Freelancing in 2012: The Industry Report

The 2012 Freelance Industry Report, put together by Ed Gandia, is a valuable resource for any current freelancer, or anyone considering branching out into freelance work.

There’s evidence that the freelance sector of the professional population is large and predicted to grow rapidly. While Freelancing in 2012that might sound like extra competition, the good news is that the more people who choose freelancing, the more politicians and society at large will have to pay attention and start improving the options available to self-employed workers.

With a sample set of nearly 1,500 freelancers in a variety of fields, the report’s data provides a useful snapshot of important information and trends relevant to the self-employed.

Some key points of interest:

  • 90% of freelancers report being happier freelancing than they were before leaving their full time jobs
  • The majority of freelancers work in design and writing
  • Women make up over 70% of the freelance workforce
  • Almost half are the primary income winners in their household
  • Flexibility in work schedule was the top reason cited by respondents for choosing a freelance career
  • 10% of new freelancers earn $100 or more an hour!
  • Almost half of freelancers work with the same client for a year or more
  • Referrals and word of mouth far outrank other methods for finding clients
  • The marketing method with the largest increase in the number of respondents saying they’re planning to use it in the next year is SEO
  • Even “accidental freelancers” that were pushed into the position based on economic factors largely report that they’re happier now than when working as an employee

To read the full report, either click on the image to the right or the link at the top of the page. Trust me, it’s worth the time.

6 Awesome Free Tools for Freelancers and Small Businesses

The old aphorism that “you get what you pay for” may serve well in some situations, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how many incredibly useful free tools I’ve encountered that have become invaluable to me in working as a freelancer.

Many of these will be very familiar to most freelancers and small businesses, but others are a little less known and might help you accomplish some of your business needs more easily and affordably.

1. Skype

Skype is probably one of the most commonly used and valuable resources available to web-based contractors and small businesses. The free account offers:
1) A real time chat function that allows for easy drag and drop file transfers between users
2) Both one on one and multi-person online phone calls
3) One on one video calls
4) Easy screen sharing between users

You may have to buy a microphone or webcamera to use the phone and video call features, if your computer doesn’t come already equipped with them (Macs usually do). For a relatively minimal costs, you can also choose to establish a skype phone number, enable calls to phone numbers (domestic and international) and upgrade to group video calls.

For small businesses with remote employees, skype is an extremely effective tool for helping bridge some of the difficulties that come with not being in a shared office environment. It makes communication between workers, customers, consultants and anyone else a company needs to be in touch with simple, without increasing costs.

For a freelancer, it allows you to work from anywhere with internet without losing the ability to be in touch with clients and partners.

2. WordPress

I’ve already written a bit about how valuable blogging can be to a small business, and the same applies to any freelancer. WordPress is one of the most user friendly platforms for beginning a blog. Starting an account is simple and getting a blog into place requires no prior knowledge of html or web design. There are a wide variety of templates and different applications available to help make your blog look how you’d like it to and include the features you’re interested in. WordPress also has a powerful statistics module that helps track the number of visits made to your blog and where they come from in an intuitive fashion

3. Freshbooks

Accounting is one of the more intimidating and painful aspects of running a business. Freshbooks is a free software that allows for the creation of customized invoices and easier tracking of business payments and expenses. It also offers a useful feature for tracking your hours by project and task.

4. LazyMeter

Lazymeter is a simple tool for creating and tracking your to do list. You can add items to be completed right away or on future dates and check them off as they’re done. It’s a good way of tracking your progress and productivity and keeping items from falling off your radar during busier times.

5. Google Analytics

Every business with a website should have a Google Analytics account. As with everything else on this list, it’s free and fairly simple to use. You can keep up with the number of visits to your website, what search terms and engines people are using to get to it, and what other sites and social media sources are referring hits to you. The data collected can then be used to improve your website copy and SEO strategy to help ensure you’re attracting the right audience for your products and services.

6. Wave Accounting

There’s a bit of overlap in the features offered by Wave Accounting and Freshbooks, Wave also allows you to create invoices and track business expenses and payments made. In my experience, they’re a bit more feature rich and useful for the latter tasks. You can easily track payments received from sources other than the invoices issued through Wave Accounting (not an option I’ve seen in Freshbooks) and the dashboard provides a handy visual representation of your account’s financial snapshot. Sure, you could use Excel to keep track of your income and expenses, but keeping up with spreadsheets can be a pain and Wave Accounting is much more visually intuitive. It also allows for integration with Freshbooks, so you can set it up to keep track of the invoices you create and send through Freshbooks without extra effort.