Random Afternoon Post: Freelancing as a Noob

I love being naive.  No really, I do.  I always do my best to plan, write out pros and cons, but sometimes you just don’t know enough until you jump in.  That’s what I finally did.  I had some issues with time constraints, as in I couldn’t do anything at all, and as some of you already know I decided to buckle down and try freelancing.  This is the one time in my life when I didn’t plan a lot.  If I had planned, I never would have done it because it wasn’t “safe”.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I’m learning so much that I would not have learned had I stayed at my regular job.  There are lots of people who are qualified to give great advice about freelancing, but at this point I’m not really one of them.  Growing a customer base can be really difficult, especially if you work primarily online.

The most I figure I could do is share a few little lessons (probably obvious to normal people) just in case you’ve been thinking of freelancing.

1) It is best to have multiple skill sets (I know…Duh!).  Most people are looking for a lot of work from one person.

Here’s an example:  customer wants you to proofread their website, fix coding and layout.  This should     technically be multiple jobs, but a lot of companies and people are looking for freelancers but have a tight budget and want the world for just a little bit of money.

2) Quantity and Quality:  Both are important when it comes to freelancing.  Make sure you know the customer’s expectations.  Many are not clear in their descriptions, and there are also varying levels of quality when it comes to work that is pre-written (most applicable to editing and proofreading), which means different timetables for completion.  A job that ordinarily might take a couple of hours could take triple the time.  You’ll want to learn to sift the serious employers from the ones who will expect hours of work for very little money.

3) Don’t be afraid to bid on more than one project.  I would recommend bidding for as many things as you are qualified for and at multiple sites (www.guru.com, www.elance.com, www.freelancer.com).  The more you bid, the better your chances of landing a contract. If you get lots of offers that you won’t be able to complete simultaneously, you’ll be able to choose the ones you want to accept.

 4) Bilingual? Excellent! If you’re bilingual you’ll have a better chance since you’ll be able to bid on more projects.

 5) Feedback:  Most (perhaps all) of the freelancing sites have areas for feedback.  Employers give you feedback, and you give the employers feedback.  This is crucial so be sure to play fair and keep the golden rule in mind.  Prospective employers DO look at feedback.

 6) Don’t get discouraged.  This part is tough, especially if you’re a new freelancer.  Competition is fierce and you’ll have to adapt your bidding style for each freelancer site that you use.  When you’re a new freelancer, you have no feedback so you’re less likely to be chosen.  Not exactly fair, but you can’t do much about that.  Keep bidding every day and eventually someone will choose you.  You may have to accept lower pay than the job merits, or do jobs you hadn’t initially planned to do.

 7) Make sure to develop your profile.  Most sites give you the ability to upload samples of your work (I would recommend putting a watermark on documents so people don’t steal your work), and some sites allow you to take tests so you can certify your claims. You may have to pay in some cases, but this is typically a good investment.

8) Make sure you have a Skype account and a quiet, professional-looking environment for your potential customers.

9) Know when to say “No”.  This is difficult.  When you’re freelancing, employers seem to think that you should jump up and down at any offer.  You will get requests to “edit” which the customer then explains really means ghostwriting their term paper or dissertation.  Not Cool.  There are times when it’s best for your career and reputation to say, “no”.  I refuse to ghostwrite for people, which drastically reduces my bidding options, because I find the practice unethical.  For those of you who don’t know about ghostwriting (at least in the freelancing world), here’s an example:  “I want to write a(n) book/ebook.  I need someone to write it for me, but I’m going to own the content, rights, profits, etc.  Your name won’t be anywhere on the manuscript.”  Basically it’s like flushing your time, effort, and experience down the drain.  You technically can’t put this on your list of accomplishments; there is no way to verify it for future clients.  Most of these people want to pay you less than $250 for the project as well.

10) Don’t give up

That’s pretty much all I’m going to put in here for now because this is so much longer than I thought it would be.  I get going, then BAM!  The writing bug hits.  I’m going to go corral my writing bug to see if I can recoup the roughly 4,000 words I lost this week when yarny.me decided not to save properly.  ~cries~  Of course it was a fight scene.  Of course.  Anyway, this is what I’ve learned so far in my “freelancing as a noob” phase.  Thanks for sharing the journey with me. 🙂

Here’s people who know MUCH more than I do:

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