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Seven Paths To Success As A Freelance Entrepreneur

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getty As I close out 2020, there are plenty of people to thank. One in particular is Matt Mottola, the founder of Venture L . Matt has been a particularly insightful and helpful colleague, and an important talent cloud whisperer. He’s also the author of a terrific new book with Matt Coatney entitled The Human Cloud: How Today’s Changmakers Use AI and the Freelance Workforce to Transform Work . Over the past month or two, Matt and I have had several very productive conversations about the paths to success as a freelance entrepreneur. He’s helped me identify the set of paths that have led to sustainable freelance platform profitability. This analysis is largely anecdotal, based on a wide range of interviews and conversations with platform leaders, and the conclusions are mine alone. But it seems to come down to seven paths: network effects, access to unique talent quality, tie-ups, community building, outcome focus, small is beautiful (agency), and ecosystem services. This is a young industry and will continue to innovate. But, as of now, there are at least seven discernible pathways or, if you will, strategic orientations. Network Effects . The impact of network effects, well-known in other industries, has certainly been at the foundation of the larger global and regional platforms. Upwork , Fiverr , and are the best known given their size: At 18 million platform members, Upwork’s population if a country is between Guatemala and Zambia., with approximately 45 million platform members is just shy of Argentina. But, other large regional platforms like Flexing It in India, Workhoppers in Canada, and WePloy in Australia are strong examples. These are platforms with a wide “on demand” offering including both highly skilled professionals in many areas, and also “gigsters” providing a variety of retail services. For example, Workhoppers offers a range of skills from consulting and business analysis to virtual administrative assistants. Upwork, arguably the best know platform, describes itself as offering thousands of categories of gigsters and freelancers. They were first and are best known. Unique Access to Quality . A second approach to sustained profitability is the offer of unique quality. This seems to have three keys aspects. First, the ability to both attract and warrant uniquely competent experts, typically in a narrow band such as tech, management consulting or marketing. A second challenge is maintaining the loyalty and singular ability to provide experts of this caliber; if they are available elsewhere, the reputation of the platform is less compelling and far less able to charge a premium for its talent. The third requirement is preserving and enhancing the reputation of these experts, and their ability to work together on a team basis when called upon, by providing a strong community that provides a range of services for these unique talents; for example, by providing ongoing education, meetups that connect up experts, and an outbound marketing capability that creates strong and consistent work opportunity. Toptal is a strong example of this approach, offering a […]

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