If it seems like every other person you know is self-employed these days, it could be because freelancers now constitute more than a third of the total workforce. When we picture freelancers, our minds often conjure up images of plaid-shirt-wearing millennials setting up in shop in local coffeehouses and hammering away on their laptops. But in reality, it's not younger workers who are the most reliant on freelancing as their sole source of income. Rather, it's Gen Xers, according to a new report by FlexJobs. And believe it or not, baby boomers rank second on that list, with millennials coming in third as the generation that relies the most on freelancing as its primary income source.

But no matter what generation you fall under, you should know that freelancing can produce a steady stream of predictable income -- provided you're willing to go the extra mile. Here's how.

Man typing on laptop


1. Maintain relationships with your clients

Many freelancers are used to one-time arrangements with clients -- meaning, they'll be called upon for a single project only to never hear from that client again. But if you really want to succeed as a freelancer, be sure to continuously reach out to the people you've worked with in the past. You never know when seeing your name in somebody's inbox might prompt him or her to request your services. 

2. Network

The less time you have to spend marketing your business or searching for jobs, the more you'll be able to focus on earning money. If you're going to be successful as a freelancer, you'll need to do some serious networking, especially when you first venture out on your own. So sign up for conferences in your field, talk to your former colleagues and associates, and attend meetups for self-employed professionals in your neighborhood. The more people you meet, the greater your chances of getting referrals that help you secure a steady workflow.

3. Have a unique value proposition

To be successful as a freelancer, you'll need a means of setting yourself apart from the competition. So think about what makes you good at the things you do, and find a way to communicate that consistently to clients, associates, and even friends. If you're a marketing guru who's also adept at graphic design, for example, you'll be uniquely positioned to develop product ads from start to finish, something clients might be more than willing to pay for.

There's nothing wrong with relying on freelance work as your sole income source, whether you're new to the workforce or have been a member of it for years. At the same time, be realistic about your financial needs and goals, and make sure you can generate enough of a freelance income to meet them.

If you're younger, you'll need to earn enough from your freelance work to not only pay the bills, but also chip away at any outstanding student debt. If you're a Gen Xer, you might have your kids' college funds to worry about. And if you're a baby boomer, you might need some extra money to pay off your mortgage in time for retirement or boost your nest egg. The more effort you put into your freelance work, the greater your chances of earning enough money to hit all of these needs and objectives -- and then some.