As the working world moves towards remote working and contract-based projects, how can you market your skills effectively? Skillnets’ Tracey Donnery has some advice.
The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, and the days of a job for life, of long face-to-face meetings in boardrooms, are almost entirely obsolete.
In particular in the technology and creative sectors, we see an increased need for ongoing upskilling and marketing of skills for freelancers in the gig economy, especially for creative, technical and management skills.
Current and future business needs are demanding that freelancers are highly skilled, adaptable and agile, technically adept, and have strong management ability – all of this alongside their marketable specific skillset.
Time management is crucial
In order to remain competitive and employable in the gig economy, freelancers need two things: the in-demand specialised and marketable skills, and a strong entrepreneurial spirit to drive their micro-enterprise.
Paul Young, CEO of Cartoon Saloon, the highly successful animation house in Kilkenny, agrees that upskilling is key, especially in fast-moving sectors. “Animation and games are creative and technically-driven industries, and our teams have to be constantly upskilled in order to compete in this truly global market.”
Gareth Lee, network manager of the Animation Skillnet in Dublin, believes creatives also need to focus on practical business skills. “When you go freelance, there’s an added layer of financial management because of the unpredictability of the work,” he said.
“Also, time management is really crucial. Outside of the studio environment, it can take longer to do things than when you are surrounded by a team. So, before you start working freelance, definitely take time to upskill in financial management, time management, and be sure you have good organisational systems in place.”
Another skill critical for any freelancers who will be working on business-sensitive material is to be tech-savvy – even if that’s not your specialism, said Lee.
“When you are working on confidential business IP, from a piece of software to a feature film, the hiring firm will need to see you have every base covered when it comes to file-sharing security, the technical side of working remotely and on sensitive material, working with large files etc,” he said.
“It’s a risk for companies to have secure material – be it an animation, a new piece of software, or simply creative ideas – leave the studio or business environment.”
This is also true of many different specialisms, including design, software design, programming and other technical or creative fields. Aileen Dempsey, network manager of the Design Enterprise Skillnet, has also found that non-design skills are often a challenge for micro-enterprises in the design sector.
“Specialist skills are always in demand and the more expertise you develop, your personal brand, in many ways, allows you to name your price. Many graphic designers, for example, have upskilled in UX design or web design to ensure they stay ahead of new developments and can offer their clients complementary skills.”
Dempsey believes that adding a range of in-demand strings to your bow will always make you more marketable, and ensure return business from existing clients. Ultimately, skills are a freelancer’s personal brand, and are why clients will keep returning.
Upskilling is key
Investment in training and development to stay current is critical. Dempsey recommends that all freelancers “set aside time for client and peer networks, too. Peer support and peer networks are very important, as isolation can end up being a problem when you work from home.”
As we progress through the fourth industrial revolution, the future certainly looks bright for the creative and technology sectors as their skills continue to be in demand.
But the big skills – problem-solving, creativity, empathy, a service orientation, and the ability to constantly learn and reinvent – are always going to give any freelancer the edge.
Also, employers can no longer keep the entire skillset that they might require hired and in waiting so, increasingly, they hire specialist skills on a project-by-project basis.
Tracey Donnery is an executive director of Skillnets, a national agency with responsibility for the promotion and facilitation of workforce learning. It actively supports and works with businesses in Ireland to address their current and future skills needs through learning networks.