Freelance In 40 Days [Day 2]: Know Thy Market

Posted: August 25th, 2009

Photo by Lepiaf.geo (Flickr)

Photo by Lepiaf.geo (Flickr)

This is Day 2 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today we’ll cover targeting your market and finding a special skill sought within it which you can provide as a service.

Market Research… But I Already Know What I Want To Do!

Yes, I know, nearly all soon-to-be freelancers have an idea of the type of work they want to do whether writing, programming, web development or whatever pays these days. Given the recent demand for freelancers, even during the past recession, it seems that there is plenty of work available, too, no matter what you do.

One other benefit to the demand for freelancers is the nigh number of projects available within practically any field. In fact, there are so many that they can be broken down further to a myriad of specialties. So, for example, instead of wanting to freelance as a writer, you can as a copywriter, web content writer, tech writer or write dialog for adult movies (ok, kidding).

Therefore, a key to finding work is to research the types of jobs available in your field, focus in on a particular type that suits you best. Then base your skills and services around that. Ideally you want look for a particular skill that is in high demand as well as a good match for you.

Advantages of Having A Specialized Skill

By narrowing your focus of work and finding a specialized skill within your field, you offer yourself a few advantages:

  • You develop your skills faster by focusing on a narrow set.
  • You earn a reputation as a specialist and have the potential to find work easier.
  • You become more efficient in your work completing more projects in less time.

One thing to note is that it is common for new freelancers to want to branch out and offer an array of services to appear more marketable. While it is a good idea, when you are more experienced, it is far better to concentrate on one specific service (or a few related services) when starting out in freelance. Developing your skills, reputation and efficiency should be a higher priority at first which helps grow your business faster.

Sometimes A Change Is Necessary

You may come to find that your knowledge and skills may not quite fit the type of work that is in demand at the moment. Plus, there is the possibility that other jobs within your field, but just outside your skills, have a higher demand or are more lucrative.

Take, for instance, you may be an applications programmer only to find that there are a zillion more opportunities in web programming. Maybe you actually do write dialog for adult movies but discover that writing sales copy pays a helluva lot more.

It is always worth it to update your skills and go for the change of scenery in your profession. This is especially true if you remain in the same field but are taking on a new challenge within it. Constant growth and learning are a part of being a freelancer so it is best to get used to it.

Your Homework For Today

Today’s task is to do a little digging and research the market in your field of work. Then find a special skill sought within it that suits you and which you can provide as a service. There is a little trick you can do, too, which will make this easy for you though you may want to set aside time to do it.

First, head go on over to Elance or oDesk (from these links). You’ll notice on these pages that projects available are categorized by fields or skills. Go ahead and browse through the job postings in your field and take notice of the following:

  • Is there a particular demand for any one type of service?
  • What is the budget placed on the project (not always listed)? Take notice of opportunities that can pay more.

Another little trick is, inside the project descriptions on each site, you can view a list of freelancers who bid on each project with a link to each of their profiles. Click on to their profiles and you’ll notice a list of projects completed with a description and amount collected for each. If you check out enough profiles you can get good estimate of what is being paid for particular services.

Hopefully that will be enough to get you started. Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

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