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Being able to run a business at home, earn money, invest, raise kids and socially distance all at the same time has become the 2020 marathon. Parents, professionals, graduates and those caught in-between careers weren’t exactly prepared for the new age of working from home; yet, as Covid-19 restructured life as we knew it, we had no choice but to consider alternative work arrangements that supported our families right from our laptops.
Companies were forced to furlough staff as budgets were slashed. Individuals elected to quit their jobs for fear of coronavirus exposure and others realized that, considering how fleeting life can be, they wanted to leave their jobs and do something they love. For all of these people, the arrangement of working on a per-project basis for different companies, brands and startups became more alluring than ever before.
As of last year, nearly 57 million Americans considered themselves part of the gig economy as freelancers. The data for 2020 will show a massive increase in that figure as part of Covid-19’s new normal. Why were so many people joining the gig economy as freelancers in 2019? One study explains it all: skilled freelancers earn more per hour than 70 percent of workers in the U.S.
Related: 50 Ideas for a Lucrative Side Hustle
That’s why more people than ever before are wondering how they can not only become freelancers but also how they can position themselves for immediate success right out of the starting gate. The competition to stand out as a freelancer just got dramatically more challenging, and everyone knows it. Tens of millions of people are using the biggest freelancing sites today, from Upwork and 99designs to Fiverr and Guru.
With millions of providers worldwide accessing these sites, how can you ensure that your profile and services are the most alluring?
Here are five ways to stand out from the competition on major freelancing sites.
1. Use your picture throughout your profile
People think that working online as an anonymous provider, instead of being a corporate employee, means they can withhold their identity from their freelancing profile. Quite the contrary, removing any imagery of yourself from your freelance profile makes it harder for prospective buyers to trust you. Are you really who you are claiming to be? How can buyers be sure?
Content with imagery and video gets 94% more views than content with only plain text and stats. We are visual creatures, so we need to see photo evidence that we are not being scammed.
- Include different photos of yourself for your profile picture, services and biography. The more images you use, the more trustworthy you become
- Post only crisp, high-definition photos in which you are making eye contact with the camera
- Consider branding yourself with the same colors in all of your images
- Refresh your photos every few years to match your real-time identity
2. Feature as many reviews as possible
Social proof is essential. It’s the only way we can convince ourselves that someone is trustworthy online when we have never met them in person. That’s why 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as they do a recommendation from a friend or family member. Prioritizing your five-star reviews on your profile will help a buyer trust you immediately.
- Work hard in the beginning to secure a perfect five-star average. Go above and beyond and consider charging less-than-market prices to get your first reviews
- Proudly present the reviews on your profile, front and center
- Offer up a summary of your reviews to prospective clients in your messaging inbox
3. Don’t lie about credentials
Too often, first-time freelancers skew information about their background and experience since no boss is watching them do it. This can come back to haunt you, especially since buyers can do a simple background check on you in minutes. Should the freelancing site catch you lying, you will be blacklisted for the remainder of the platform’s existence. It’s not worth it. Augment what credentials you do have. If you don’t have many, offer free work for friends and family to bolster your portfolio.
- Spend some months doing work for free so you can add real projects and products to your profile
- Never lie. As you climb in prominence on a freelancing site, the company will conduct background checks on you.
- Buyers are more likely to buy from you if they trust you. If they catch you lying, they will never trust you again.
4. Don’t wait for first reviews
One of the most challenging periods in freelancing is the initial weeks when you have to sit and wait for a buyer to be the first one to invest in your service. When you have no reviews, they don’t know if they can trust you.
Think outside the box and go to your in-person networks for first reviews. Ask family members, former coworkers, friends and those who follow you on social media if they need your service for their businesses. Accessing your already aggregated networks will have you circumvent freelancing algorithms that can punish newbies.
- Think outside the box and offer a discount to people you know in the beginning
- Post about your services on social media
- Write articles about your services and post them to a website or your social profiles
- Offer referral discounts to people you know for securing you new clients
5. Offer more than one service
Marketing studies have found that consumers prefer choices when they go shopping. If you walk into a clothing store and see just four shirts hanging on the clothing rack, you start to feel uncomfortable, right? But if you want into a store with 400 shirt options, you would feel free to shop around and find the item that is right for you.
The same goes for your freelancing profile. If you offer just one service, buyers will assume you’re new to the site, you don’t know what you are doing and have only one skill-set. When starting, offer at least three (related) services on your profile. That way, buyers can feel like they are really shopping.
- If you don’t know what other services to offer, check out your competition. Look up people with your same skill-set and see what other services they list.
- Don’t be afraid to teach yourself new skills. Take online classes and practice.
- After a while, increase your services from three to five to even 10!
The art of the side hustle
Those that once laughed at the thought of a side hustle becoming a main hustle are no longer laughing. Our newly decentralized, socially distanced world has made freelancing ripe for the taking, which is why now is a great time to pivot your skill-set online through one of the major freelancing sites. Follow these tips above to ensure you are positioned as successfully as possible while wading into the freelancing waters.