The rise of the gig economy has been one of the overarching characteristics of the labor market in recent years. In the United States, for example, freelancers now represent over one-third of the workforce. The numbers are similar in other advanced economies. Importantly, many of the areas with the fastest-growing demand for freelancers require highly-skilled and educated individuals.
Naturally, technology is evolving to support the market demand. Platforms like Freelancer.com, Fiverr, and Upwork have evolved into vast ecosystems, allowing millions of freelancers to promote themselves, find work, new skills, and new opportunities. These platforms, particularly during the pandemic lockdowns, were a lifeline for freelancers, opening up a world of work. For employers, it offers a sense of dynamism and flexibility.
And yet, that’s a double-edged sword. Just as the web-focused freelancer market is an opportunity for gig workers, it also deepens the talent pool. You are often operating in a global marketplace, and it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. A candidate from London could be up against people from Lahore, Lagos, and Lima. And that global marketplace fuels the competition among freelancers, especially due to the fact that cost-of-living dynamics mean it’s possible for businesses to hire talent for cheaper in the global marketplace.
But before the discussion over remuneration can begin, you need to get spotted. Below we look at some ideas that can help you stand out from the crowd as a freelancer:
- Create Your Own Website
A personal website can provide several benefits for a freelancer. Perhaps most importantly, it lends a sense of authority to your candidacy for a job. A link to your website can be placed in a bio, and you can also bring it to the attention of a prospective employer in the application so that they can see examples of your work. Of course, once they land on your website, it should look professional and catch the eye. Design is just as crucial as the content you put on there, so be sure to research ideas for website design inspiration before settling on how the site will look to prospective employers.
- A Tailored Pitch
A job posting on Fiverr or Upwork can have hundreds of responses within a few minutes, many of which read like a template for any role. Getting in early is good, of course, but candidates that take some time to draft a response specifically for that role can stand out. You can highlight things about the company, pinpointing specifically why you want the job and why you’d be a good fit. Personalization can also be achieved with the use of the employer’s (or agent’s) name: “Dear Jack/Jenny” is always going to be more eye-catching than a robotic “Dear Sir/Madam”. At the very least, it will prove that you have read the job post attentively.
It’s natural that employers will look for previous experience when considering a candidate. Even a great pitch can be let down by a lack of a track record. This can be particularly problematic on hiring platforms, as candidates are often given rating systems based on jobs completed on that specific platform. There are, however, some solutions, including providing links to testimonials from ‘off-platform’ jobs completed. If you are coming directly from school or college, these testimonials can come from teachers or professors. This information can be housed on a website, as mentioned in step one.
- Creative Bidding Process
This is perhaps the most controversial step. As mentioned, the bidding process for freelance jobs can be competitive, cut-throat even. The most common advice that you will see is to start low by bidding undervalue for your first few jobs so that you can build a work history on the platform (step three above). However, this comes with several caveats. For a start, there is a natural tendency for employers to believe that low bids equate to low-quality work. Your messaging must get across that you view this as an opportunity to prove your worth, not that you are settling for a low rate of remuneration. If you make contact, make clear that you would like to revisit the rate of pay – even after the first job. Contrary to opinion, employers are more concerned with quality and reliability than the cheapest job possible.
- Take Matters Into Your Own Hands
It might sound blunt, but many employers will find it a slog to trawl through dozens – perhaps 100s – of applications. They will often want something to jump out at them. You can achieve that by taking the extra step and contacting them directly. Now, this is a subtle art, and it’s not always possible, as it will depend on the employer, the job, and the platform. But it can be possible to send a direct message or email, highlighting your candidacy and your suitability for the role. In addition, most hiring platforms do offer tiered accounts to allow you to promote yourself to the top of the pile. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for the privilege.
- Miscellaneous Advice
There are numerous other ways that can help you stand out from the crowd. For a start, candidates with a profile picture are more likely to be hired than those without. Many psychological studies have shown that appearances count for a lot in online hiring, so make sure it’s a ‘good’ photo. Secondly, try to find a balance between making your pitch and providing too much detail: no employer will want to read 1000s of words on your work history. Finally, there is a fine line between astute self-promotion and aggressively selling yourself ad nauseam. Finding where that line is will set you apart from rival candidates, whereas overstepping it will make you stand out for the wrong reasons.