Saturday Essay: Balancing Freelancing Gigs In The ‘Polywork’ Era: 5 TipsMary Elizabeth Elkordy, on her five tips for being a freelancer and balancing polywork?
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More and more professionals are finding the value of work flexibility and balance emerging from the past year. While businesses rearrange company policy and decide how to come back to the office, many of their workers are choosing to opt out altogether. According to a study from Upwork, 17% of professionals (representing 9 million workers) that were working remotely would probably or definitely consider looking for another job if they have to go back to the office. There is a large group who are reconsidering not just who to work 40 hours a week for but now considering the possibility of being their very own boss and/or considering freelance work as a viable way to obtain the flexibility they’re looking for.
Many have come to know the expression “The Great Resignation” as a growing trend of changing full-time office jobs. Simultaneously, there is a growing trend, largely among younger generations, to move away from traditional 9-5 jobs and into a multitude of other ways to work - freelancing, owning a small business, or polyworking.
Millennials and Gen Zers are less interested in being tied down to one company, opting for freelancing and polyworking to build their own careers more autonomously. The percentage of workers reporting they are self-employed reached an 8-year high this past July and Upwork reports 20%, or 10 million Americans, are considering switching to freelancing. Workers want more control over how and why they work as well as are prioritizing their personal lives and wellbeing day-to-day instead. Polywork - working multiple jobs, being your own boss, and serving multiple clients - allows you to explore your own interests, bolster a particular skill set, and focus on your personal values with different jobs.
Image by Gerd Altmann
Freelancing, and doing so remotely, has already been on a steady rise for years, especially in fields like digital marketing, IT, and user-experience design. The freelancing trend grew as the workforce entered the gig economy within the past 15 years. The evolution of technology and social media apps made it easier than ever for people to telecommute, work from anywhere in the world, and market themselves at a much cheaper cost. According to Upwork, a lack of commute, a flexible schedule, and increased personal time were cited as the key benefits and reasons for why people are continuously moving to remote freelancing stemming from the global pandemic.
Freelancing is a strong working method for companies to consider when hiring workers as freelancers can help keep costs down. Freelancers don’t require the expense or resources required for training or onboarding, and you don’t need to worry about payroll taxes, and other perks and benefits to which an in-house employee is entitled.
Employing freelancers can also supplement the full-time workforce and help fill specific project goals on a case-by-case basis. This reduces the full-timer hiring load and the need to find someone who you’ll keep on the payroll for a wide range of future endeavors. Employers that do not leverage freelance talent will be missing out on this growing group of the labor force which can result poorly, especially for companies insisting work must be done in person.
Polywork takes freelancing one step further. Polyworking differs in that it includes not just working in multiple companies at once but also multiple areas under an array of job titles. This style of work enhances a worker’s opportunity to engage in multiple skill sets and interests all at one time while maintaining their freedom, wellbeing, and creativity as a member of the workforce.
Polyworking even has its own self-titled professional social network, called Polywork. The site lets workers create a personal webpage to market themselves both personally and professionally as well as collaborate with others on various gigs. A study by the network found that 55% of workers note an exciting professional life is more important than money and nearly 64% are already or hope to be doing more than one job in the future. People are rejecting single job titles in favor of representing all the different types of things they can and like to do while prioritizing working in multiple ways at once on their own terms.
The freedom to explore multiple gigs and make your own work hours is an incredible opportunity to capitalize on. But working on several freelance gigs at once can be overwhelming. If you’re not disciplined, motivated, and organized with your time, your work-life balance will suffer. When you no longer have a boss around the office corner to check-in, you’ll have to avoid becoming distracted or lazy and it’s your time to step up and get your jobs done. As an experienced polyworker and freelancer, here are my top five tips for how to balance several freelancing gigs in the era of polywork:
Tip 1: Set boundaries
...for your hours and your clients’ expectations. Doing too much on one job will result in lower quality work in another. By hiring you, your clients trust you to deliver your best work. Confirm that you and the client are on the same page about the deliverables and stay in touch throughout it’s progress. Being able to pick up a phone instead of solely relying on client communications is critical. Often you can resolve an issue faster and more efficiently by simply making a call.
Tip 2: Utilize tools or apps.
Image by Firmbee from Pixabay
Invest in various online platforms and tools that can help aid project management, time management, work scheduling, virtual meetings, and real-time communication. This will keep everything in order across your several roles and ensure better quality work. Calendar software programs can help log your hours or write details about time-tracking to share and know how to bill your clients accurately. Project management software helps your projects stay on track with the ability to set and adjust due dates in real time.
Tip 3: Learn to say NO.
Image by Gordon Johnson
Due to time constraints, unbuilt skills, conflicting projects, etc, some jobs may not work out. It’s okay to say no when turning down an additional client or potentially even a certain project for a current one. In the long run, it’s important to retain a good relationship and produce good quality work for and with your current clients. Plus, your wellbeing is on the line. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with work and leave no room for your personal life.
Tip 4: Start slow.
Time management is key so only take on the number of projects you can handle while still performing your best. Increase the number gradually as you can handle more and have more resources and credentials under your belt. This is why tip #3 is so important :) This will ensure that you build a stronger portfolio overtime. If you are doing this as a side hustle initially, be realistic to how much out of office time you are willing to commit to your side hustle while maintaining a high level of performance in your day job. Don’t hurt your primary source of income while building out your polywork clientele.
Tip 5: Build a team.
Working as a freelancer means doing everything yourself, even the administrative work. You could end up leaving little time to complete the goals your client is counting on. As you build and grow your brand/business, consider partnering with others and building a team to help with some of the tasks. Look into partnering with other qualified and trustworthy freelancers. This is how my business came to be during a global pandemic!
Now is the time to reexamine your personal working arrangements and find out if freelancing, self-employment, or polyworking might be the right move for you. Some freelancers love the lifestyle, while others have found it’s simply not the work/life for them. By utilizing the above tips, you can learn to maintain the flexibility and other benefits that result from working multiple freelancing jobs as a polyworker.
Mary Elizabeth Elkordy
Mary Elizabeth Elkordy is President and founder of Elkordy Global Strategies, a full-service boutique PR firm launched during the COVID-19