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5 Ways to Stand Out from the Competition on Major Freelancing Sites

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October 11, 2020 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Being able to run a business at home, earn money, invest, raise kids and socially distance all at the same time has become the 2020 marathon. Parents, professionals, graduates and those caught in-between careers weren’t exactly prepared for the new age of working from home; yet, as Covid-19 restructured life as we knew it, we had no choice but to consider alternative work arrangements that supported our families right from our laptops.

Companies were forced to furlough staff as budgets were slashed. Individuals elected to quit their jobs for fear of coronavirus exposure and others realized that, considering how fleeting life can be, they wanted to leave their jobs and do something they love. For all of these people, the arrangement of working on a per-project basis for different companies, brands and startups became more alluring than ever before.

As of last year, nearly 57 million Americans considered themselves part of the gig economy as freelancers. The data for 2020 will show a massive increase in that figure as part of Covid-19’s new normal. Why were so many people joining the gig economy as freelancers in 2019? One study explains it all: skilled freelancers earn more per hour than 70 percent of workers in the U.S.

Related: 50 Ideas for a Lucrative Side Hustle

That’s why more people than ever before are wondering how they can not only become freelancers but also how they can position themselves for immediate success right out of the starting gate. The competition to stand out as a freelancer just got dramatically more challenging, and everyone knows it. Tens of millions of people are using the biggest freelancing sites today, from Upwork and 99designs to Fiverr and Guru.

With millions of providers worldwide accessing these sites, how can you ensure that your profile and services are the most alluring?

Here are five ways to stand out from the competition on major freelancing sites.

1. Use your picture throughout your profile 

People think that working online as an anonymous provider, instead of being a corporate employee, means they can withhold their identity from their freelancing profile. Quite the contrary, removing any imagery of yourself from your freelance profile makes it harder for prospective buyers to trust you. Are you really who you are claiming to be? How can buyers be sure? 

Related: 9 Reasons to Start an Online Side Hustle in 2020

Content with imagery and video gets 94% more views than content with only plain text and stats. We are visual creatures, so we need to see photo evidence that we are not being scammed.

  • Include different photos of yourself for your profile picture, services and biography. The more images you use, the more trustworthy you become
  • Post only crisp, high-definition photos in which you are making eye contact with the camera
  • Consider branding yourself with the same colors in all of your images
  • Refresh your photos every few years to match your real-time identity

2. Feature as many reviews as possible

Social proof is essential. It’s the only way we can convince ourselves that someone is trustworthy online when we have never met them in person. That’s why 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as they do a recommendation from a friend or family member. Prioritizing your five-star reviews on your profile will help a buyer trust you immediately.

  • Work hard in the beginning to secure a perfect five-star average. Go above and beyond and consider charging less-than-market prices to get your first reviews
  • Proudly present the reviews on your profile, front and center
  • Offer up a summary of your reviews to prospective clients in your messaging inbox

​​​​3. Don’t lie about credentials

Too often, first-time freelancers skew information about their background and experience since no boss is watching them do it. This can come back to haunt you, especially since buyers can do a simple background check on you in minutes. Should the freelancing site catch you lying, you will be blacklisted for the remainder of the platform’s existence. It’s not worth it. Augment what credentials you do have. If you don’t have many, offer free work for friends and family to bolster your portfolio.

  • Spend some months doing work for free so you can add real projects and products to your profile
  • Never lie. As you climb in prominence on a freelancing site, the company will conduct background checks on you.
  • Buyers are more likely to buy from you if they trust you. If they catch you lying, they will never trust you again.

4. Don’t wait for first reviews

One of the most challenging periods in freelancing is the initial weeks when you have to sit and wait for a buyer to be the first one to invest in your service. When you have no reviews, they don’t know if they can trust you.

Related: How to Start a Freelance Writing Side Hustle

Think outside the box and go to your in-person networks for first reviews. Ask family members, former coworkers, friends and those who follow you on social media if they need your service for their businesses. Accessing your already aggregated networks will have you circumvent freelancing algorithms that can punish newbies.

  • Think outside the box and offer a discount to people you know in the beginning
  • Post about your services on social media
  • Write articles about your services and post them to a website or your social profiles
  • Offer referral discounts to people you know for securing you new clients

5. Offer more than one service

Marketing studies have found that consumers prefer choices when they go shopping. If you walk into a clothing store and see just four shirts hanging on the clothing rack, you start to feel uncomfortable, right? But if you want into a store with 400 shirt options, you would feel free to shop around and find the item that is right for you. 

