When my son was born, I couldn’t imagine leaving him, let alone having a supervisor tell me that I couldn’t have the day off for his first or any future birthdays, holidays, events, his first day of school…you get the picture. So, when the opportunity to take a voluntary layoff presented itself, I took it…two days after giving birth to my son.
I’ve been freelancing for the past eight years and, since taking that layoff, it has been my sole income for the past three. Being a freelance writer/editor/blogger/project manager/social media manager/webmaster is not nearly the life that I had imagined for myself or my family. I wanted a more respectable career, something that had anything to do with all of the money I spent on college, but that all changed when I began pursuing my lifelong interest in writing. It didn’t change my course immediately, but it did change me and what I thought I wanted out of life – and that was a good thing.
Freelancing opened up a whole new world for me. It introduced me to a new way to work, a way to support myself and my family on my terms and it gave me a way to stay home with my son and enjoy motherhood. These are the benefits that I find priceless, as you’ll never find this kind of satisfaction with a typical commuter job.
How I got started as a freelance writer…
People frequently ask me how I got started in this business. The truth? I was looking for a way to supplement my income from home and stumbled upon a site called GetAFreelancer. The site has since changed hands and has become Freelancer, but the idea of the site is still the same. Essentially, it is a freelance marketplace where freelance writers, marketers, designers, programmers, VAs and more can connect with employers. You have the option to choose a free account or a paid account. If you want to be able to bid on more projects, you might prefer the paid account. There are also project fees or withdrawal fees charged. Freelancer charges the employer and the freelancer, so there’s somewhat of a happy medium here.
I rarely use the site today, but I can see that it has grown. You can find a lot of work on Freelancer, but there’s a great deal of competition from offshore companies as well, which often lowers the rate that employers are willing to pay to pennies on the dollar. However, if you pay close attention, you can still find a fair employer who is willing to pay for good content.
Shortly after getting my first client on Freelancer, I found Elance – and I’m glad I did. Although, like the latter, there is a lot of offshore competition, there are still several American employers willing to pay a fair price for the content that they want written, as well as a wide array of other tasks like programming, design, marketing, sales, virtual assisting and more. Elance is much different in setup as well. There are standard fees charged to the freelancer, but Elance makes it simple to figure those fees into your bid so that you don’t lose out. Like Freelancer, you can choose a free account or you can opt to pay a monthly fee. I actually just landed two new clients here, so I’ll be busy for the New Year, which is always a good thing.
Another site I used to use is Odesk. Similar to Freelancer and Elance, it’s another freelance marketplace. I made a few thousand dollars through Odesk in a three month period, but I built up a good client base, so I rarely visit the site these days. Still, I did have a really good experience with this site and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in finding freelance work. The fees are low, the volume of work available is high and the site is easy to use. They also send regular emails to keep you updated or get your input, which I enjoyed.
Other Freelance Opportunities
For those who want to find freelance work in web design, coding or programming, there are several other sites available that specialize in just these areas. I’ve listed a few below that I’ve heard good things about and actually used as an employer, but I can’t testify to how they treat their freelancers or the fees involved for freelancers.
I used 99 designs for a client that was interested in having a logo designed, but didn’t have the time to handle the communication or development themselves. I was really amazed at the quality and number of logo designs presented to me. The simplicity of the site was nice, but I have no clue how the freelance end of things are. If anyone would care to leave a comment regarding this, I would be happy to publish it.
Are there downfalls to freelancing?
The struggles and frustrations that I have encountered the past eight years are definitely bearable, since the few bad experiences certainly don’t discount the many wonderful benefits. I love the fact that I have been able to be home with my child, enjoy every holiday with my family and work in my pajamas whenever I want to. I also love the fact that the work changes frequently, so I don’t get bored with my work very often.
However, bad experiences do exist – and they can be really bad. Here are a few things that you may or may not have to deal with:
- Not getting paid. Yeah, that’s bad. Whenever possible, obtain a 50% deposit up front. If you work through a freelance site, require escrow.
- Working for two extra months without realizing that you had already fulfilled your pre-paid retainer (long story) and then having a client tell you that he’s going to sue you when you inquire as to the deduction rate because you can clearly see that it has been miscalculated and the client actually owes you money. Very bad.
- Having to wait several additional weeks for payment because a client is going through a divorce and for some reason has his soon to be ex-wife handling his business finances when she refuses to communicate with him. Again, bad.
- Having a client who does not know what they want, resulting in multiple revisions of the content you created. Always have a clear contract in place defining what is included in the scope of work, your contractual obligations and those of the client.
- Having a client barter with you to lower your rates when the rates are already far below the average. Everyone wants to get something for nothing. Stand your ground.
Still, if you cover your bases like I do, these issues don’t present themselves often. When they do – with the threat of a lawsuit, for instance – I present the facts and the records that I’ve kept to alleviate the situation and prove that no wrongdoing occurred on my part. If any wrongdoing has occurred on my part, I make every attempt to take responsibility for it. I will lower the rate, often shaving off 20% or more to make up for delays and misunderstandings. I’m not perfect and I don’t claim to be. Like any business, when an error occurs, you want to ensure that you deal with it appropriately so that your clients feel satisfied.
Is a freelance career for you?
Countless individuals attempt to break into the freelance industry each and every year. Many succeed, but many fail. If you feel that this industry would be a good fit for you, I suggest trying one of the freelance marketplaces above to get started. You should have verifiable samples, references and a confident attitude and you should definitely have a resume or CV prepared to send potential employers.
You should also remember that professionalism is always important. Yes, even when you are working from home. If you want to retain clients, you can’t send them text-message-style communications. R U wntng ths 2nite? is not acceptable. Why? Because employers want to know that they hired someone who is responsible and takes the time to communicate properly. Communication is everything in the freelance world and if you can’t handle that, then you’re probably not ready to break into the freelance arena.