A Quick Guide to Getting Started in the Gig Economy
Admit it: You’ve been sitting in a cubicle farm for what seems like your entire life, working for someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate what you do, feeling overwhelmed and crazy busy for two days in a row, then so bored during the remaining three that you’re updating your Facebook status every half hour. Or maybe you’re just ready for a change in your career path. Either way, you’ve probably considered a foray into what’s called the “gig economy,” where you give yourself the title of consultant and essentially use your expertise to strike out on your own and start a business. It’s not an easy leap, however. There are lots of things to consider before you can make this exciting change in your career. Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
The Hard Work Ahead of You
Just because you’ve said goodbye to cubicle-land doesn’t mean life will be easy. Quite the contrary: working freelance means working, oftentimes harder because you need to drum up business, keep work flowing in, and be prepared to chase down payments for tasks you’ve completed — all that in addition to the work itself. You’ll need persistence, self-discipline, determination, and several other important characteristics to make it. If you definitely want to make a go at it, you’ll need some people in your corner and some tools to get you started.
Get Legal and Financial Advice
Long before you hand in your resignation letter and walk out the door, talk with an attorney and a certified public accountant. Ask any freelancers you know for recommendations. The attorney can help make sure you won’t violate any non-compete clauses in the contract or non-disclosure agreement you had signed with your employer. In addition, he/she can also advise on agreements or contracts you will have your clients sign before you begin work. Likewise, an accountant can help with such items as quarterly federal taxes, as well as any state and local taxes, you’ll need to pay, in addition to any financial planning assistance.
Get a Business Card and Website — and Start Networking
An important phrase to remember as a freelancer is that “you are your own brand,” and an important part of that is your business card. A good one can leave a lasting impression on a potential client. All it essentially needs is your company name, your name, an email address, website, and a phone number. Modern technology makes it easier to print these in distinctive designs. And speaking of design, your website is also an important part of your brand. Long gone are the days of costly web hosting and the need to have someone’s nephew spend a year hand-coding a few web pages for you. Site hosting can be inexpensive, and there are several tools you can use to create your own simple, effective site design.
Once you get those going, it’s time to network, network, and network some more. Check with your local chamber of commerce for a schedule of social gatherings for professionals, seek out industry-related professional organizations, connect with people at your place of worship, join industry forums online, and use social media. The more connections you make, the more likely you are to land some gigs (or even team up with another freelancer).
Joining the gig economy is clearly more than just walking out the door of your current job and calling yourself a consultant. It takes planning, advice from legal and financial professionals, skillful marketing, and lots of networking. Overall, remember that you’re starting a business with yourself and your skills as the brand. If you want to succeed in your new business, approach it with passion, a high degree of determination, and a positive attitude. Most importantly, be willing to work hard.
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