For many people, the future of work is freelance: As projected by Freelancing in America, a study by Upwork and Freelancers Union, the majority of the workforce will be independent within the next 10 years. What does that mean for your business? That was the topic of conversation at a series of “Future of Work” events recently hosted by Upwork and WeWork in Austin, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and San Diego, CA.

Scott Poniewaz, a Top Rated freelancer and Upwork Ambassador in Austin, thinks it’s no surprise the event filled the room. “[Freelancers are] eager to understand more about these shifting trends in the workforce and how to get started as freelancers,” he said. Other business owners also came to the event, prepared with questions about how they might use the independent workforce to grow.

To Chad Eschman, a Top Rated freelancer and Upwork Ambassador in Los Angeles, a room full of enthusiastic freelancers sparks hope. “We want to know we’re not alone. We want to meet other like-minded professionals so we can share stories and build a network,” he said. “As the seats [for the event] filled up with curious people, and the room buzzed with new conversations, there was unmistakable energy. I could see it clearly: This is something we need.”

Meet people who ‘get’ the freelance life

As Dana Rowley, a Top Rated freelancer and Upwork Ambassador in San Diego, observed, it’s nice to be around people who “get” what freelancing is and why you do it.

At the event in San Diego, there was “a huge variety of expertise and skills,” she said. “Yet, despite doing different types of work, everyone had one thing in common: The benefits and challenges of working for yourself.”

In addition to talking about the future of freelancing, each event featured someone who could speak to their experience building a successful freelance business. In Austin, Upwork project manager Danya Keach shared how she grew her business on oDesk and Elance (now Upwork) before working full time for Upwork.

“Danya’s story highlighted the reason many of us become freelancers, which is to have the flexibility to work wherever life takes us while continuing to do the work we are passionate about,” said Poniewaz.

Here are some of the key takeaways he got from Danya’s presentation:

  • Realize that you are not just a freelancer but a business. The sooner you treat freelancing as a business, the sooner you will see success.
  • Keep your profile, skills, and hourly rate up-to-date.
  • Practice exceptional customer service. Upon completion of projects, thank clients for engaging you as a freelancer. If you don’t feel you’re a good fit for a project, be open and upfront, then offer ways to help if you can.
  • Don’t be afraid to find projects to expand your skill set. Opportunities can increase by broadening your industry expertise or discovering new talents.

On the Los Angeles event, Eschman says there are so many things freelancers can learn from each other. “I know firsthand how lost you can get when you’re starting out, scrolling through FAQ pages, wondering if anyone ever comes out the other side with a real freelance business,” he said. “Fortunately, these are the very things we were there to discuss.”

Find new ways to collaborate

“Though many of us freelancers often work solo or alone from home, everyone understands the power of coming together in person,” Rowley said. But it isn’t just about trading tips for freelancer success—an opportunity to meet face-to-face can lead to new friendships, partnerships, and projects.

Many other businesses attended the events, and in Austin some businesses who’d engaged freelancers shared a behind-the-scenes look at their experiences. “[They] shared insights with groups of freelancers about how the process works on their end and what they look for in proposals when evaluating the right fit for their project,” Poniewaz said.

Looking for an event near you? Upwork Ambassador event invites are emailed to eligible Rising Talent and Top Rated freelancers in the metro area where the event is being held. If you’ve unsubscribed from our marketing emails but would like to resubscribe, please submit this form and we’ll add you to the list! Let us know if you have any other questions.