A decade ago, we thought we were advanced when we conducted business via email, used a few computer programs or perhaps had our own basic website. Now, mobile technology has stormed the field.
According to Pew Research, 68% of US adults now have a smartphone, including 86% in the 18 – 29 age group and 83% in the 30 – 49 age group. Mobile technology is changing the way we interact and how we do work. Mobile is impacting freelance work and freelancers are impacting mobile, too.
According to the Freelancing in America 2015 report, nearly 54 million Americans are freelancing, which is nearly one in every three members of the workforce. Freelancing has grown rapidly over the last few years, partly through necessity as people found themselves laid off from 9 – 5 type jobs and, as recent studies show, a large proportion through choice.
Freelancing by its very nature tends to be flexible and often finds people on the move. This style of work, along with a growing trend toward flexible or remote work has spawned a new wave of “do everything on your phone” apps.
Look at communication. Apps like Slack and Skype allow individuals or teams to connect with each other or clients from anywhere phone data is available. You can organize projects while strolling through the park or even while waiting for your next flight.
For freelancers, most, if not all functions of your business can be run via mobile, from calendars, accounting and meetings, to productivity and file sharing. Mobile means that even an internet outage isn’t the same inconvenience it used to be – as long as you can access data, you can usually keep working.
How We Market
One of the big changes in the last couple of years affecting all types of businesses has been the effects of mobile use on how we market ourselves. A few years ago, you might have run some PPC web-based campaigns and pushed traffic back to your website, a site that was probably not optimized for mobile.
Now, consider these facts:
- More than 51% of Google searches are now conducted via mobile. (Search Engine Land)
- Mobile digital media time has overtaken desktop or other devices and is at 51% (Statista)
- Mobile ad spending is lagging behind mobile usage stats, accounting for 49% of digital ad spend (Statista)
- Since 2015, Google has expanded its use of mobile friendliness as a ranking factor of websites (Google)
Mobile represents a huge opportunity in terms of marketing any business, including freelancers. It’s increasingly likely that people searching for freelancers to hire are doing so via a mobile device so it’s imperative that you’ve put yourself in a good position to be found.
This means ensuring your website has been optimized for mobile and given the best chance to appear in search results as well as including options for mobile-optimized ads for any paid advertising. Any email marketing you do should also be mobile-friendly as there is a high chance that your email is being opened on a mobile device.
Mobile technology as a facilitator of engagement may seem obsolete. People walking with their heads down, engrossed in their phones, others sitting in restaurants ignoring their fellow diners as they scroll through their email, the art of conversation disappearing in waiting rooms worldwide as people shut themselves in their own little mobile world…
Those examples highlight some of the more negative impacts of mobile, but for solitary freelancers, mobile may actually boost their ability to stay engaged with the world. Social networking apps keep us up to speed with what’s going on in the world or even connect us with new clients or business partners.
We can ask and answer questions in forums while riding the train, respond to emails and connect with fellow freelancers. We can actually boost our work prospects by staying connected on mobile.
Work From Anywhere
Mobile technology is giving us options. We no longer need to be tied to our desks because we can respond to queries from wherever we are.
The last few years have seen a sharp rise in the number of “location independent” freelancers and entrepreneurs and the websites devoted to them. Tropical MBA and Boots N All have large followings within entrepreneurial and freelance communities, with many more aspiring to travel and generally make a living while on the move.
Mobile is not only providing unprecedented access for people in developing countries, but is opening up more possibilities for digital nomads, who often tend to gravitate toward cheaper countries where their money will go further.Wi-Fi is no longer limiting freelancers, as where there is no Wi-Fi, there is now the option of phone data.
The other side of this is that the people in those countries are able to enter freelance market too, with growing competition worldwide. Mobile is impacting freelancers by giving them more access while fueling competition within the gig economy.
If you so choose, you could run every aspect of your freelance business from your mobile device, though there are some challenges to doing so.
Sometimes it’s about size…
Whether your job involves writing or designing, we often use software that is simply inconvenient on a smaller screen. Have you ever tried to write an entire article on your phone or tablet? It tends to be the fast track to finger cramps.
Technological developments are ever-improving even here though; could the answer for creating a better app experience be conversational interfaces? Conversational technology has been around for a while, dating back to early dictation software, however even advanced apps, like Siri and Cortana, often get things wrong.
Developments in China hold considerable promise for the advancement of conversational technology. Baidu has been taught using machine learning to recognize voice commands and is able to provide accurate results, even when being used on a crowded city street.
Do you ever really “unplug?”
This is one of the greatest challenges of how mobile is impacting freelance work; if you can take your work everywhere with you, is there ever a time when you’re really away from it?
Studies from University of Surrey psychologist Mark Cropley found that three quarters of people find it difficult to unwind after work, with the ever-present mobile contributing to this because there’s that sense of constantly being connected.
If you are in the camp who find it difficult to switch off, you’re in danger of sliding the slippery slope to burnout. As a freelancer, you need to learn how to set appropriate boundaries for yourself and clients, and manage expectations on your time.
Just because you could check and respond to email on a Saturday evening doesn’t mean you should. It may take some practice, but to stay healthy and productive, freelancers should discipline themselves in terms of taking time to unplug.
Photo via Visual hunt
Mobile technology has probably been one of the biggest shifts thus far of the 21st Century, for freelancers and business in general.
Mobile is bridging gaps and bringing accessibility to more people. It provides flexibility and location-independence. It also helps freelancers to get found and connect with the people who could be their next client.
While some things are still difficult on smaller screen sizes, one of the biggest challenges that mobile presents to freelancers is blurring the lines between work and leisure. If you carry your phone everywhere with you, when exactly do you stop working?
Mobile brings benefits and challenges for freelancers so you need to learn how to unplug and relax. After all, no one want to take the fast track to burnout…