The Robots Are Coming: Freelance Tips to Succeed in the Age of AI

If you’re a freelancer, here’s some good news:  you’re already ahead of the curve when it comes to the job market.  That’s because freelancers are projected to make up over 50% of the American workforce by 2027.  Technology has made freelancing an increasingly attractive option for workers who can now be connected anywhere, anytime and find jobs online.  But on the flip side, tech has also begun to automate some jobs and replace human workers with robots.  In order to stand out in a crowded market and combat the rise of automation, check out these freelance tips for differentiating yourself.

 

Your first defense – stay current

The job market is changing rapidly, and both freelancers and non-freelancers are concerned about how technology will impact the long-term viability of their careers.  Freelancers, in particular, are acutely aware of these changes.  In fact, 49% of freelancers say that their work has already been impacted by AI, vs. just 18% of non-freelancers.

The good news is that freelancers already feel more prepared to handle the changes that tech will cause in the future, and 65% update their skills regularly as a result.  If you aren’t already prioritizing education, start now.  Sharpening your current skill set and/or learning something new is a great way to remain competitive.  Take advantage of an online course, in-person workshop, or local meetup to add to your freelance tool belt.  This will help you remain flexible for the inevitable AI advancements that lay ahead.

 

Personal branding shows what makes you worth it

Branding – it’s not just for big companies.  Your personal brand matters and is the key to standing out as automation and the freelance workforce continue to grow.  But what is a personal brand?  Things like your work, your online presence, your voice, and your reputation all combine to form your personal brand.

In order to establish a brand for yourself, think about what differentiates you from the competition.  What unique perspective do you bring to your work?  Use this to define your brand voice – this shows people why they’d want to work with you vs. someone or something else.  At the end of the day, your best weapon against the competition, both human and robotic, is your ability to build relationships based on what you bring to the table.  You’re not the only one with a particular skill set, so what is it about you as a person that’s appealing to potential clients?  Articulating this is important since we too often think our work and only our work should speak for itself.

Make sure you’re utilizing social media to showcase what makes you tick and how your perspective informs what you do.  It’s also a great way to connect and develop those relationships with potential clients.  In order to build further trust in your personal brand, socialize positive client reviews, as these can be a powerful tool in a potential client’s decision-making process.

 

Longevity depends on balance

Avoiding burnout from overwork is crucial to the longevity of your freelance career and quality of your work.  After all, if you’re experiencing negative side effects like diabetes, heart problems, and heavy drinking from working long hours, then it’s tough to focus on creating something great (and easier for clients to replace you with an always-healthy robot).

If you weren’t convinced, the lack of sleep typically associated with working long hours also comes with its own set of health risks and can cause your work performance to suffer.  Just 1-3% of the population can get away with only 5 hours of shut-eye a night with no negative impact on performance.  For the rest of us, it leads to a vicious cycle of poor productivity, too many work hours, and lower-quality output.

Freelancing allows you to set your own schedule and choose your own clients, and while it may be tempting to say “yes” to every project and proposal, it can quickly lead you down the road to the same burnout that 9-5 employees often experience.  One of the best ways to make your freelancing career as sustainable as possible is to set expectations from the get-go and stick to them.  Make your work-life balance a priority, and let clients know when you will and won’t be available.  This improves the quality of what you produce and will help you build a reputation for stellar work.

If you’re still having issues with long hours, consider outsourcing some of the things on your plate.  There’s no shame in needing help, and by outsourcing, you can devote more energy to the tasks that matter most.