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Driving the Disruption: The Rise of Professional Freelancing

Driving the Disruption: The Rise of Professional Freelancing

It’s quickly become easier than ever to find skilled, vetted freelancers for extra support on anything from IT infrastructure to content marketing. The move to hiring freelancers has become so common that we forget how recent this shift was made – and is still going on. Companies were not always as comfortable hiring freelancers, and there wasn’t always as large a pool of qualified freelancers to draw from. In fact, the disruption caused by the freelance workforce has been so significant that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has declared that we are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

So what is driving this disruption and why has the labor market changed? The immediate answer is advancements in technology. Technology has revolutionized everything from how we travel to how we communicate. WEF points to cloud technology and the mobile internet, as well as the sharing economy and crowdsourcing as two technological trends driving the fourth industrial revolution.

In the United States, two factors have come together to make the gig economy stronger than ever before: the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, colloquially known as Obamacare), and the rise of talent platforms.

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The Affordable Care Act

With the ACA, many Americans who had previously not had health insurance found themselves covered – and many other Americans who had been insured through their employers suddenly found new freedom in not having their health insurance tied to their jobs. That made many of them take the plunge into freelance work. The ACA freed many Americans from “job lock,” where the fear of being uninsured made them stay at jobs they didn’t want to be in. The ACA instead allowed them to choose how and where they wanted to work and some employees chose to move on to different jobs that they enjoyed more while others chose to work for themselves.

The Congressional Budget Office actually predicted this effect in its 2014 study of the ACA, stating “… the ACA could influence labor productivity indirectly by making it easier for some employees to obtain health insurance outside the workplace and thereby prompting those workers to take jobs that better match their skills, regardless of whether those jobs offered employment-based insurance.”

That same year, a graduate student named James Bailey tested a hypothesis about the Affordable Care Act; he examined whether 19- to 25-year-olds were more likely to work as freelancers if they were able to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans. His research showed that those with coverage were 2-3 times more likely to go into business for themselves than those without coverage.

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Also, after the ACA was implemented, it made more financial sense for companies to hire freelancers rather than provide insurance to full-time employees. In our 2016 research report The Rise of Blended Workforce in the New Gig Economy, we found that 74% of 600 HR decision makers said they would contract more freelancers as a result of the ACA. Further, an astounding 28% responded that they intend to hire a greater number of freelancers than full-time employees by 2020.

The ACA is simultaneously triggering companies to turn to freelancers, while also freeing many Americans to pursue their passions in their new independent careers. The result is the blended workforce – a perfect marriage of companies and freelancers, each satisfied with their arrangement.

The Rise of Talent Platforms

In addition to the ACA, the rise of talent platforms has made it easier than ever for companies to find the freelancers they need. Websites such as LinkedIn paved the way for more niche sites to match freelancers with work opportunities, and the online marketplace of the new gig economy is growing rapidly.

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As our 2016 study found, 38% of freelancers are now being sourced through freelance management and talent platforms. While general online job boards are still more popular at 43%, freelance management platforms are quickly narrowing that gap.

Such sites make it easy for companies to quickly find freelancers with the skills they need. Many outline the freelancer’s specialties, provide a portfolio of past work and include reviews from previous clients. This makes it quicker and easier than ever before for companies to find freelancers they can feel confident in hiring.

A McKinsey Global Institute report on the labor market outlines the many reasons that talent platforms are good for freelancers, companies, and the labor market. McKinsey estimates that by 2025, such platforms may add $2.7 trillion to global GDP and begin to improve many of the problems today’s labor markets face.

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How will these platforms add so much value to the economy? The McKinsey report suggests:

  • Talent platforms give job markets a boost. As these platforms grow, “they will become faster and more effective clearinghouses that can inject new momentum and transparency” to stalled job markets.
  • Talent platforms show which skills are in demand. This transparency may even inform people’s educational choices, steering them into in-demand professions. According to McKinsey, more effective spending on university education “could reduce some of the $89 billion misallocation we find in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.”

