If there has been any single cultural change to the freelance community over the past few years, it would be the misconception that freelancers are just biding their time until they get a “proper job”. The days of freelancers needing to prove themselves as legitimate workers are long behind us, with many opting to leave the cycle of the nine-to-five. Instead, freelancers are forging their own paths, building their own futures and tapping into a community of like-minded enthusiasts, working towards the same goal.
One such person is Elina Jutelyte, a highly successful freelancer that suffered the trials and tribulations of building a thriving career on her own. Like many of her contemporary workers, she realised that the corporate world of office jobs was limiting her creativity and her opportunities for growth. Since, she has founded the Freelance Business Community, a nexus between freelancers, freelance job givers, solutions and products providers targeting independent professionals.
To find out more about Elina’s story and how she created the Freelance Business Community, listen to her interview on the Outvise Insights podcast. You can access this episode wherever you get your podcasts: Apple, Google or Spotify. Or, for the essential insights, keep reading.
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What motivates people to pursue freelance careers?
One of Elina’s greatest motivations for pursuing this path was realising that the traditional work paradigm bored her. The same can be said for many who were pushed into the world of steady jobs, lured by the promise of stability and growth within a single company. Yet, the lure of stability rarely fosters an emotional relationship with the work. Freelancers, by contrast, rely on relationships to drive success. For clients, Elina and many others in her community have come to realise that this mode of working can offer more dynamism, and subsequently, value.
Within the typical corporate structure, it is very common for projects and clients to be dealt with by managers who do not have the time or inclination to build close relationships. There can often be a disconnect between what the client wants to achieve and what the company is capable of, largely due to the organisational structure of large companies. Middle managers who are responsible for seeing the project go forward are not in the position to nurture customer success, because they are stretched between organisational pressures from above and below.
Equally, for workers within the corporate structure, there can be a limit to the amount they are able to express themselves in large companies. Therefore, people are jumping at the chance to go after more exciting and interesting opportunities – that is, the things they really care about. By going it alone as a freelancer, you become free to explore projects and clients that fit your schedule, expertise and areas of interest more. This is beneficial to both you and the potential client, who knows that they are working with someone with a genuine passion for the project and a desire to develop their knowledge.
How can people move from a traditional career to freelance?
Many people break into the world of freelancing slowly, by using it as a side gig or moonlighting. This is a good approach to testing the freelancing water, to make sure it is something you feel capable of doing before diving in completely. Not only that, it is also an excellent way to supplement the income from your day job.
From there, many people who have dipped their toes into the world of freelancing realise that there are more options out there for them. When people make the decision to break out of the corporate world there are a number of different paths they can choose. There weren’t the same opportunities for support and growth in the field 10 or 20 years ago as there are today. Nowadays, one of the best ways to get out there as a freelancer is through the many digital platforms that exist to be able to make connections with potential clients.
However, one of the issues for the freelance community has been the market saturation one can find there. In particular, it can be hard to break into the market on some of the larger platforms due to a high number of freelancers with established client bases already operating. Furthermore, if you do break into these communities you may have to be more competitive on price than you would expect.
Thankfully, these days there are many more talent marketplaces out there where people can find their own specialisations. For example, a developer could try Gun.io or Torc.dev, places that are more suited to the industry and offer a more tailored approach. For freelancers looking for something more at the business end, then our own Outvise.com would be the place to go for project management or consultancy services.
Another noticeable feature of talent platforms is that today, one can find many more people with senior roles and skills than before. This is indicative of the lucrative possibilities that can be found in going freelance. It shows that traditional office work often no longer provides the chances for growth that can be found by going it alone.
One aspect of the growth of workers in the freelance community at different levels is the different labels people attach to themselves and their work. For example, it is common for those in more senior positions to shy away from using ‘freelance’ as a label, instead opting for “expert”, “consultant”, or “independent professional”. There are many in the freelance community who feel the word freelance should be used more universally as it adds more credence and legitimacy. This is primarily because as a lifestyle choice, going freelance is becoming a lot more mainstream and accepted in the business sector.
How does a freelancer earn money?
One thing a freelancer must establish from the outset is their pricing structure. Being smart about your pricing structure will ensure that you earn a higher income based on office work immediately. Freelancers should delineate a pricing strategy early on in their career to not be left surprised by potential lost income.
