Freelancing might be on the rise among this generation. However, to many (especially in Asia), freelancing is either something that you do after you retire, or as a last resort when you are unable to secure a full-time job. Hardly would anyone aspire to become a full-time freelancer – not a chance!
Some state perceived instability as a reason not to freelance – CPF contributions, insurance, promotions, free coffee are seen as part of the stability that a full-time job offers. Others fear being looked down upon – being a freelancer seems to lack a certain prestige in our circles.
All these being said, the question remains: Why on earth would anyone (read: 7 million on Freelancer.com) still want to be a freelancer?! Adding to that point, why would anyone in his or her right mind even start a site like Freelancer.com that creates a marketplace for freelance jobs, knowing well that freelancing is a dead end?!
The short answer: Perhaps freelancing isn’t all cracked up as people make it out to be.
After an interview with the International Director of Freelancer.com, Adam Byrnes, it occurred to me that the real picture of the freelancing world is far from what we perceive it to be. Here’s what you should know about freelancing before taking the plunge. (italics are mine)
1) How did Freelancer.com come about?
Actually, Freelancer.com was started by our CEO Matt Barrie, when he bought and rebranded the website getafreelancer.com in 2009. Matt had just left his previous startup, and was looking for The Next Big Thing. While attempting to get some basic tasks done online, he realised that one day, buying services on the internet would be just as big as buying goods on the internet – that is, he realised that very soon, there will be an Amazon or eBay of services – a multi-billion-dollar marketplace for jobs. Matt wanted to be the guy that built it.
2) What are the demographics of the current freelancing scene like?
Freelancer.com’s 7 million users come from a huge variety of places – we have users in 240 countries and regions, including the Antarctic and Vatican! Our most popular project types are website design and development, and graphic design, but we’ve seen projects in literally anything – from astrophysics to chinese rap songs.
Our typical employer comes from an economically stable country, and is an entrepreneur or SME looking for a cost-effective way to get their business off the ground. Our typical freelancer comes from a second or third-world country, and uses Freelancer to make a living. This is in no way exclusive though – we have numerous full-time freelancers in the US, and our second biggest source of employers is India!
3) Do you think that there is any stigma attached to the concept of freelancing today?
I don’t believe so, no. Entrepreneurship, freelancing and innovation go hand-in-hand, and are increasingly being celebrated around the world, from Silicon Valley to Dhaka. The startup movement is transcending borders and revolutionising the economies of many countries – people are getting out and creating wealth, rather than consuming it. Freelancing, and hiring freelancers, is the epitome of this global shift.
Also, as the world embraces globalisation, companies in the USA are becoming increasingly comfortable with hiring freelancers from abroad in countries they’ve never visited. A company owner in Australia can get their logo developed by a designer in Buenos Aires, their website from a developer in Islamabad, and their content from a copywriter in Prague – all in a safe and affordable manner.
4) In your opinion, what are the greatest/worst points for/against freelancing?
The best part of freelancing is the independence. You are no longer tied down in a restrictive and boring day job. You make your own destiny. You work wherever you like, whenever you like, on your terms. You sail your own ship. There’s endless possibilities for wealth and success in freelancing.
However, therein lies the issue. Freelancing is not always easy. It requires work – lots of it, and an ability to be self-motivated. Not everyone has these qualities, but for those who do, a revolutionary lifestyle awaits as a freelancer.
5) Give some advice to a freelancer who is just starting out on his career.
Reputation is king. It is the single most important quantity for any freelancer. Always go above and beyond for the customer – they will reward you by hiring you again or telling their friends about you.
Finally, stay motivated. Freelancing isn’t an easy ride – it requires hard work and lots of it – and there will almost certainly be setbacks. But, if you continue to go above and beyond the call of duty for your employers, the rewards will come.
6) Any predictions about the future for freelancers?
As of today, roughly 2.3 billion people have internet access around the world. That means there’s another 5 billion people who have never connected. Most of these people are located in emerging markets. When someone from these countries first connects to the internet, the first thing they do is look for an education. Today, they can find a quality education, online, for free. Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy – its never been easier to learn a trade or skill.
The next thing they do is find a job. Many of these people are not lucky enough to live in a place where jobs are common, and those that do exist pay on average $1/day. So they do the only thing left to them – become a freelancer. At the same time, employers in first world countries are facing rising costs and barriers-to-entry to creating a business. They need a source of quality, cost-effective and flexible labor – and nobody suits this description better than a freelancer.
In 10 years time, my prediction is that hiring freelancers will be commonplace. If I have an idea tomorrow, and think I can make a business out of it, I know what I’ll be doing. The first thing I’ll need is a logo – and why pay thousands of dollars for a logo, when I can crowdsource 300 unique, quality designs using a Freelancer.com contest, for just a few hundred dollars? I’ll also need a website (after all, its 2013 – every business is a software business) – and rather than get into tens of thousands of dollars of debt getting a website built locally, I’ll jump online to Freelancer.com and post a project, and get it done for a tenth of the cost. Ditto copy, SEO, marketing, etc. Freelancer.com provides that essential edge for entrepreneurs who want to get their business started without millions of dollars of VC investment.
7) What are some resources you would highly recommend for new freelancers?
There’s a number of great freelancing blogs out there. Take a look at our guide for new freelancers on our website, and check out our blog too. Up-skill through free, online education. And above all else, use our platform to start your career. With over 4500 new projects posted every day, its easy to get started, and once you’ve built up your reputation, you’ll be well on your way to freelancing success.
Still think that freelancing is for the dogs? Let me know what you think in the comments below!