Hot Industries for Freelancers
I recently connected with Kristen I. Sabol, communications specialist at Guru.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for freelance talent. With more than 1 million registered members (a combination of employers and freelancers) and 125,000 plus active freelancer profiles, no resource, in my opinion, is better equipped to offer advice to aspiring freelancers.
Below are the highlights of my exchange with Kristen.
Hot Industries for Freelancers
An Interview with Kristen I. Sabol, Communications Specialist at Guru.com
What specializations present the greatest opportunities for freelancers today?
Site-wide, Guru.com offers opportunities in more than 160 different skill categories. The site has traditionally witnessed the greatest amount of activity in the following categories:
- Website Design
- Website Marketing
- Programming/Software/Database Development
After these fields, we also see a high demand for:
- Graphic Design
How competitive are these categories?
That’s a good question! While it is true that these areas see the most activity on the site, the ratio of available freelance talent to available project listings needs to be considered as this balance has great impact on how competitive a category may be.
These ratios are in constant flux as new projects are posted and awarded out to talent on a rolling basis, but if we look at a particular day in early February 2009, we can see that 16,678 Website Design / Website Marketing freelancers were listed as active; while a total of 1,537 Website Design / Website Marketing projects were listed as open for bidding. And, 23,217 Programming /Software/ Database Development freelancers were listed as active; while a total of 1,144 Programming /Software / Database Development projects were open for bidding. So it’s safe to say that today the Website Design / Website Marketing category offers greater opportunity and less competition!
In the most competitive categories, aspiring freelance moms need to take the competitive landscape to heart. Succeeding as a freelancer in these fields will require working very hard to market your skills and expertise. In order to beat the competition and win work, you cannot have a passive mindset. Getting started in these categories will take lots of dedication and attention.
What general trends are you seeing in the freelance industry?
Overall, we currently have about 125,000 active freelancers and approximately 5,200 project listings. However, as the economy continues to weaken, we are seeing both numbers rise quickly. From 2007 to 2008, we had a 25 percent increase in new freelancer registrations and a 27 percent increase in transactions completed on the site.
What advice can you offer to new freelancers?
Freelancing in many ways is about taking complete responsibility for your own fate. Freelancers should not expect any online marketplace to instantly bring success. You have to create your own success, and that only happens if you really want to be successful. Guru.com presents opportunities, but a freelancer’s success is dependent on what they choose to do to capture and build upon these opportunities individually.
The Resource Center on Guru.com houses a large body of documents including how-to guides that orient users to the site; brief tips and reminders to keep them sharp and on their toes; and general documents that provide lots of information about how to approach freelancing in an online marketplace setting like ours. All new freelancers should peruse this information before getting started.
In terms of some of the most important steps a freelancer can take when conducting business on Guru.com, I’d say new freelancers should start by creating a detailed profile as well as a resume that highlights their skills. Then, they should be sure to upload work samples that showcase their skills and work.
Once a freelancer begins to propose solutions to employers, they should be sure to personalize each proposal to the employer’s needs. Employers are not only looking for someone with the skill set they asked for, they are looking for someone who is in sync with their thoughts about the project. If you send a canned response that does not speak about their project or organization, you are sending the message that you don’t care or have the time to communicate with them.
Focus on the quality of proposals submitted over the quantity of proposals submitted. Make sure all your documents are free of spelling and grammatical errors. Though the work you may be bidding on does not require you to be an expert in grammar, the person reviewing your proposal will likely perceive you as a poor communicator if your proposal and profile are lacking in the proper grammatical structures.
And don’t let rejections deter you. Securing work of any kind is a tough business. For every twenty or more proposals you send out, you may receive one response. Dealing with that type of rejection takes resilience, and the more you have of it, the better off you will be in the independent contractor world.
Finally, make sure you complete all projects assigned to you in the most professional and time-conscious manner. Good credentials and a well-developed track-record go a long way to securing future projects. Research has shown that 60 to 75 percent of the jobs filled today are filled through referrals. So be sure you produce referral-worthy work!
Every time you successfully complete a project remember to ask the Employer to endorse you, so others in his or her Guru.com Network will see you as a recommended freelancer.
Why should aspiring freelance moms participate in an online marketplace for freelance talent like Guru.com?
Using a site like Guru.com offers aspiring freelance moms great benefits in terms flexibility, structure and protection.
When it comes to flexibility, the range of opportunities on the site allows moms to choose the kind of work that suits them best, whether that is short-term projects with flexible deadlines or longer term initiatives that require intense focus for a period of time. All opportunities posted also allow freelancers to work remotely. And how much work or stress one takes on at any given point is really under one’s own control and at the discretion of each individual according to their personal business-development goals.
In terms of structure, Guru.com includes tools that can help a mom manage her freelance business from start to finish-from searching for opportunities, placing bids on the ones she wants and detailing a project agreement-to managing work completion, payment and feedback. Each freelancer account also includes a Project Tracker that can help a freelancer oversee multiple projects at once.
Finally, Guru.com is extremely devoted to the security and protection of our users. When work is contracted through our site, transactions take place through our patented SafePay system which includes an escrow service for guaranteed payment upon work completion. This service is extremely valuable as it also includes access to our team of mediation and arbitration experts should a disagreement or other problem ever arises between a freelancer and an employer.