Are You a Trendy Freelancer?

trendyFreelancing trends come and go. If you’re online at all, you’ve probably already been exposed to a quite a number of trends.

From blogs to eBooks to social media, there is a lot of freelancing advice out there. Some of that advice touches upon a common desire or hits a nerve among freelancers and becomes a popular trend. At one time or another, nearly every freelancer has been tempted to follow the herd and take the advice of the latest hip guru.

There can be some benefits to following trends, but carelessly flitting from trend to trend can actually harm your freelancing business. In this post, we’ll explore some of the benefits of following freelancing trends, and we’ll discuss some of the disadvantages of chasing after the latest fads.

Benefits of Following the Trends

Keeping up with freelancing trends can provide some benefits to your business. Trend followers:

  • Learn new skill sets
  • Discover different ways of thinking
  • Appear current to clients and contemporaries
  • Appeal to others who are following the same trends

As you can see from the list above, following a trend can often benefit your business.

Problems with Following the Trends

A major problem with following freelancing trends is that many of them don’t work. The advisors don’t really know what they are talking about, or the advice really doesn’t apply to you. Trend chasers find themselves:

  • Wasting money
  • Wasting time
  • Looking foolish

These problems might discourage many freelancers from paying attention to trends at all. There are ways, however, for a careful freelancer to decide whether a particular trend is worth watching.

Fads vs Standards: a Key Difference

Remember that a trend can go one of two ways. It can prove itself to be a fad, in which case it will die out. (Remember Leg Warmers and Cabbage Patch® dolls?)

Or, a trend can become the new standard. These new standards are the trends that you want to identify yourself with. No freelancer wants to fall behind in his or her field.

The contrast between fads and standards is quite evident in the world of web design. We’ve all seen websites that, unfortunately, look like they are still stuck in the 90s. They are truly not an asset to their owners, who would benefit if they would embrace some of the newer web standards.

The difference between fads and standard also applies to other freelancing professionals, such as writers. In this day and age, can you imagine a freelance writer who didn’t know how to use a word processor? Word processing skills are pretty much a standard requirement for writers, but it wasn’t always that way.

Freelancers should examine trends carefully before jumping on board.

8 Questions to Ask Before You Follow a Trend

The following questions can help you evaluate whether you should follow a trend:

  1. Is this guru/advisor qualified?
  2. Is his or her experience typical?
  3. Is the advice practical?
  4. How much will I have to spend?
  5. How much time will it take?
  6. What benefits can I expect to receive?
  7. Have others successfully followed the advice?
  8. What else can go wrong when following the advice?

It’s important to note that sometimes it does pay to follow a trend even if you believe it is only a fad. You may be able to jump on board with a trend and make money from it while it lasts. This is particularly true if following the trend is relatively inexpensive and easy to do and it will not make look foolish or otherwise harm your business.

What About You?

Do you follow trends? How do you determine what’s a fad and what isn’t? What additional benefits and problems can you think of related to following trends.

Leave your answers in the comments.

Image by rinaldi

Comments

  1. says

    I follow the trend just to be informed. You have undoubtedly seen the same shift in programming and the different framework camps that have emerged. For example jQuery for a Javascript library, various CSS grids, PHP content management systems.

    While all of these are great time saving implementation tools, they are not teaching the next generation of designers and developers the fundamentals of each script.

    As a community of copy writers and designers what trends are you noticing?

  2. says

    I follow trends to stay up to date on what is going on in the graphic and web world. But I take what I personally like and incorporate those into my designs. I try to take trends and ideas from other designers, and make it my own, to create something original. Trends are great, but don’t forget your own personal style. It helps you to stand out. :)

  3. says

    Hi Jordan!

    Great question. I think the copy writing trend is that more and more companies are moving online–even very small ones. I know that I’ve been approached by small firms a lot recently.

    Has anyone else noticed any different writing trends?

    Can anyone answer Jordan’s question about design trends?

    Hillary–thanks for bringing up personal style. I agree that it is important and helps distinguish your work from everyone else’s work.

  4. says

    The business rule is ‘where there is a demand, there should be supply’..
    so, if there is a requirement, becoming an expert at it is always a good investment.
    Otherwise also, sometimes quick tips and newer ideas are always an addon to the skill set.. I would rather say that following a trend should be left upto one’s discretion and demand of the time..

  5. says

    Some trends I’m noticing at the moment for website design is the use of WordPress style websites. It appears that many people are wanting an easy to update website and CMS or WordPress designs are coming out. Many are easily identifiable as a “wordpress website” simply by the style. It doesn’t take much to point one out as they all look very similar. That’s just one major “trend” I’ve noticed.

    I think trends are good to follow and whether or not you implement them in your design, writing style, or in wherever your skill lies, is up to you. It’s a good idea to at least recognize them and be able to point them out so as to keep up to date with what’s going on; so you can “Appear current to clients and contemporaries”.

  6. says

    Hi, great read!

    I think Hillary H. said it perfectly. As designers and developers we are exposed to many different blogs and comments that follow and showcase trends, we read we learn and digest. Its then up to us to try come up with our own interpretation.

  7. says

    Thanks for sharing. Excellent article. The trouble with trends is before you know it, you’re all messed up. I try to learn new things all the while & have sometimes, I must admit been tempted to follow a ne trend. Have chanced upon one or two that don’t work for me as well.

    I think the list of questions you’ve suggested says it all.
    Thanks again!

  8. says

    I always come back to my business vision and target market.

    This post makes me think about the trends that come and go with respect to the ways we promote our businesses. I try to evaluate them in terms of whether they are aligned with my business model and whether they are relevant/would appeal to my ideal customers. This thinking helps me to decide whether or not to follow and how much time I should put into the new approach.

    Also, innovation is important, but we have to be careful. Too much time trying new things can cause us to stray too long from our existing, well thought-out plans!

  9. says

    Great points everyone!

    Marlene–I think you say it well.

    “This post makes me think about the trends that come and go with respect to the ways we promote our businesses. I try to evaluate them in terms of whether they are aligned with my business model…”

    That’s an excellent approach.

  10. says

    Hi Laura, love your ideas. I thought this post is all about fashion at first glimpse. Anyway, following trends is not bad, specially when it comes to marketing your skills as a freelancer in social media networks. But personally, I’d prefer to standout from the rest, so I don’t follow much what a lot of freelancers do in my field. Cheers!

  11. says

    I used to call myself a freelancer. But for me the term felt temporary, part time. I freelanced when I was at the agency at night, now that I wasn’t there if I was still freelancing, well it was like it was helping me get by until the next thing.
    Turning off the term freelance was a part of a big switch for me of embracing my dream. I started to not just refer to myself as an owner, but I started to see my self as an owner. It gave me a better frame to work within. This wasn’t casual, this wasn’t temporary. And…I work exclusively with churches so dropping the word free helps them to realize it isn’t free. :)

  12. says

    As it turns out, I’m quite the trend follower when it comes to things I’m not passionate about. I will follow those trends aimlessly, however when it comes to things that I feel I have a personal bond to, I’m not afraid to totally give it my own flavor. Great post though, awesome insight.

  13. says

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  14. says

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  16. says

    I do a lot of freelance roofing for my father-in-law. It’s good work for a family that lives in Vancouver. We do all we can find good work around. I just hope work stays steady.

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