The Best Things In (Digital Freelancing) Life Are Free
Thanks to a myriad of tech platforms that offer free tools and services, more Americans than ever before have a launch pad to start and operate their own businesses. According to Upwork’s annual study, 77% of freelancers says technology has made it easier to find freelance work. In addition to finding work through technology, freelancers can also get funding from Kickstarter, connect with other contractors on LinkedIn, use Salesforce to manage customer relations, and do countless other tasks on hundreds of other platforms. With the continued development of digital tools, the future of tech and business looks more promising than ever.
— Free tools help freelancers communicate and collaborate on projects, measure their performance, reach new contractors and customers, and flourish.
— These digital tools and services have resulted in a new market landscape that empowers freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Free tools help freelancers communicate and collaborate on projects, measure their performance, reach new contractors and customers, and flourish.
Advances in software and automation enable freelancers to conduct nearly all aspects of running a business, helping them stay competitive with larger operations. According to Quartz at Work, “[n]ow you can simply use apps like Quickbooks for your accounting, TurboTax for your taxes, Squarespace for your website, Square for your payment processing, and Justworks for human resources. Perhaps even more significantly, the need for huge marketing budgets to purchase TV and print advertisements are no longer necessary in an age where you can inexpensively target your audience via social media ads and influencers.”
— Slack’s growth is owed to offering a free service that businesses find useful. “Slack has an actually-useful free service. The key to growth is to remove as much friction as possible, in both product design and economics. Many groups (including Quartz) are happily communicating on Slack for free.”
— Slack’s incredible growth didn’t rely on advertising or salespeople, but rather traditional word-of-mouth. “Plenty of software companies claim they’re making work communication less painful and more fun, but Slack is the only one that is doing it so well that its product literally sells itself. That’s right: Slack doesn’t have any salespeople. Only recently has it begun to advertise. Ninety-seven percent of its new customers are referrals.”
Social media account management tools, such as Hootsuite, are among “must-have free tools for startups.” “Thanks to this tool you can manage all content, schedule when you want it to be published, track the impact of your social media, etc. You can ‘filter social conversations by keyword, hashtag, and location—in multiple languages—to hear what people are saying about your brand, competitors, and industry.’ Hootsuite is another must-have among free tools for startups. It can help you stay active in social media. Remember, the more active you are, the bigger the chance of gaining new customers,” notes Kate Kurzawska of TimeCamp.
The free products offered by Google G Suite, including Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive, enable entrepreneurs and freelancers to grow without burdensome investments in software tools. For example, startup CEO Antonio Grasso noted that G Suite “gives us the ability to read and write all the documents 24/7 on all devices without limitations and without the hassle to make backups. For a startup, it is very important to focus on growth and be effective while writing a document or planning a meeting or creating a presentation.”
These digital tools and services have resulted in a new market landscape that empowers freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Connected Commerce Council President Jake Ward: The digital economy is interconnected and interdependent. “The market is meeting that demand and small businesses are benefiting. Any changes to this delicate ecosystem, let alone breaking up the largest companies, would result in fewer free or low-cost tools and services available. It will be small businesses that pay the price…Policymakers [need to] understand that the digital economy is interconnected and interdependent.”
Ugur Kaner, Founder and CEO of Hyke: Online platforms are the new marketplace, connecting freelancers and clients. “[S]haring economy platforms like Upwork, Uber, TaskRabbit and Fiverr have enabled freelancers and clients to find one another. Whereas starting a freelance business once required workers to take a leap of faith into the unknown, today’s independent contractors can stride confidently into their new careers, secure in the knowledge that there are many accessible places to look for work.”
With the flexibility enabled by tech platforms, freelancers are in a “race to the top,” according to Micha Kaufman, Founder and CEO of Fiverr. “[The] structure means a freelance designer in (say) San Francisco doesn’t have to worry as much about matching the prices of someone across the world, who has much lower costs and can charge less. ‘I think that if you have a market that pushes for bidding, then definitely, yes, there’s a downward pressure,’ he said. ‘In a market where freelancers get to define their own scope, timing and price, you see the opposite trend. What we’re seeing is freelancers all around the world making more and more money every year. It’s a counterintuitive, or countercyclical rather, race to the top.'”