The freelance trend shows no signs of stopping, which demonstrates the ongoing need for talent platforms. As our 2016 research report found, one in five top performing firms say 40% of their labor force is already composed of freelancers and nearly half of top-performing firms intend to increase their hiring of freelancers by 30%. Successful companies are already hiring freelancers in droves and more companies are sure to follow – which makes talent platforms an invaluable resource.

This is no blip – the ACA and talent platforms have helped ensure the rise of the professional freelancer. If your company hasn’t already considered hiring freelancers, what are you waiting for?

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via image.shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on June 1, 2020

How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

There are thousands of free guides available online on how to start an online business. However, the most valuable lesson they never discuss is that starting a new business online is probably going to fail.

Successful professionals that excel at some point with a venture never gave up, had a passion for creating a meaningful service or product idea, and never stopped trying.

Starting a business is a great opportunity for anyone with a passion to work on something you never get tired of. If people like coming to you for advice or to help them with work-related tasks, then you have the necessary skills and experience to start a business.

In addition, if you have a curiosity about services and products, maybe you have the capacity and capabilities to create something more innovative.

In the next section, we will comprehensively examine the core elements in starting a business. They will not necessarily catapult you to create Google, Facebook, or Apple, but they will guide you on how to start an online business.

1. Remember That the Likelihood of Your Business Failing Is High

Building a product or service is a process that takes a lot of time, so do not think that successful CEOs did it with the snap of their fingers.

According to the Small Business Association (SBA), only 30 percent of businesses will fail in the first two years and 50 percent will probably stay open in the first five years.[1] It is something to think about when launching your online business.

However, this does not mean you should be discouraged, and it’s actually a valuable lesson to fail since it will give you clues on what to do right the next time.

2. Focus on Your Audience and Targeted Niche Market

One of the most difficult things is figuring out who your customers are and tailoring your product or service for them. Depending on your available resources and the size of your network, the scale of your venture will be contingent on this. Knowing your targeted niche is important in knowing how to start an online business.

If you are launching a business, will you go the retail route or create an online store? Will your service satisfy the needs of a startup, small business, enterprise, or corporation? There is no right or wrong answer.

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Think about your audience and what the size of your customer base will be. Without knowing your customers, you cannot start a business.

3. Conduct a Lot of Research and Examine the Segment of Your Potential Market

Depending on the sort of business, you will have to do hours of research and ask a lot of questions. It helps a lot to look at specific companies or businesses to get an idea of how they started.

This may be a daunting task for some, and there are other avenues to explore to assist you with building a business. The web has tons of resources and you can check out Fundera’s list of 50 tools to help grow your business.[2]

In addition, you must tap into a reliable business networking list of people to guide you on how to start an online business.

4. Tap Into the Reach of Social Media and Expand Your Message

Gone are the days of paying expensive advertising budgets. Thanks to social channels like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, businesses can advertise for free. On the other hand, you can spend and create marketing campaigns on those different platforms.

Figure out which one is best suited to your needs and where that audience is active. When your online business has figured out where its message has the most impact and when your customers are responding to your message, then you know you are in the right place.

5. Network With Influencers and Brand Your Company on an Optimized Blog

Depending on the size of the organization and the number of employees, you may need to consider networking in the initial phases. If you want to know how to start an online business, then you should also learn how to network with influencers.

Social media is a valuable tool, and you can reach out to brand influencers depending on the line of products or services you wish to promote. Gone are the days of just putting an advertisement campaign and expecting a big return. Instead, you now have to create partnerships and blog about your branded efforts.

Make sure you have an optimized blog with search engine optimization (SEO) tools built-in, so you can focus on attracting customers and followers.

6. Create a Monetization Plan Tailored to Your Products and Services

Whether you are a startup, small business, enterprise, or a large company, you have to be strategic with your company efforts. Do you have an omni-channel strategy in place to attract clients and potential business?

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In other words, you must have the integration with your site and selected social media channels to generate revenue from products or services.

Believe it or not, not having a clear investment plan on how you will generate business is one factor often overlooked by starting businesses. The technology is there and depending on your institutional resources, you will have to look at a couple of vendors to see which one gets you the best value for your company.

7. Monitor Your Progress and Schedule Meetings Weekly

When your business is live online, you need to monitor progress. You must look at your data, key performance indicators (KPIs), and financials to see how your company is progressing over time.

