Is it just me… or is EVERYONE a freelancer these days?

When I first went out on my own in 2002, Google seemed to think I was the only ‘Sydney Copywriter’ in existence (well, me and Glenn Murray!) Today, there are 462k results. In fact, there are thousands of experts on tap for anything you need. So, what to do?

Soloist, moonlighter, contractor, free agent, freelancer … whatever label you choose, the ‘gig economy’ is growing fast –  driven by factors such as connected technology, mobility, globalisation, reduced job security and a desire for flexibility.

We recently shared a stat by Freelancing in America: 2017 predicting that the majority of the US workforce will freelance by 2027, with similar shifts happening in Australia.

Freelancing in America: 2017

Not only are more and more experts (and not so experts) heading online to offer their services for hire, but consumers are also using the internet to learn new skills and DIY things they used to pay for.

Threat or opportunity?

For established solo or micro business owners, the flood of new freelance competition – along with the rise of ‘gig’ platforms like Freelancer.com, Upwork and Fiverr – can easily be seen as a threat. On the surface, it means more competition for work and pressure on rates.

Indeed, if you’ve shot the breeze with a freelancer in the creative space, you’ll likely have heard the lament… everyone thinks they’re a designer these days (or writer, photographer, coder, consultant, expert etc). “My nephew can build you a website for a hundred bucks!”

But if you’re up for the challenge and at the top of your game, I see massive opportunities for nimble business owners.

A new model

Employers are embracing a lean on-demand approach too. Using the same model as sporting super leagues, Hollywood movies or property developments, many businesses big and small now hire highly specialised teams on short-term projects to get a specific job done, avoiding fixed costs, staff and overheads.

This means that highly skilled professionals can demand top dollar on important projects and specialists can attract assignments they are passionate about, for businesses they admire.

Cream rises to the top

While more competition, new platforms and an ever-changing digital landscape can create uncertainty, it’s important not to be dragged down into the peak hour traffic.

Much of the new competition – and new work – is at the bottom of the market where skills are traded like commodities, and high speed and low cost trump quality.

Today, more than ever, it is critical to focus on delivering top quality, nurturing personal relationships, specialising, generating creative ideas and becoming a trusted strategic partner. Know exactly what you do, and do it well.

The advice to ‘stay in your lane’ is even more important when the freeway is busy. Staring at the oncoming traffic won’t get you where you want to go.

 “…the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.”  ~ Seth Godin

Ready or not, here we come

Of course the solo life is not for everyone, and there are always challenges in a fast-moving world. But it can be worth the wild ride.

Our Understanding micro business survey  found that a resounding 85% of solo business owners are happy in their ventures, with lifestyle factors such as flexibility and autonomy being the biggest benefits. What’s more, soloists enjoy household incomes higher than the Australian average.

Whether you’re embracing it wholeheartedly or feeling nervous, the new future of freelancing and work is evolving fast.