Freelancing and the Gig Economy – What is it and is it Right for You?

Traditionally it’s called “freelance.” These days it’s more commonly referred to as “the gig economy.” Whatever you want to call it, more people are working by themselves and contracting their skills and expertise out to external businesses. What’s more, it’s happening in more fields now than ever, and the opportunity is growing rapidly. It’s now a $6.3 billion dollar part of Australia’s economy, and it’s only going to become more important as time goes on.

Part of the draw of freelancing is that there are many different disciplines within which you can be successful as a freelancer. Whether it’s journalism, consulting, photography, ridesharing, deliveries, or graphic design, there are many different ways that you can turn your own personal skills and talents into a full-time job, and indeed many people in freelancing spaces earn up to six figures when they’ve developed experience and a client base.

Indeed one of the best features about freelance is that you can work for multiple clients and, eventually, start being selective so that you’re only working for those clients that give you the best revenue and opportunities. The problem many freelancers face is knowing when they should take the plunge. It can be scary, striking out on your own where your livelihood also involves business development – if you don’t find your own clients then the money stops coming in. Choosing the right time to take that step is often key to your success at it.

How will you know if you’re ready for freelance?

There are a couple of indicators you should look for as a sign that you could probably strike out and find success as a freelancer:

1)     You’ve got an exceptional portfolio

To bring new clients into the fold, you’re going to need to be able to show them what you can do. Having a broad portfolio that will allow you to reach out to prospects in a wide range of different sectors is essential. If your portfolio is too narrow, it can be hard to find enough clients to retain your services.

2)     You’ve got a large contact base

It is much harder going freelance if you’re just starting out, then when you’ve been working in an industry for ten years and are well-known by everyone in it. It’s not impossible to be a successful freelancer from day one, but you’ll find that in most professional fields the successful freelancers have spent a decade (or longer) working for companies before deciding to strike out on their own.

3)     You know how much to charge

This is a big one – if you set the pricing expectations too low, you may think that you’re being clever in undercutting your competition, but not only will you come across as unprofessional, but you will also find that the other freelancers charge what they charge because it’s the sustainable rate, and what you’re charging is not. Meanwhile, if you charge too much, you might get away with it if you’re the only one able to do what you can do, but most clients will look elsewhere. You need to know what is a realistic, sustainable rate for your lifestyle, so you can also know if you can afford to go freelance.

4)     You have some money in the bank

You could take out a business loan, but then you’d be adding to your debts before you’ve even started. Going freelance is slow going for the first few months, if not years, and you need to have the resources available that allow you to focus on building your business without being worried how you’re going to pay rent that month.

5)     You’ve got a support network

Working by yourself can involve long hours and exhausting loneliness. You’ve got no co-workers to talk shop with and no one to collaborate on ideas with. Ideally you should have a strong social network behind you, and industry or startup associations in your area that you can join and business network with.

What does it cost to go freelance?

Assuming that you’ve got the equipment that you need to do a job, then you’re all set to go, with no further startup costs than that. A freelance writer needs a computer and the Internet. A freelance makeup artist needs a professional kit. A freelance driver or courier needs a vehicle. One of the great things about freelance life is that the actual costs of starting are minimal.

With that being said, you may also want to take some business courses, to understand how to run the business side of your job. Taking a short course in accounting or business management to understand the taxation implications of your work (remember – you are going to have to pay tax and, once you’re earning over $75,000/year, also collect GST) is particularly valuable, and understanding some basics about marketing, branding, web design and SEO can help you to get your name out and in front of potential customers.

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One final thing you might want to consider is to start your freelance work as a side hustle. While you enjoy the financial security and experience of stable, paid work, spend a couple of years working on your freelance gig in the evening or on weekends. This will help to start to build up a database of clients, get some referrals going, and allow you to establish your Internet presence so that when you decide to go full-time as a freelancer, the groundwork is already set and you’re going to be able to start earning revenue immediately.

With freelance jobs on the rise, now is the time to gain the skills that you need to participate in the gig economy. From building your business, to promoting yourself, or adding to the skills that you’re looking to freelance in, ICI courses have you covered. Click here for more information and to take your next career steps.

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.