In recent years technology has massively impacted employability in a wide variety of ways. It’s now easier than ever to access a massive list of jobs online, but also easier than ever to be fired for having NSFW content on your social media, or be replaced by some new tool that automates this or that task you used to do.

But a real revolution for the employment sector in the face of such rapid technological advancement has been the evolution of “The Gig Economy“. The term is used to describe the emerging work environment that focuses on short-term contracts and freelance work, around the world.

Bit On The Side

The gig economy is most often associated with small side jobs, like working as an Uber driver during free time. And it’s becoming increasingly common. According to statistics, in 2014, 53 Million Americans, equal to 34% of the workforce, had taken on freelancing, either as a main job or for additional income.

In total, this segment of the workforce contributed $715 billion to the economy. Moreover, this number is expected to grow, as 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is will be working as independent contractors by 2020.

This increase has not only been accelerated by the likes of Uber and other businesses within the sharing economy but also due to the flexibility of the modern mobile workforce. Advancements in technology have enabled many workers to operate with little more than a laptop and a Wifi connection.

Which has largely been a win-win for both sides. Despite a higher hourly wage paid to freelancers, employers generally save 20 to 30 percent annually with a freelance worker, and freelancers benefit from increased autonomy, the ability to take work they actually want to take and work the hours they want to work. Employing freelance workers can often be beneficial for smaller companies that can’t employ full-time staff to complete specialized tasks, or for larger companies which temporarily require a skill set for a project or need to quickly scale up and down their workforce to meet demand fluctuations.

While this might sound like a fantastic situation, like any system, it is not perfect. To make sure you always find the right freelancer for the job, there are certain steps you should take.

Choose a site wisely

A wide variety of websites have developed to accommodate the demand for freelance services. Though there are many options, it’s important to choose a reliable and well-established website for multiple reasons. If you choose a site with a low user base you will have a smaller talent pool to choose from. Thus, it is usually best to choose a well-known and trusted website such as Upwork or People Per Hour, but it’s also a good idea to do research and find out if there are any freelance sites that exclusively provide workers for the specific task you need.

Use Protection

As someone who has worked as a freelance worker using Upwork, I have to admit I was intrigued by the user-friendly experience but ultimately won over by the security they offered. Upwork has an escrow system that protects both clients and freelancers. This protection is essential for any freelance work platform to ensure you are not left empty-handed if one member of the party doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain.

Ask for Evidence of Work

It is always best to establish proof of work before agreeing to take on a freelance worker. This could be in the form of previous work, such as an online portfolio, or as a paid sample project to determine their skills on your own terms. While this may seem like an annoying, unnecessary expense if you are on a budget, it can potentially save you a lot of time to find out early on how skilled or committed your prospect is. This usually won’t put off many freelance workers, especially if it is paid and it also demonstrates a certain level of professionalism which can be very reassuring for a freelance worker.

Be Upfront

As a freelance worker, this means a great deal. Due to the popularity of sites like Upwork, there is an abundance of proposals to bid on. Therefore, choosing the right one is incredibly important for freelance workers that take their work seriously. When populating your add it is important to specify as much as possible to demonstrate a high level of professionalism and to ensure the worker knows what they are signing up for. Moreover, the price is an important factor as this will heavily influence the type of bids you will receive.

Show Me The Money

Working freelance online can be incredibly competitive as you are competing in a global marketplace. The increased competition among freelancers means the cost of labor can often be much cheaper than employing someone from your local neighborhood. With that being said, If you’re willing to pay roughly $0.01/word for a 5k-10k word novel, it is essential to understand that prices literally don’t go any lower than that. And by pushing lower you might receive something that is far below the standard you might hope for. Ultimately, like anywhere else, you get what you pay for.