that the freelance economy is growing like crazy.
According to a study published in 2016 by Upwork called Freelancing in America, 55 million Americans participated in freelancing last year, meaning it already represents 35 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Here's a more surprising statistic: Moonlighters made up 25 percent of the freelance workforce in 2016. These are professionals with a primary, traditional job who also moonlight doing freelance work. For example, a corporate-employed web developer who does freelance projects in the evening.
More and more people are choosing to supplement their day job income with on-demand work, ranging from remote business consulting to website design projects to even voice over acting!
And technology is making it increasingly easy to sell your skills or find the perfect talent for a business project. The same study found 73 percent of freelancers said that technology has made it easier to find freelance work—up from 69 percent just two years ago.
We spoke to executives at two of the top freelance marketplaces in the world, Fiverr and Upwork, that combine for billions of dollars in services sold each year. We got their insight on where this market is going and how freelancers can earn more profit with these platforms.
Fiverr’s CRO on solving freelancers’ biggest problem.
“Fiverr’s marketplace aims to solve the biggest pain point freelancers have,” says David Manela, CRO at the Tel Aviv-based freelance marketplace, “Finding work. We do this by taking the simplicity of an ecommerce marketplace and applying it to freelance services.”
Ask any potential entrepreneur about their fears of starting their own business and their answer will almost certainly be some variation of "getting customers." The beauty of using Fiverr as a freelancer is that they’re focused on optimizing their platform to connect businesses with customers so you don’t have to.
“That way,” Manela puts it, “freelancers spend less time doing the business of marketing and seeking out work (i.e. writing proposals, bids, etc.) and more time doing what they actually love—creating, coding, designing, etc.”
Just looking to make extra profit on the side, in addition to your day job? A platform like Fiverr is also ideal, because you can control how much you work. “For those looking to do supplemental work as a side hustle, it's easy to control the number of gigs they're working on, meaning they can take on as much work as they feel comfortable handling.”
Leveraging an optimized platform like Fiverr can help entrepreneurs increase their freelance profit because they’re free to spend 100 percent of their time filling client orders and growing revenue, not racking up expenses trying to advertise their services.
Upwork VP says skip admin to maximize earnings.
Shoshana Deutschkron, vice president of communications at Upwork, has similar thoughts on what keeps freelancers from growing their profits. “The biggest barrier to growing profits from freelancing is finding enough work. Traditionally, side gigs have been limited to personal referrals and local projects. Upwork makes it much easier and faster to find more work,” she says.
The advantages of leveraging an online marketplace to manage inbound sales/lead generation should be a given. But what about managing those clients along the way—making sure they know what they owe you, sending invoices, and getting paid on-time and securely? This can add up to quite the time commitment for most freelancers, and be a huge drain on your profit.
Upwork spent a lot of time and resources building tools to streamline these dreaded tasks for freelancers. “Beyond better access to a much larger pool of work opportunities, Upwork helps entrepreneurs maximize their earnings by reducing the administrative load required of freelancers, such as time tracking and invoicing, and empowering them to spend that time actually working and earning,” says Deutschkron.
Upwork accomplishes this via proprietary features for Upwork freelancers include tools like the Work Diary, which automatically screenshots your computer to document work-in-progress. This helps ensure your client pays you for every hour actually spent working.
For fixed-rate projects, Upwork has a built-in milestones interface that allows freelancers to submit pieces of the project at agreed-upon due dates, at which point the client releases funds from a secure escrow account that go right to you, the entrepreneur. Not only does Upwork help entrepreneurs get work, it helps them get paid in time and in full.
Simply put, more time cranking out sales and less time doing administrative dirty work like documentation, billing, and collection means much more profit for you.