This is a very different mindset when you are in a large company, but an average-sized online business has to do housekeeping procedures. The products or services advertised online are just one part of the equation.

Are you attracting customers? Are your interactions with clients translating to transactions or conversion?

These questions can only be answered by looking at your data and financial statements. When you can compare both, you will have an excellent understanding of the current state of affairs.

8. Once You Have Refined Your Online Product or Service, Officially Launch Your Business

Once you have more or less found the online product or service to serve customers, you are ready for prime time.

As long as your monetization plan lines up carefully with your investment, you can go live with your business. This can be in the form of an official announcement via your site, hosting a live event, or reaching out to media outlets to plug your company launch.

There is no right or wrong way to go about his process. But make sure that the state of the company propels you to launch the online service or product.

9. Once Your Business is Growing, Retain Customers and Attract New Ones

Having customers at the beginning is crucial for an online business. In fact, it is important for any business period.

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For the customers who have decided to adopt or buy your service, make sure you are delivering above and beyond customer service. They will not only continue to buy services, but they will also likely recommend your service to others. So, go the extra mile to thank them for their business.

If possible, develop perks programs and giveaways since customers enjoy the red carpet and celebrity treatment.

10. Use Social Media Networks Ethically and Steer Away From Shady Business Practices

It is tempting to use several social media platforms and buy fake followers. The problem is if the business is a lot bigger than it seems, it will come back to haunt you.

There is nothing more embarrassing or outright unprofessional than having thousands of followers who never interact with the posts you share. Unfortunately, social media has lost credibility when it comes to building fake followers and fake news. So, do not fall in the trap of trying to grow your brand artificially.

Aim for organic followers. This means having real customers following you and engaging your brand in authentic ways.

11. Continue Tracking the Results of the Business

Meetings are essential to tracking the state of affairs and the state of your staff. These meetings should also include tracking the performance as a result of your online business (product or service).

Are the results positive? Are they negative? Are they producing productive results?

Analytics is vital to understanding how the business is performing, so make sure you can get a snapshot of where you are at. Successful businesses cover their tracks and that includes looking at the bottom line performance of their product or service.

12. Utilize Search Engines to Attract Targeted Customers to Your Site

There are advertising systems and price tiers for the different social networks, but search engines like Google and Bing are still important.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is offered in tiers through the Google search engine and Microsoft’s search engine Bing. This remains one of the simplest and most effective ways to generate traffic to a brand new site.

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As reported by Entrepreneur, the PPC offers two advantages. One advantage is that PPC ads show up on the search pages right away. The second one is it allows you as a business to test different keywords including headlines, prices, and selling approaches.[3]

13. Provide Expert Advice and Testimony Through Different Mediums

It can be challenging to get brand visibility when you are a brand business. However, if you have some significant knowledge and expertise in your company product or service, you should offer insight. This means you can publish a blog post with powerful visuals, an infographic, a webinar, a YouTube video, etc.

The idea is to plug your service but make it an interesting testimony that tells a story. It is not enough to tell the story of your product, but you have to connect with popular culture if possible.

Be creative and take risks because that may be the difference between success and failure.

14. An Online Business Cannot Succeed Without Effective Email Marketing Strategies

When you are compiling customer data, one of the most valuable pieces of information is a phone number and particularly an email address.

With an email, you can build an opt-in list. This list allows you to create newsletters or announcements to be sent to their inbox for exclusive offers.

You can set up a provider or a third party to analyze customer interactions with your email offers. What it will provide your business is cost opportunity and it is cheaper than print, TV, or radio.

Final Thoughts

After you have found your calling in building a product or service, start putting the building stones to create your service and product. It needs to solve a problem that no other business offers. If you are about solving problems, an online business is a right venture for you.

Launching an online business is a complicated undertaking, so do not expect instant results. Building a successful online business takes time, investing money, and developing a service that makes a profit.

Finally, make sure you have the available resources and a reliable team that will accompany you throughout your journey. They need to be loyal and have to bring something unique to your big idea.

Take risks and fail early because these experiences are the foundations for launching a successful company.

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Featured photo credit: Olu Eletu via unsplash.com

Reference

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