Once upon a time, freelancing was but a dream for the inexperienced innovator. Back in the day, to go it alone you had to be two things - 1) The absolute best in your field and 2) Highly connected with strong recommendations. Then the internet changed everything, and now anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can have a go at contracting. Those of us that have been in the business for years are finding ourselves outrun by tech-savvy try-hards and it's infuriating... Why let them steal the work just because they know how to format their smartphone?
Trying to keep up? Here's how to translate your current resources in to the tools you'll need to keep up with the New Age.
Then - The Rolodex
The Rolodex (Filofax, Little Black Book, whatever) used to be a businessman's best kept secret - A stack full of key contacts to use and trade at will. Keeping your contacts list full and functioning was the key to your success, with a wide net of connections the lifeblood of your income.
Now - LinkedIn
The phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know" has been somewhat devalued by the internet. With the current day professional's contacts translated to the LinkedIn profile, you can no longer hold your cards close to your chest. LinkedIn came along and digitalised your network, meaning now everyone can browse through your list of links, but it's an invaluable resource nonetheless. If you're not on LinkedIn, you need to be. It's time to throw that relic Rolodex away.
Then - Conferences
A healthy calendar used to make for a happy freelancer, with most work won at meetings and conferences, but that's not how the modern mogul makes their connections.
Now - Industry Forums/Twitter
With the smartphone came the ability to browse on the go, and so most of us now find ourselves keeping up to date with our industries' online articles while commuting or waiting in coffee-shop queues. You can now foster new relationships and contacts with common professional interests via the comments section, or being active on industry forums/Twitter. Networking can almost be done completely online now, making those calendar dates pale in comparison to the instant, real time interactions offered online.
Then - Word Of Mouth/Recommendation
I don't have to tell you that your reputation is your main tool in freelancing. Ten years ago, you needed letters of recommendation to speak for you and your work to be easily accessible for future clients to coo over. But the paper portfolio has passed the torch to the modern-day internet equivalent...
Now - Online Rating
Al-la TripAdvisor, it's rare that a new client will consider you unless you have a strong online rating. This can be incredibly daunting for new or newly-online professional, but it's a must-have. You wouldn't use a poorly rated eBay seller, and it's the same for freelancing. One of the strongest applications of my website PeoplePerHour is the ability for the freelancers to receive star ratings from clients they've won work from, and it's as quick as clicking a button. We also refresh our "Top Talent" list monthly, meaning that even the newest freelancer can reach the peak of the pile, fast. We like to make sure that the truly talented are what our clients are getting. Keeping up to date and maintaining quality work is the ethos of all of our most successful freelancers.
Then - The Secretary
Preferring the term "Administrative assistant", the secretary has become something of an outdated anomaly. You no longer need an assistant to field your calls and type up notes, as there's a far more powerful professional to be employing.
Now - The VA (Virtual Assistant)
Employing a virtual assistant has so many perks - You remove the logistical aspect of providing office space, equipment, avoid employee/tax implications (VA's work as independent contractors) and along with the package, you win yourself an indispensable addition to your enterprise. The modern day VA is technically fluent, social-media savvy and incredibly well connected, knowing exactly how to help you grow your business as well as completing those day to day tasks. No more paperwork or chasing leads - They've got you covered. And while they may not know how you take your coffee, having a representative who knows exactly how to organise your reputation and grow your visibility is invaluable.
Freelancing has been dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming, and it's made relics of those unable to adapt. The freelancing evolution is here, so make sure you've modernised your tools of the trade and you won't get left behind.