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5 Things to Do Before Applying for a New Gig

May 04, 2018
We are living in a gig economy
According to a study conducted by Intuit, roughly 40 percent of the United States workforce will be made up by independent contractors by 2020. With full-time jobs increasingly hard to find in many fields—and with freelance work accessible thanks to the internet, the cloud, and innovative startups such as Uber—the idea of what constitutes a “job” is swiftly changing. These days, it is possible to make a living without ever going to an office, meeting your boss face to face, or even leaving the comfort of your house. If you are thinking about diving into the freelance world, though, it’s essential to lay sufficient groundwork and do your due diligence, just like you would for any full-time job. Here are five steps to take before you apply for a new freelance gig.

Build up an online reputation
Many of today’s “gigs” are entirely online-based. From blogging to graphic design and beyond, numerous freelance jobs are open to anyone with an internet connection. Just because these gigs are becoming more common doesn’t mean they are easy to win, though. Think about that Intuit figure from above: within a few years, more than a third of the working population will be embracing the gig economy. In other words, if you’re considering freelance work, there are probably thousands of people with your same skillset that are doing the same thing.

Simply put, you are going to face some stiff competition in finding exciting gigs that pay reasonably well. Things will get easier as you build up a resume of jobs and a portfolio of work samples. You will also have a lot less trouble if you build up an online reputation for yourself. If you are asking someone to pay you to write blogs, it helps if you have an established blog of your own with decent viewership statistics. Of course, a robust social media platform will also help. Whatever you can do to establish a convincing online brand for yourself will improve your odds of getting a great gig.

Create a list of verifiable references
Your online reputation and your work portfolio are probably the top two things that most clients will look for when deciding whether to hire you for a gig or not. Even if you feel confident in both of those areas, though, you don’t want to send in an application or cover letter until you’ve assembled a list of verifiable references.

Employers embracing the gig economy often struggle to find people who are reliable, driven, and consistent. The fact is that many people entering the online-based freelance market try it for a few days, decide it’s too hard or too monotonous, and then renege. This kind of scenario leaves employers scrambling to meet deadlines and satisfy their clients. As you delve further into the gig economy, it’s good to build a list of recognizable brands and clients who can speak to your ability to hit deadlines, keep up with workload requirements, and deliver quality work with limited guidance or hands-on management. References from managers and bosses at old full-time jobs are fine, but the best referrals come from former freelance and gig roles—simply because they are the most applicable.

Make sure your expectations align with reality
Before you apply for a freelance opportunity, do some homework. Try to figure out what the workload is, how the deadline structure works, and how much the assignments pay. You need to determine if the gig matches your expectations. You may not have the flexibility to do as much work as the client needs, or the starting pay rate might fall below your standards. Knowing these things up front will save all involved parties from wasting their time.

Also, ask yourself whether you are excited about the work at hand. You will deliver higher quality work (and enjoy yourself more) if you are engaged in what you are doing. As with any other job, your gig is probably going to involve some tasks or elements you don’t love. Ultimately, though, you should strive to find something that is interesting to you overall.

Research the client or company
As the gig economy grows, so does the number of illegitimate companies working in this space. There are clients and companies out there that are looking to take advantage of freelancers—whether by underpaying for work product or not paying at all. Before you apply for a gig, it’s advisable to do some research on the company in question. Do they have a website? Does it look professional? Are there negative reviews from former freelancers or employers? The good thing is that bad news tends to travel quickly on the internet. As such, you should be able to figure out with relative ease whether the client you are looking at is a legitimate enterprise or an unethical scam.

Understand the hiring standards
With a full-time job, it’s assumed that there are relatively high standards in place for hiring. Employers check references, conduct background checks (including criminal history checks and resume verifications), ask for work samples, and use skill tests. Job seekers often assume that freelance gigs have lower standards—and take that assumption as an excuse to lie about criminal histories or stretch the truth on their resumes.

As a rule, honesty is always the best policy. As the gig economy grows, more and more clients and companies are holding their freelancers to the same standards as their full-time employees. These businesses understand that independent contractors can still be representatives of their brands. Maintaining exacting standards for hiring is the most efficient way to put your best foot forward and retain or develop a compelling reputation. Keep this factor in mind next time you are looking for a freelance gig, as it may impact the screening process and overall expectations.

The gig economy has changed the way we think about work, employment, jobs, and livelihood. If you are thinking about making the switch from full-time to freelance, keep the five steps above in mind. Taking the steps with every freelance role you apply for will maximize your chances of finding a gig you love with a pay rate that meets your needs.

Michael Klazema has been developing products for background checks and improving online customer experiences in the employment screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.

Meet The Author:

Michael Klazema

Michael Klazema

Michael Klazema has been developing products for background checks and improving online customer experiences in the employment screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.

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