The vast ramifications of the pandemic – both the beginning of and the emergence through it – are well-known. It uprooted every part of our lives, including everything we thought we knew about our work, workplaces, and livelihoods, and has had a massive impact on the freelance and gig-worker communities. Over the last few years, the gig economy was on the rise, but in the wake of the unprecedented unemployment rate, even more people have increasingly turned to freelance or solopreneurship.
The New (Digital) World: Freelancing is Here to Stay
Last year, those who found themselves victims of record-breaking unemployment rates had to explore creative ways to generate income. In many cases, they looked to their hobbies as inspiration for their next full-time job and entered the world of freelancing, or solopreneurship. In fact, in the U.S. alone, 36% of the U.S. workforce explored freelancing.
Additionally, Yelp found that in the first eight months of the pandemic, almost 100,000 businesses shut down. At the same time, there was a 10% increase in new solopreneur businesses specializing in homemade goods. Etsy compared their 2020 and 2019 data and found that in the third quarter of 2020 there was a 42% increase in new sellers.
Here at Domain.ME we also like to lean on the numbers to give us a sense of the direction the world is heading toward. To that end, we compared the number of registered domain names for freelance and related activities for the periods between March 2020 – March 2021 and March 2019 – March 2020. Driven by the staggering changes we were seeing elsewhere, we took a look at the keywords on registered .ME websites that were created during those periods and noticed the following:
- Freelance related websites increased by 9.15%
- E-learning websites increased by 6.75%
- Online course content increased by 13.26%
- Webinar related websites increased by 35.30%
- Ecommerce websites increased by 80.80%
- Developer related websites increased by 14.53%
- UX designer related websites increased by 15.06%
- At home appeared on homepages 10.90% more
What are these numbers telling us? Freelancing and the gig economy overall are indeed on the rise. In fact, compared to before the pandemic, 53% of freelancers believe the demand for their services will increase.
So as a new freelancer, how do you distinguish yourself in this rising market?
Take Care of Your Personal Brand
Think of your personal brand as a password that opens all the doors. If curated well, a personal brand will help you land a job. If not, well, someone else will land it.
Why is a personal brand so important? A personal brand tells your clients who you are and what you stand for, and it does so in small, and perhaps, unnoticeable ways. It is the way you present yourself – from a brief description of who you are and what you do, to your portfolio and social media. It is the message you are sending to prospective clients. And hopefully, it’s one that resonates with them and helps you win new business. If not, it’s time to do something about it.
How can one take care of their personal brand? Take a look at your target clients, and ask yourself: who are they, what do they stand for, what type of people do they employ, interact with, etc. Then look at your personal website or social media profiles to compare how well you do (or don’t) align with the answers about your target clients.
Create an Online Portfolio
Having a personal website is where you can show just what you are made of, without the strict templates that social media accounts provide. Beyond the creative benefits they afford, it’s a chance to demonstrate to potential clients that you mean business. After all, if you won’t go the extra mile for your own business, how can they expect you to do that for them? Showing your services, past projects, references, and skills is the first step in telling your story.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, more and more companies around the world are employing consultants and freelancers on a project basis, or to help them out with their workload in general. Take care to define your authentic personal brand, and go beyond your social accounts, business cards, or the PDF slide deck (that you hope won’t get flagged as spam) to show clients who you are.
With the growing freelance community and understaffed in-house teams, business is yours for the taking.
Tijana Ostojic is a marketing specialist at Domain.ME.