Empowering the Freelance Economy

Freelancing on a platform vs. independent

Whether you are starting out as a freelancer or are thinking of handling how you get work differently it's good to be aware of the differences between platforms and being truly independent. Photo by Josh Sorenson (Pexels)
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There are two main ways to freelance: you can either work on a platform or be truly independent. We highlight the pros and cons of both to help you decide

Platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal and Yuno Juno allow freelancers to connect with clients and find work. These platforms can be a great way to get started as a freelancer, as they provide a built-in audience and payment processing system. However, there are also some drawbacks to working on a platform.

For example, platforms often take a cut of your earnings, and they may also use algorithms to influence your reputation or visibility to potential clients. This means that your opportunities on the platform can be affected by factors that are beyond your control. Here are some examples.

To be truly independent, you can market your services solely through your own business. This gives you more control over your brand and your reputation. However, it also means that you will have to do more work to find clients and get work. That said, you will also have more control over your rates based on your experience and skills.

Some people opt to find work through recruitment agencies but then have to join an umbrella company for payment purposes. This means you’ll see a cut of your earnings by up to 30%, according to research from Qdos and IPSE. You are effectively paying to become a PAYE employee yet you are paying your sick and holiday pay through fees to the umbrella company that acts as a payment go-between, according to Contractoreye. Many IT contractors work this way because the jobs they are after are labelled as inside IR35.

Pros and Cons of Freelancing on a Platform

Pros:

  • Easy to get started
  • Built-in audience and payment processing system
  • Can help you build your skills and experience
  • Could be a good way to test the waters of freelancing

Cons:

  • Platforms take a cut of your earnings
  • Algorithms can influence your reputation
  • Can be competitive to get work
  • May not be suitable for all types of work

Pros and Cons of Being Truly Independent

Pros:

  • More control over your brand and reputation
  • More freedom to set your own rates and terms
  • Can build a more personal relationship with clients
  • Can charge higher rates

Cons:

  • More work to find clients and get work
  • More responsibility for marketing and sales
  • More risk of non-payment
  • Not suitable for all types of work

How do you choose?

The best way to freelance depends on your individual circumstances and preferences. If you are new to freelancing, a platform can be a great way to get started. However, if you want more control over your brand and reputation, being truly independent may be a better option. For example, if you already have a great reputation within your specialist area you may find work through your existing network. It just takes perseverance and patience as these things don’t always happen overnight.

Ultimately, the best way to decide is to weigh the pros and cons of each option and choose what is best for you at this moment in time. Do you want to just get cracking on a project? Start bringing money in? Or do you want to be more selective when it comes to the types of clients you work with? You can even switch between platforms and be independent depending on your workload.

Here are some additional factors to consider when making your decision:

  • Some types of work are more suited to freelancing on a platform than others. For example, if you do graphic design or web development, a platform can be a great way to find clients and get work. However, if you do freelance writing or consulting, you may be better off being truly independent.
  • Your skills and experience: If you are new to freelancing, a platform can be a great way to learn the ropes and build your skills and experience. However, if you have a lot of experience and a strong portfolio, you may be better off being truly independent.
  • Your goals: What are your goals for freelancing? If you want to make a full-time living from freelancing, you may be better off being truly independent. However, a platform can be a good option if you are just looking for some extra income or a way to test the waters of freelancing.

No matter which option you choose, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success as a freelancer:

  • Build a strong portfolio: Your portfolio is your calling card as a freelancer. Make sure it showcases your best work and highlights your skills and experience.
  • Network with other freelancers: Networking is a great way to find clients, get feedback, and learn from other freelancers.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest trends: The freelancing industry is constantly evolving. Make sure you stay up-to-date on the latest trends so you can offer your clients the best possible service.
  • Be professional and reliable: Freelancers are judged on their work and their ability to deliver on time and within budget. Make sure you always act professionally and deliver high-quality work.
  • You are a business now so act like one. Rule #1: You don’t give work or time away for free. Would you expect a plumber to leave his customers to determine his or her rates and when they should get paid? No. So if you do go independent you need to call the shots but deliver excellent service.

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