The world’s leading freelance marketplace, Elance, recently released its new years’ prediction: 2013 will be the year of the freelancer.

With more college students, underemployed people and retirees seeking supplementary income, online freelance work is set to grow dramatically in 2013. According to analysts at Elance, the dollar value of freelance work will more than double the 2012 amount.

Among the causes Elance sees driving the coming online work gold rush, there are factors like:

  • More and more students opting to work part time online to offset skyrocketing tuition costs.
  • “Obamacare” opening up contract work as a real possibility for those who would have previously been uninsured.
  • The continued decline in the availability of truly stable private sector jobs.
  • Companies increasingly contracting work out rather than choosing to hire employees.

But one item that wasn’t mentioned in Elance’s predictions,is a simple factor that might be more important than all four mentioned above:

More and more people are looking to online work as a reasonable and practical way to be able to work from any location in the world.

This factor applies most obviously to people who live in countries where full time work just isn’t available, but also to a growing class of people who want the freedom to be able to work while they travel.

For young men in particular, the idea of “location independence” can seem like a dream. The ability to see new places, date a wide variety of women, and sample different cultures all while running and independent business, embodies a sort of “international playboy” fantasy straight out of old James Dean movies. But with more and more employers looking to contract their work out online every year, the “dream” of location independence is looking more and more like a very attainable reality.

The question is, how do you do it? The nagging question of whether online work is really feasible has probably kept more cubicle dwellers struggling in the trenchers than anything else. Here are five tips for being a location-independent freelancers, a group that I consider myself in…


1. Sign up for a freelance site like Elance or Odesk.

The idea that the pay on these sites is lower than elsewhere is demonstrably false. Pay for most gigs may be low, but freelancers can easily filter out low paying gigs and focus only on ones that meet their criteria.

2. Write a professional-looking profile that highlights you skills and the value you can offer your clients.

The real killshot here is to point out how you can make the client money, not how “innovative” or “pretty” your work is. If you are not a writer, consider hiring one to write your profile for you.

3. Take some skills tests.

Many clients are reluctant to hire a someone with no established track record, even if their profile is well written. Skills tests (with high scores) can help you get your foot in the door.

 4. Get a website.

A freelancer with no website looks like a job seeker. A freelancer with a website looks like a professional. Get a website, and your chances of getting hired improve. You can of course use a freelance site itself to get a website done for you (I recommend elance).

5. Pitch at least one new client every day.

So many people give up on freelancing because they throw out on or two pitches and don’t get a reply. Some may even throw out up to 20 pitches before they get hired. But when you compare this to the 1% conversion rates that most freelancers who rely on cold calling have to contend with, throwing out a dozen or so pitches a week doesn’t seem that bad at all.

As you can see, the answer is simpler than most people think. With freelance sites like Elance and oDesk offering a platform where anybody can sign up and start pitching their services to prospective employers right away, most of the historical freelancer woes like finding clients to pitch to and waiting months for pay, have evaporated. Increasingly, for location independent freelancers around the world, the question to ask about freelancing online seems to be more a “why not?” than a “why?” or a “how?”


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