2020 is FOR SURE 100% the biggest freelance year yet! Okay, I made that up, but it probably will be. A lot will change. It’s a pivotal year. The start of a new decade and I’ve got some thoughts on where freelancing goes from here. So let’s get to it!
1. Upwork will remain the leading platform
Upwork isn’t going anywhere. They’re top dog. Best funded. Most freelancers. Best clients. So they’ll hold the top position in 2020 and they’ll probably grow too.
In 2019, Upwork’s stats showed more Americans joining the freelance train than ever. That’s a pretty good sign that freelancing is on the rise and Upwork is positioned to dominate the market (for now).
2. U.S. freelancers will take preference
Not great news for non-Americans, but big clients are tired of dealing with freelancers who underperform due to miscommunications, time barriers or different cultural values.
Plus you’ve got places like Upwork promoting U.S. freelancers as the best choice while simultaneously rejecting loads of non-Americans from the platform. And since Upwork is the leading freelance platform, they have the power to shape client perspectives toward freelancers.
What this means is it’s gonna get a lot harder for non-Americans to win gigs unless you have some way to prove you are far and away the best choice or you start to find clients Beyond Upwork.
3. Freelancers will continue to make the same old mistakes
Those familiar with my YOU Focused approach to client communications know what I’m talking about. For those who aren’t, I’m talking about mistakes like focusing on your experiences and education as the reason clients should hire you.
To see what I mean look at these proposals from a job I posted the other day..
Even Americans will find it harder to win clients in 2020. The freelance talent pool is growing faster than rabbits procreate and shows no signs of slowing down.
If your goal is to start freelancing in 2020 you’d better have a way to make yourself stand out. Advanced training, education, certifications, social proof, credibility, micro-niche etc. And you’d better be able to articulate those points to clients in ways they’re receptive to.
4. New platforms will arise to compete with Upwork
None of the platforms will overthrow the King, but new competitors will enter the marketplace. Some will be Upwork knock-offs, while others will focus on specific niches. For instance, iwriter.com is only for freelance article writers.
Niche freelance platforms will target premium clients and offer high quality deliverables. They’ll have less work overall, but the clients they work with will pay more for services.
The biggest challenge with niche platforms will be getting approved. Because they’ll target premium clients with premium prices they’ll only accept premium freelancers. To get approved for these sites you’ll have to up your skills game to prove you’re worthy.
5. Recruiting companies will start to connect clients with freelancers
A bit of a stretch, but I think recruitment companies like Express Employment will start to look at the opportunity freelancers present.
These companies connect employees with employers. Since many traditional employers offer remote work and outsource tasks like social media management, and since places like Upwork are siphoning employees into the freelance market, it makes sense for recruiters to grab a slice of the pie.
Early adapters stand to benefit the most. Since recruitment companies operate at local levels within specific locations, they can dominate local freelance markets by connecting freelancers with employers who could use their services. This also avoids competing with Upwork.
6. Freelancing will gain more acceptance locally
As technology goes forward we’ll see a big increase in companies that hire freelancers or, at the very least, offer some form of remote or teleworking positions.
In the last year my wife has picked up two positions that both offered teleworking opportunities. This is an extension of freelancing into the local market, so it’s something to keep in mind.
Local companies aren’t fully on-board with freelancing due to old stigmas about low quality labor from overseas. Plus, (in the U.S.) companies have a reputation to protect for creating jobs in the local economy. This is one factor that still holds freelancers back.
That said, local freelance services like ride-sharing, food-delivery and handy work will gain traction which means you may not even need to freelance online to create a full-time income.
7. Non-U.S. Freelancers have to improve their offer
If you’re not from the United States you’ll likely find it more difficult to win jobs. You will need to update your skills and approach to beat scrappy U.S. freelancers who are willing to take low pay to get a foot in the door.
While U.S. freelancers tend to cost more in general, their hourly rates can drop to $5 to $10/hr because they’re used to working for low pay in the local economy and many view freelancing as a side-hustle hobby.
If you’re not from the U.S. then you need to think outside of the box. What niche can you target? What skill can you do better than anyone else? How good are you at YOU Focus? Why should clients hire you over a U.S. freelancer at the same price?
8. More tech opportunities than ever
Those with technical skills in automation, development, design, AI and other nerdy stuff will see more opportunities than ever. If you’re looking for an in-demand skill, make sure you check out the latest Upwork Skills Index.
There’s a lot of skills and names on that list that I’ve never seen before. New platforms start each year, and some of those take off. This opens opportunities for those who are willing to learn new stuff.
For example, when I offer ActiveCampaign email marketing automation on Upwork I always get a good rate of invites because it’s a niche skill and it takes time to learn. AC is great, but not enough freelancers are familiar with the ins and outs, so clients are limited in who they can hire.
9. Video will play a bigger role
Whether it’s proposals, portfolio samples, or calls, video will play an increasingly important role for freelancers going forward. To stand out you’ll want to have an HD camera and a solid internet connection. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with video production on YouTube.
This doesn’t need to be super complicated. Learn the basics. Learn how to speak confidently on video without the “ums.” The sooner you learn the better off you will be.
Video marketing is growing very fast by the way, so any skill you offer that relates to this area could be a good money-maker for you. That includes recording, editing, animation, audio engineering, etc.
So those are my 2020 freelance predictions
Changes will happen throughout the year. Platforms will come and go. Upwork will be king, but other places will make money for those who put in the work.
Keep your head up and plan for the future.
Think about how you can stand apart from everyone else. Think about how you can improve your skills, or your pitch or any other part of your client-attraction process.
It’s also worth it to think about how you can diversify yourself. What other ways can you make money? How can you start to separate your time from your income? How else can you build your business so you can do freelance work because you want to and not because you have to?
Just some thoughts. Until next time..