How can freelancers benefit by using AI in 2023
- 20 Sep 2023
- Dan Thornton
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the massive expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) into everyday work and life, then you’re not alone. The AI boom has gathered in pace, with new and existing services launching every day, backed by huge investment. And that’s matched by many people voicing concerns about such rapid AI adoption. But how can freelancers benefit by using AI in 2023?
- The current state of artificial intelligence and the concerns of freelancers
- How to think about AI as a freelancer in 2023
- The main benefits of current AI services
Most people associate artificial intelligence with science fiction stories and films, featuring a robot or computer with human intellectual abilities, and even emotions. Named artificial general intelligence (AGI), it’s the subject of ongoing research but isn’t likely to arrive for decades at least.
What’s grown exponentially in 2023 has been the use of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI), which powers systems such as ChatGPT, Bing Chat, Bard, Midjourney, DALL-E, Stable Diffusion and many more.
These use AI systems which can be left unsupervised to learn from a set of data, and then produce outputs using statistical models and transformers to produce an output. So, while it may feel like GenAI is talking to you like a colleague, or understands how to produce art, it’s actually using a very advanced form of pattern matching to produce the most likely next word or pixel.
So, while GenAI can produce an article, painting, or video, it has no understanding of it.
People have worried about the risks of AI since it first appeared in science fiction, especially around the idea of robots and computers taking over the world. But GenAI has brought legitimate and worthwhile current issues into the mainstream, including debates around the legality and copyright of the data sources used, the fact that it will confidently output factually incorrect information (termed hallucinations), and the ability to use it for cybercrime and fake images or videos.
One big issue for freelancers and the self-employed is the risk that clients and customers use GenAI as a cheaper alternative to hiring someone for a task. We’ll be covering how to handle this, along with deeper dives into areas such as copyright and opting out as a data source, in future articles.
Despite a lot of the hype around the capabilities of AI, humans still have clear advantages over GenAI services in a number of areas. It’s a useful tool if used correctly, but doesn’t replace a good freelancer or consultant.
The ability to generate text, images and video has captured a lot of attention, but there are very few industry sectors which won’t be impacted in some way by AI. Which makes it important for anyone self-employed to understand the reality behind the hype, and what the real benefits and limitations are for their work, and for clients. And the best way to do that is to test and trial a few services, and see the results for yourself.
Even with growing calls for regulation, including the Artificial Intelligence Act proposed by the EU, and a recent U.S District Court ruling that AI images can’t be copyrighted, it’s extremely unlikely to be banned outright and disappear from our lives.
Especially when it’s being integrated into a huge range of systems and services which are integral to the way we work and live, from word processors and invoicing software to insurance, financial services, and medicine.
For a detailed look at how AI can help your self-employed business in specific areas, along with some suggestions for tools and apps to try, we’ve created a dedicated guide on how AI can help you scale your freelancing, covering areas including project management, writing, design and customer service.
But there are general benefits in starting to integrate AI as a freelancer in 2023, which apply to most use cases.
- Data analysis: One area where AI can outperform humans is in analysing large amounts of data quickly and effectively. And even if you don’t work in a role which handles huge data sources, you can get useful insights into your time and project management, or assistance with estimates and planning.
- Automation: Time tracking and analysis will help you identify repetitive tasks which could potentially be handled by an AI service. You might choose to use AI to handle client conversations and emails, invoicing or creating pitch decks and presentations. But as with outsourcing to humans, you should still keep an eye on the results.
- Brainstorming and research: AI can’t tell fact from fiction. But it can offer suggestions and ideas that you may not have thought about. Or summarise a wide variety of articles and other sources allowing you to quickly identify the most useful or interesting information to investigate. Just make sure you check all of the facts, figures, and references.
- Creating drafts and outlines: If you struggle to write the first words on a blank page, text generation can certainly help you get started. And image generators can save a lot of time by explaining visually what you’re looking to get from a photographer or designer. Adding that human element is increasingly essential if you’re looking to stand out, especially with so many businesses using AI as part of their content creation processes.
- Converting content into new formats: It’s common advice to re-use your content across different formats, transforming a blog post into social media updates, video, and more as a typical example. And AI can help with that process, by generating everything from a series of short snippets, a script, or even a voiceover.
- Marketing and lead generation: Managing email lists and updating CRM systems can be hugely time consuming. A variety of AI services aim to not only streamline that process, but also use it to generate marketing funnels and campaigns using personalisation for each potential or existing client and customer.
- Moving into new careers: Supporters of AI suggest it will create a wealth of new careers and opportunities, although they tend to be a little vague on what exactly these will be. But some new job roles have emerged, and the self-employed have the flexibility and freedom to move into these spaces much more quickly. For example, find out how to become a freelance AI prompt engineer, without necessarily needing experience in computing and IT.
- Focusing on the areas where you make a difference: Part of the attraction of freelancing and self-employed is the ability to work in the areas that you most enjoy and bring the biggest benefits. And that’s often something where humans excel over AI, such as in specialist knowledge on an industry, meeting people and networking, building communities, or being able to stand out and tackle a role in a very different way.
Any new technology brings a mixture of benefits and challenges, and AI is no exception. And the history of freelancing and self-employment shows that we should be able to move faster and take advantage more quickly than employees at larger businesses.
Even if you’re opposed to using AI as part of your career, it’s important to understand the limitations and problems for yourself. Especially when you’re explaining your decision to potential clients or customers. And it’s already an inescapable part of the companies and services you deal with.
If you’ve discovered other benefits to using AI in your self-employed business, or it’s creating new challenges for you, we’d be keen to hear about them.
Meet the author
Freelance writer, marketer, SEO
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