This should take into account whether you will charge by the hour, day, a fixed fee per project, or whether you charge a retainer or not. As this blog post explains, this can depend on the kind of work and how well-defined the deliverables are. If you expect more changes down the line, it makes more sense to charge an hourly or daily rate. However, if the outcomes are well known, then it can be beneficial to both parties to charge a fixed rate for the entire project.
Another thing to be mindful of is that tax issues may come back to bite you if you don’t deal with them at the beginning. Many freelancers, including Elina Jutelyte, go into the world without proper advice. If possible, hire an accountant to advise you of tax issues in the country where you live. Many talent platforms and invoicing services can provide tax advice at a reasonable price. Bear in mind that when you charge a client, a percentage of that must always be kept aside for tax authorities.
How does a freelancer work?
A freelancer basically has the freedom to work however they want to. There are of course some tax requirements but apart from that, there are no rules. This of course offers people flexibility that they never could have imagined in the corporate world; you work when you want, where you want, on what you want. It gives a tremendous amount of dynamism and balance to your career. That being said, it can be useful to set some guidelines for yourself before embarking on a new career like this to avoid falling into some common pitfalls.
One common pitfall is choosing clients that aren’t a good match. Particularly early on in your freelance career, it may be hard to say no to any client that comes along as you work to make a steady income. However, when you have the luxury of being able to focus on your passion projects, it is essential that you work with people who can bring out the best in you. With them, you can express yourself more freely; after all, part of the reason why people ditch the nine-to-five is that the creative process there can be very limited. Working on and executing amazing projects inspires you to go further.
A poorly matched client will often end up not trusting your expertise and be breathing down your neck for the duration of the project. These kinds of collaborations can be doomed from the beginning. One good piece of advice is to create a list of client red flags; the qualities and aims that do not align with your own.
Another common pitfall is relying too much on one client. No matter how good the work and how steady it may seem, the client may need to cancel at any moment leaving you surprised and without any fixed income. They may run into financial problems or they may have different aims from when they started out. Constantly finding new projects and new clients must therefore be the name of the game. It is not always going to be straightforward and easy. Finding a freelance community can help with the struggle to find consistent opportunities.
New freelancers who have recently broken out of the corporate structure and gone it alone can often feel a bit lonely. This is particularly evident when working from home, often with non-fixed hours and without any colleagues around. After all, humans are social creatures. We adapt and collaborate in tandem with others and feed off others’ energy.
This is where communities such as Elina’s Freelance Business Community come in. People with the same issues and concerns can come together to communicate, share ideas and troubleshoot issues together. Elina also organises the annual Freelance Business Month every October as the go-to event for any freelancer looking to gain knowledge, expertise, and expand their network. But what are the key benefits of these communities? And how are they different from traditional colleague relationships?
What do you want most out of a freelance community?
A freelance community exists mostly as a place that facilitates social activity between freelancers. The benefit here is that that activity has a focus and is different to other social media like Twitter and Instagram. They can be places where events happen to connect people who work in this way and to foster connections and create networks. They can also exist as support networks for people who are finding freelance life difficult.
For instance, one thing that may put off newcomers is the lack of social protection, health insurance, pensions and other benefits offered by companies in a full-time contract. Freelance communities provide a place where people can support each other through all of these issues. It’s also quite simply a great way to meet like-minded people, make new business connections, and even a few friends.
What’s more, the benefits aren’t one-sided: freelancer communities can also be beneficial for companies looking to employ experts. For example, it can be fertile ground for headhunting, offering an informal forum for businesses to advertise the skills they are looking for. Subsequently, they can offer promising candidates information about the application route.
New ways of working require newer ways of connecting
Joining a freelancer community can offer a lot of benefits. Whether you are a beginner just getting off the ground and are looking for advice on finding your first client, or are a seasoned expert with a roster of customers, communities like these are a form of connecting with other humans in an industry that often prioritises solo productivity. Remember, you can hear Elina explain more about her community on the Outvise Insights.
From one community to another, Outvise offers freelance experts the opportunity to join a community where they have access to high-calibre clients and projects. If you’re new to the game or an experienced freelancer, send over your credentials to Outvise today. It could be the gateway to finding clients that click with you, driving your passion for your projects.
Founder of Freelance Business Community, renowned for her role in organising the Freelance Business Month. With nearly two decades of experience in B2B and association event management, she is a senior event marketing and operations executive. Her passion for technology, combined with extensive global event project experience, allows her to excel in the world of online events. When she's not immersed in the event world, she enjoys sharing her insights as a public speaker and contributing to industry publications.