Related: 3 Best Ways to Diversify Your Income (and Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck) During Times of Uncertainty

The same goes for your freelancing profile. If you offer just one service, buyers will assume you’re new to the site, you don’t know what you are doing and have only one skill-set. When starting, offer at least three (related) services on your profile. That way, buyers can feel like they are really shopping. 

  • If you don’t know what other services to offer, check out your competition. Look up people with your same skill-set and see what other services they list.
  • Don’t be afraid to teach yourself new skills. Take online classes and practice.
  • After a while, increase your services from three to five to even 10!

The art of the side hustle

Those that once laughed at the thought of a side hustle becoming a main hustle are no longer laughing. Our newly decentralized, socially distanced world has made freelancing ripe for the taking, which is why now is a great time to pivot your skill-set online through one of the major freelancing sites. Follow these tips above to ensure you are positioned as successfully as possible while wading into the freelancing waters.

Related: Moonlighting Your Way to Millions: 4 Tips to Turn Your Side Hustle into a Successful New Business

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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Good Is the New Cool When It Comes to a Successful Brand

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October 27, 2020 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Afdhel Aziz is a thought leader, writer, speaker, consultant and board advisor with 20 years of experience working as a visionary marketer at companies like Procter & Gamble, Nokia, and Absolut Vodka. Despite creating world-class pop partnerships with everyone from Lady Gaga to the TED Conferences, he felt there was more he could be contributing to society. 

This search inspired him to co-write Good is the New Cool: Market Like You A Give a Damn. The book’s success led Aziz to quit his job and follow his own purpose. Now he is on a mission to help companies and individuals find purpose and meaning in their work and in their lives. 

An internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, Aziz is also the co-founder and Chief Purpose Officer of Conspiracy of Love. The purpose consultancy supports a long roster of clients, including iconic brands like Adidas, Red Bull, Oreo and Microsoft, to Fortune 500 companies like Unilever, AB Inbev, and .

“Goodisthenewcool.org is now a global movement of good, with events and podcasts in association with Soho House, conferences in LA, Sydney and Melbourne, and an online community of 20,000 purpose-driven leaders in and culture,” Aziz says.

Aziz spoke with Jessica Abo to discuss Conspiracy of Love, why businesses should take the “good is the new cool” approach and why it’s not too late for companies to do better. 

Jessica Abo: Tell us about your book Good is the New Cool: Market Like You A Give a Damn.

Afdhel Aziz: It’s an exploration of the whole world of purpose driven . Today, brands more than ever are asked to take stands. When you think about Nike with Colin Kaepernick, for example, consumers are asking brands to take positions in social issues. We wanted to explore that in this book that I co-wrote with Bobby Jones. The expectation for brands to help solve societal problems has never been more sky high.

In the wake of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter, consumers are demanding that the brands in their lives stand up for their values. Consumers are voting with their wallets, we like to say, and making sure that if they’re going to invest in a ‘s products and services, that brand better be helping solve issues, whether they’re environmental issues or social issues. There is an incredibly high level of scrutiny at the moment that brands are under and expectations keep growing as well.

What are some of the biggest mistakes brands make?

Aziz: One of the biggest mistakes brands make when they venture into this territory of social impact is positioning themselves as the hero, riding in on a white horse to solve the problem. We like to preach to our clients the maxim “be the helper not the hero.” Brands who do this find a way to make the consumers the hero of the journey to give them platforms to help society at large. And this way you can avoid the trap of coming across as too egotistical when talking about how you’re going to attack this problem. 

Do brands have to be perfect to start doing good?

Aziz: Brands do not have to be perfect to do some good. In fact, I would say that no brand is perfect, just like no human being is perfect. It’s important not to be paralyzed by the lack of perfection. Every brand has its problem, has its issues. As long as they’re transparent about it and say, “Listen, here’s the plan that we’re putting into place to solve this problem, bear with us while we do it. But in the meantime, here’s another problem that we really want to solve in society, will you help us?” Taking that humble posture really helps people understand the genuineness of your intentions and that really makes a difference when asking people to participate. 

What advice do you have for brands that want to do some good in the world?

Aziz: The advice that we have for brands who want to do some good in the world is, first of all, listen. Listen to your employees, listen to your consumers, look at the culture in the world today and try and find a way of thinking of people as citizens, not just consumers. Think about the broad range of issues that they care about, and then figure out a way that you, as a brand can get involved in helping to solve some of those problems as well. We like to say brands should solve problems from the everyday to the epic. It doesn’t all have to be about climate change and racial inequality. Maybe there are everyday problems as well that you as a brand can get involved in to make people’s lives a little bit better.

Related: Fighting Zoom Fatigue? These Cards Can Help

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