Tuesday, March 20, 2012

7 Tips for Freelancers

Freelancers are busy people. Their schedule can be so erratic or complicated that it is important to plan ahead or to anticipate for things. I've been a freelancer for over a year now. I couldn't consider myself a veteran because I know that there are so many things I have to learn. It was a tough start for me and there was no such thing as a honeymoon stage or something like that. Nevertheless, there are things that I learn and these I am sharing it to you.

Many companies, mostly small and midsize, do not just maintain their brick and mortar presence but also take their business operation online. These companies outsource workers, experts, or independent contractors for their virtual projects. This change in the business landscape make it easier for moms, freelancers, and part-timers find jobs online.

Odesk is one of the websites that I am getting my online projects. This site alone offers many opportunities and can keep you busy infinitely.

1.   Create a good profile

Opportunities doesn't just land on your table, in this case, on your email. Something should attract opportunities to you. And for sure, it should start with a good profile. So, what does a good profile looks like?  It should be comprehensive enough, but not too lengthy,  to include your career history that highlights your strength, skills and experience. It must be specific of the services that you provide or the type of projects that you want to work on.

2.   Search for the most recent job postings

You don't want to apply for a 2-week old job posting. It is either there are too many applicants already or the employer was caught up with something else and will eventually cancel the project. If the employer is really in need of an extra hand, he will make recruitment his top priority and get it done quickly.

3.   Read

Typically, employers who are looking for freelancers would provide a brief outline of the project, the services that they need, timeline, and sometimes budget. Serious buyers are clear with their job posting because they wanted the right applicants. If a job posting doesn't have enough information, I would say, that it could be a scam.

It is very important to read the job description. If something isn't clear, you can always email and ask the employer.

Read comments from freelancers that the prospect employer have worked with. Investigate if you have to, so you can be sure that you are working with a reliable buyer. Sometimes, I even take the time to research about the company and browse their website. If something doesn't feel right, obey your gut feeling and don't apply for that project.

4.   Be specific with your terms and your cover letter

Projects in Odesk can either be fixed-price or hourly. When it is fixed price, as a freelancer you will get your payment until the project is done. Hourly pay means that you charge an employer with your hourly rate. When you apply for a fixed-price job, never hesitate to ask for an upfront payment for your security. Requesting a 50 percent upfront payment is fine. Never start a fixed-price project until you see the upfront payment in escrow. I have learned my lesson the hard way before I faithfully ask for escrow payments.

Cover letter shouldn't be treated differently with the cover letter you send together with the resumé. Practice the same courtesy and professionalism. Indicate your previous working experience relevant to the services that the employer needs. If the employer needs researcher, then you should share your background on some research projects on your cover letter.

Other information you could include on your letter would be the working hours you can allot per day or per week, your expectations about the project and your employer.

5.   Communicate

So, you got the project. Congratulations! It's time to show what you got. However, some employers would request for a trial period first, say one day to one week, before they will hire you. They wanted to test your skills and they wanted to see how well you work.

Always remember that the secret to a good relationship, which applies to a buyer-freelancer relationship, is  healthy communication. When I say healthy communication, what I mean is when you ask question or clarification you get an answer in a timely manner. It is also important to ask for feedback to make sure that you are on the right track and to know if the employer is happy with your service.

6. Work on a schedule

Some freelancers juggle several projects. Some who are at home moms have to take care of the kids before they can work with their projects. Others have business to attend while doing some online projects. It helps to calendar your activities and work on daily and weekly schedule. Be wary of all the deadlines. If you are using Android, the Google calendar comes in handy. And please, though "the more, the merrier" saying can be true, it doesn't apply when you are loaded with too many projects. Only take projects that you are sure to finish.

7.   Freelancers are not slaves

I spotted an interesting job while I was browsing for some projects in another website, not Odesk.  I decided to linger on that page, read the job description and the comments from freelancers. As I recall it was a research job with a $3/hour pay. Many freelancers from the Philippines and India would want that job. However, freelancers from UK and US were simply insulted. One of them said, "We are not slaves!" Another pointed out, "The employer is from the Philippines. No wonder!"

So, what's the point here? Well, okay, freelancers from the Philippines could be a lot cheaper. And many companies are looking for services and pay them for a bargain. However, if the pay is not just, simply do not apply for the position.
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