Embracing the Freelance Economy: A Guide to Independent Success

Leveraging Expertise and Influence in a Freelance Career

The traditional model of long-term employment at a single company is less relevant today, moving towards a new era where freelancing and independent work are becoming more of an option.

With the shift toward a freelance economy, professionals are now seeking the autonomy that it offers, desiring not only flexibility and freedom but also the opportunity to pursue work that is meaningful, leverages their expertise and aligns with their strengths.

Freelancers could make up half of the U.S. workforce by 2027, a trend driven by professionals seeking a meaningful work life and employers' need for specialised talent on an on-demand basis.

This freelance ecosystem presents a compelling proposition: it allows individuals to carve out their careers, emphasising their unique strengths and talents while granting businesses access to a pool of skilled workers without a long-term commitment.

Understanding and Utilising Your Unique Strengths in Freelancing

Marcus Buckingham, a leadership expert and the author of "Nine Lies About Work," offers a vital perspective for freelancers — understand the distinction between strengths and skills.

Strengths, as he defines them, are the activities that energise us, even if we could be more proficient at them.

On the other hand, skills are competencies we may possess but do not necessarily invigorate us. Recognising and leveraging your strengths — the elements that not only excite you but also enable you to produce your best work will give you greater leverage in the freelance economy.

Vanessa Bohns' insights in "You Have More Influence Than You Think" dovetail perfectly with Buckingham's concept. Bohns' research underscores that people often undervalue the influence they wield.

Every freelancer has the potential to make a significant impact through their work and interactions, and realising this can be a game-changer, enriching their communications and expertise with greater purpose and conviction.

Niche Expertise: The Key to Freelance Prosperity

It's hard not to keep emphasising how essential it is to hone the skills that are both rare and valuable. David C. Baker, in his book "The Business of Expertise," suggests that establishing and sharing your expertise, perhaps through valuable content on LinkedIn or your website, will help to attract clients who perceive and need your specific value.

Focus is your key to building expertise, helping you to recognise patterns and effectively communicate your value to prospective clients. Having a website and writing content allows you to gain a better perspective on where your interests lie. The same goes for your exploration on LinkedIn, who you follow and how you contribute.

Patrick McKenzie, a software entrepreneur and advisor, extends this concept to articulating accomplishments. He recommends framing your professional achievements regarding the business value created, such as increasing revenue or decreasing costs. This practice is crucial not just for those in technology but across all disciplines within the freelance community.

Communicating and Delivering Value

Freelancers can continue to develop their strengths and expertise but also develop and master other essential aspects of running a freelance business. One vital skill is learning to communicate their value through showcasing a robust portfolio, developing their point of view through writing articles and podcasts, and clearly defining their ideal client.

As Baker emphasises, providing helpful content positions you as an expert and acts as a filter to attract better clients.

Furthermore, exceeding client expectations by creatively solving problems and consistently delivering outstanding results will reinforce your expertise and foster enduring client relationships.

McKenzie echoes this sentiment by advising freelancers to focus on enabling the "job to be done," thus becoming a strategic partner rather than a mere executor of tasks.

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Building Relationships and Embracing the Lifestyle

Building on a foundation of strong client relationships, going above and beyond on projects and showing genuine interest in clients' challenges, you position yourself as an indispensable advisor.

These social connections and goodwill are invaluable, especially across economic cycles.

Moreover, freelancing offers the freedom to achieve work-life integration, enabling professionals to blend their work with personal interests and values, resulting in a more fulfilling and holistic lifestyle.

A Symbiotic Relationship of Strength, Skills, and Influence

Fusing the concepts from Bohns, Buckingham, Baker, and McKenzie provides a comprehensive blueprint for freelancers.

By recognising their underrated influence, prioritising their strengths, developing rare and valuable skills, and effectively communicating and delivering value, freelancers can carve out a successful and fulfilling career.

Such a strategic approach to freelancing enables professionals to build a reputation that resonates with their values and professional aspirations, ensuring they are "so good they can't ignore you."

Notes

  • Buckingham, M., & Goodall, A. (2019). Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World. Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Cal Newport, So Good They Can't Ignore You.
  • Bohns, Vanessa K. (2021). You Have More Influence Than You Think: How We Underestimate Our Power of Persuasion, and Why It Matters
  • Baker, D. C. (2023, January 11). How to build a thriving business around your expertise. I Want To Know Podcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5nBEPmBoNo
  • McKenzie, P. (2011, October 29) Don't call yourself a programmer. Kalzumeus Software.https://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-programmer/

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