Digital marketplaces (like Upwork, TaskRabbit, and Rover) are essential for transitioning into the freelance life: they’re easy to access, filled with built-in clientele, and put you just one email verification away from being your own boss.
I’m sure you can guess there’s a big “HOWEVER” coming. Although I am usually the first to defend the merits of freelance apps, it’s important for those wanting to make a real living to understand the danger of relying solely on one site as a means for putting food on the table.
The real danger of online marketplaces is in how easy it is to get trapped in the system. The successful ones are built in a way that gets you virtually addicted.
- Upwork promises that freelancers with the highest “job success” score will be featured more often to employers, a factor influenced most heavily by the number of jobs they’ve completed through the site.
- A TaskRabbit’s performance statistics only factor in the jobs completed in the previous 30 days, meaning that a tasker who has completed 100 tasks in the last year but who decided to take only one task in December will be immediately outranked by a new tasker who took six that month.
Gig economy applications are still in their infancy. A survey performed by McKinsey Global Institute indicates that 30 percent of working-age Americans are not even aware that they can use digital platforms to earn money.
Thus, with the proliferation of newbies to the system will come an onslaught of new ways to game you in. These markets are utilizing gamification to create a loyal hive of worker bees, preferably ones so fixated on arbitrary rewards and in-app badges that they’re never tempted to stray.
In case you haven’t yet come across the concept, according to Merriam Webster, gamification is: the process of adding games or game-like elements to something so as to encourage participation.
The idea is simple enough: when game elements are applied to a system, people will engage. Tossing a ball back and forth is boring. Earning money for every ball your opponent misses? Now, that might just keep your attention.
In the simplest terms, not being a slave to the app means using relevant sites to maximize career opportunities, while minimizing dependence on any one system. Spread out your online presence…and make sure you’re looking out the window, too. You may meet your next big gig on the app. Or at the park. Or on another site. Or through your brother. As long as you don’t invest too much in any one of those possibilities, you’ll be there when it happens.
To help you out, here are five tips you can use to make sure you won’t get trapped in the digital marketplace.
1. Practice juggling clients by juggling apps.
If you’re good at repairs, why not keep active profiles on Handy and TaskRabbit? Not only will you be meeting a diverse clientele from different platforms, you’ll also be able to pick up insight about how much people will pay for particular jobs when you strike out on your own.
2. Keep your PR up-to-date.
Just because you’re not looking for a jobby job doesn’t mean you can let your PR slack. Make sure that your online presence contains: a thorough overview about what you do and why you’re the best at it; your current resume; a list of services and pricing; testimonials and reviews; a past client roster with logos (if appropriate); an introductory video; and a contact page that lets potential customers reach you a number of different ways. When you actually show up on someone’s radar, you’d better make sure they’re seeing you at your best.
3. Memorize your elevator pitch.
The elevator pitch is what you say when a billionaire shakes your hand and casually mentions he’s looking for a superstar. What exactly do you do and why are you the best at it? Learn how to say it in under two minutes. If it’s good, a potential contact will ask you to elaborate. If they’re not interested, then hopefully, your pitch will be memorable enough to pass your name along to the next mogul.
Want to up the ante? Memorize it in two parts: First sixty seconds is the teaser that gets them interested and second sixty seconds is what you say after they ask for more.
4. Be open to new opportunities.
Network often and, when a job gets offered, be prepared to accommodate. Realistically, you won’t be able to take on every assignment, but you learn 100% more by squeezing room in your Saturday for a once-in-a-lifetime assignment than you will by not doing it.
5. Form relationships.
You never know at the beginning of a job whether it will be a quick payday or the first day of a years-long partnership. It comes down to knowing your strengths and delivering consistent high-quality work.