Why 2013 is the time to go freelance
Are you scared to take the step into the unknown world of freelance? Xenios Thrasyvoulou, CEO of online freelance marketplace PeoplePerHour explains why there has never been a better time to join the revolution
BIO: Xenios Thrasyvoulou is the founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour, an online marketplace connecting small businesses with a pool of highly skilled freelancers. He is a passionate PPHer, avid blogger, lover of art, design, and
all things quirky and minimal.
It’s hardly in rude health, but Britain’s economy is finally growing again. Unemployment is falling as jobs are being created, but the jobs market that’s emerging from the recession is not the same as the one that went into it. The way people work, where they work, and how they work have all been changed beyond recognition by the economic trauma. A quiet revolution is underway, and web designers are at the forefront of it. Web designers’ skills – portable, transferable and perfectly suited to remote working – have always made them poster children for flexible working. But now the changing shape of Britain’s workforce is benefitting them more than most.
The biggest change in the labour market in the past few years is the explosion in the number of self-employed people. Official government data released in November revealed that their ranks have swelled by 25 per cent since the financial crisis hit in 2008. The self-employed now account for a record 14 per cent of Britain’s workforce, according to a separate study by the Financial Times.
People start working for themselves for a variety of reasons. Some resort to self-employment because they cannot find conventional jobs. Others find their inner entrepreneur after spotting opportunities in a recession. Many just prefer the freedom that comes with being your own boss; the flexible hours or the chance to work from home.
If workers’ attitudes to self-employment have changed, so too have those of employers. With business confidence still fragile at best, there has been a huge increase in companies hiring freelancers, rather than taking on full-time staff.
From their point of view, freelancers are the ultimate in flexible workers – they can complete agreed tasks for an agreed fee, and there is no obligation to keep them on afterwards.
This is a model that’s particularly well suited to web designers. A good designer can work from anywhere, without supervision – and there’s a steadily growing pool of talented designers and programmers who prefer to work freelance.
We’ve certainly seen this growth at PeoplePerHour. The number of web designers registered on our online freelance marketplace has shot up 88 per cent in the past year alone.
Of the 342,000 freelancers using us to sell their services, 37,000 are web designers – more than any other profession.
Working freelance makes sense for web designers. In a field where short projects can come thick and fast, they can work on several projects at once. They can work from home, at hours that suit.
Web designing is a natural fit for freelancing, but that doesn’t mean all web designers are great freelancers. However, with a bit of thought, careful planning, and plenty of hard work, they can be.
Clearly, building yourself a clean, slick website is the perfect place to start. What better shop window can there be for your skills? Make sure that you include some suitably glowing client testimonials, and provide a portfolio that shows a variety of past projects to highlight the full range of your work.
If you have time, you could do some pro bono work for a charity or a local school’s website to boost both the size of your portfolio and show off your social conscience.
You should also blog and tweet regularly to keep your SEO rating high. You shouldn’t just be writing about your own projects – any website that has caught your eye, or interesting developments in the industry can be a source of inspiration. This sort of constant marketing will stand you in good stead for the lean periods.
Equally, you should never turn work down – or at least not without careful consideration. A client who is turned down is unlikely to ask again. Think why you are rejecting the offer: if it’s the fee, negotiate harder. If it’s the nature of the work, remember that it could open the door to projects that are of more interest. When you do get the gig, make sure you agree all terms and timescales before you start work!
Perhaps the hardest part is gauging what to charge. Price a job too low and you’ll feel you are working for nothing; set it too high and the order book will soon dry up.
Make sure you keep on top of invoicing – use a standard format and bill clients little and often. This will reduce the risk of bills going unpaid. Remember, no work is ‘complete’ until it is paid for.
Since the dawn of the internet, businesses have been happy to outsource much of their web development and design. While the first beneficiaries were web design agencies, now it’s just as easy for individual web designers to sell their services directly to clients.
More Britons are freelancing than ever before. As an ever-growing portion of the population switches to self-employment, it’s clearly a case of where web designers lead, the rest will follow.