Top 5 Ways Freelancers Can Stay Competitive in the Gig Economy

Give yourself an edge with these tips.

learn more about Kelly Springs-Kelley

By Kelly Springs-Kelley


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The new year has arrived, and with it, new technology, new trends and new ideas. From advances in artificial intelligence to the iPhone X, society's rapid growth trajectory has left no aspect of modern life behind. And that includes how we earn a living.

Related: The 15 Best Freelance Websites to Find Jobs

Up until the late 2000s, many of us believed that working "gigs" was only a step away from simply being unemployed. Fast forward less than 10 years, and this notion has been revolutionized. More and more people are choosing freelance work, or "gigs," over traditional employment. In fact, according to Intuit CEO Brad Smith, "the gig economy ... is now estimated to be about 34 percent of the workforce and expected to be 43 percent by the year 2020."

However, just because gig opportunities are increasing does not mean these jobs are up-for-grabs. In many cases, there are hundreds of candidates vying for one opportunity.

For those interested in staying competitive in the gig economy, here are five ways to find success.

1. Market yourself.

To succeed in the gig economy, you need to have a healthy amount of potential opportunities. You might specialize in an industry, or have certifications specific to a role. Or you might place flexibility or, God forbid, having fun at work, at the forefront. Explore and register with several agencies and temporary work sites. There are some sites that are industry-specific, such as Paro, which specializes in accounting and finance. Or you can use sites such as Upwork, which puts freelancers of all kinds in front of hiring organizations. The more profiles you have, the more opportunities will knock. Just make sure they are relevant to the work you are looking for.

And for those sites that require you create a profile, always keep yours exceptionally maintained. Evangelize those things that differentiate you from the competition, and if possible, include previous work examples, client testimonials and recommendations.

Related: Employers Are Paying Freelancers Big Bucks for These 25 In-Demand Skills

2. Do your homework.

Gigs are temporary, but employers still expect the same amount of engagement and professionalism from applicants as they do for full-time positions. Do your research, and demonstrate knowledge not only about the job you are applying for, but the company and industry. When employers see that you are invested in their unique business and understand their language and pain points, the more likely they are to bring you on board.

If you are working for an agency and representing an end client, treat both the agency and the client representatives with equal consideration and red-carpet service. Research both companies and make sure you can speak intelligently to both.

Related: 8 Great Time-Tracking Apps for Freelancers

3. Blow them away.

One of the primary ways to be successful in the gig economy is to ensure you are rehired after an initial contract or temporary job. Just because a company is hiring on a short-term basis doesn't mean they love repeatedly going through the recruitment process. Most companies would prefer a go-to person when a new opportunity comes up. The following examples will help you to go above and beyond to wow your employer:

  • Be early. If your job requires you to show up in person, always arrive before start time. If you are held to deadlines, submit your work with time to spare.
  • Be open and available. Respond quickly to communication, and try to say yes as much as possible to manager requests.
  • Be proactive. Try to anticipate challenges, and communicate effectively. And don't come to your manager with a problem. Come with two or three well thought-out solutions to a challenge, and ask for guidance. Even if they take a different direction to solve, your initiative will most often be appreciated.
  • Be reliable. Deliver on your promises. Make sure you perform exceptionally. If you aren't sure if you can do all that the job requires and more, don't apply.

Related: 16 Things You Should Know About Freelancing

4. Build a stellar reputation.

In the gig world, who you know matters. Make sure you are building quality and meaningful relationships with your employers. By becoming a hiring manager's favorite, you might even get access to unadvertised opportunities that you never knew were a possibility. And having great relationships not only increases the chances you will be hired again, it also increases the likelihood that managers will refer you to others.

It's important to also mention that a freelancer's reputation does indeed precede them. Hiring managers talk. Maintain your personal brand by being a model employee. Finish every job you start. And don't allow relationships to sour, regardless of the situation.

Related: Today's Gig Economy Treats Workers as Expendable Cogs in the Machine, but That's About to Change

5. Don't take it personally.

You're not going to get every job you apply for, and that's OK. And getting passed over on one job doesn't prevent you from consideration for the next. For example, at Elevate, we hire thousands of people each year for hundreds of positions in the experiential marketing industry. We have top performers who we hire year-round for events. However, even in these cases, not every person is the right fit for every role. Sometimes we pass up great people because they don't fit the job description, and we depend on their professionalism both when they are selected and when they are not.

Keep an open mind, be persistent and always maintain a positive outlook with your respective employers. You never know when the right opportunity will come along, and you want to make sure you are the one on their speed dial.

Related Video: Know What You're Worth: How to Maximize Your Freelance Paycheck

Kelly Springs-Kelley

Director of Marketing for Elevate Event Staffing and A Little Bird US

With diverse expertise in integrated marketing, experiential marketing and journalism, Kelly Springs-Kelley excels in delivering innovative, comprehensive and effective marketing strategies. As director of marketing at Elevate Event Staffing and A Little Bird US, Springs-Kelley works to demonstrate the power of live brand experiences and mobile consumer engagement technology to drive measurable results.

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