HOW I EARNED $1 Million freelancing!
MAKE MONEY ON THE SIDE!
WORK WHEN YOU WANT, WHERE YOU WANT!
If you’ve browed LinkedIn or Twitter you’ve undoubtedly been beguiled by the aritcles touting how freeing freelance work can be. Work from home? No commute? Work when you want?
What’s not to like!
Well, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to freelancing. It takes a special kind of person to navigate the freelancing world, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
In this article I lay out my own experience freelancing, and you can decide if it’s right for you.
A little background
Most freelancing stories start with “I was tired of working for the man, so I quit.”
With me, it was more of a necessity. I was let go out of the blue from a development job I had. This was about a year before COVID.
“No problem,” I thought. Just dust off my resume and move on to the next job.
Unfortunately I found the job market was dry…like Saltine Cracker dry. From what I could tell, nobody was hiring, especially someone whose last job ended inadvertantly.
With money running out I knew I needed to do something. I heard about a certain type of job called “virtual asssistant” during a podcast years ago and thought that maybe I should investigate.
Turns out, virtual assistants are basically generic freelancers. And I found that there are other types of freelance jobs. So I found out where the freelancer sites are and placed bids for software jobs.
I soon found the world of freelancing is not what is portrayed in social media or entrepreneur magazines. Here are some things that I found. Keep in mind that this is my experience; there may be others with different experiences.
Freelancers need to be highly specialized
It’s tempting to see low hanging fruit outside your area of expertise and think, “Hey, I can do that!”
Don’t fall for it!
Clients are execting the most bang for their buck, and don’t have time to support your on-the-job training. My first wake-up-call for this was what I thought was a simple job, “recreating a powerpoint layout.”
I’ve used PowerPoint before. I figured, “how hard can it be?” Granted, I use Linux for my primary desktop, so I had to use Microsoft’s online PowerPoint service, but once I got an account I was able to get started.
So, after carefully copying the design I sent it back to the client and…
“I can’t pay you for this. The alignment is all over the map. Looks like crap.”
Lesson learned: My career is in software, I stick with software.
There are a lot of bad freelancers that end up getting work
I’ll admit that I’ve only ever been working as a freelancer, but any client I’ve talked to admits it’s really hard to find good-quality freelance clients. And they’re not necessarily looking for the superstars, either…just ones that can do an average job on a deliverable.
This means that the challenge for you as a freelancer is to write a convincing bid that proves you’ve done quality work and you’re able to do it for the client. It’s a challenge because bad freelancers know how the right things to say to get the client to accept their bid, but they can never deliver on the promises.
So, really, it comes down to luck and merit.
The pay is terrible.
There’s a reason why it’s considered a “side job.” Clients are looking for cheap labor. Since most aren’t legitimate businesses, it’s perfectly legal for clients to charge $2/hr.
Also keep in mind you’re usually an independent contractor, so no money is taken out for taxes. So for that $2/hr job you’re most likely losing money.
But the fact of the matter is you have to take some of the low-paying jobs to earn a reputation. Until you get a few clients to give you good reviews it’s nearly impossible to charge what you’re worth.
It helps to do a little market research. For me, as a developer, the salary range is about $80K - $110K.
Pro tip: to convert from salary to hourly, simply divide by 2,000 to get a rough estimate
So, a developer’s hourly rate is around $40/hr - $55/hr; remember, that’s for a full-time job with benefits and taxes taken out.
So I add a couple of extra dollars on the higher end as my standard rate: $57/hr.
99% of the jobs I come across (and that’s being generous) are barely at the $50/hr. So I do bend a little in order to get some income. In the future I won’t bend as much.
Clients will try to take advantage of you
The playbook usually goes like this:
- You’ve got a great client. You agree to do a set amount of work for a given time period. Everything is hunky-dory
- Perhaps you provide a few deliverables. Maybe it’s just one.
- Suddenly the client ends the contract without warning. You ask what’s up.
- There’s usually some lame excuse like, “we decided to go in a different direction.”
- The catch: Could you do this “really quick thing for us?”
Yes, I’ve encountered those “really quick things” pretty often. My job coach actually helped me the first time, so I’m able to say “no,” a lot more easily.
And then the client will most likely throw a tantrum. Expect it to happen. Close the contract, move on. For every client that does this there are 1,000 more that value your skills.
To avoid this, it’s imperative to nail down requirements before starting the contract. Set a rate, estimate that rate, and try to stick to it as much as possible.
Is Freelancing the new normal?
In this nearly 2-decades long recession companies are hiring less and less. Freelancing can be a great alternative if you do it right. I am not an expert by any means. I fumble a lot. I end up biting off more than I can chew sometimes. But Freelancing offers more control, in my book, because you can’t really get fired or laid off the way you can from a traditional job.
So is freelancing for you? I’d say if you are used to hustling, and used to instability it’s the only way. If you have never experienced instability in your life (which is probably the minority at this point) and you are confident that the carpet won’t be pulled out from under you at your job I would recommend not freelancing.
Then again, it’s up to you. I’m just giving my perspective on the matter.