Remote work or Freelance?
When searching for possibilities for remote work you might have found the option to become a remote freelancer. But what is the difference between remote work and freelancing? It seems quite similar at first sight. More and more people favor or aspire to have remote jobs, and is especially popular among people working in the tech sector. Working from home or other remote places absolutely require more discipline and a high degree of planning to make a successful workday. It is not for everyone, but despite the downsides of this type of work it certainly has some benefits to back those up. There are some similarities and differences between working remotely and freelancing, and it can get a bit tricky to tell the difference. Remote indicates that you are a fulltime employee at some organization, whereas freelance jobs end their engagement with an organization when the project is over. In both situations you are not required to be physically present in an office.
Freelancing usually means that you have a part-time job and a flexible schedule. Being a freelancer means that you are self-employed and you usually possess a specific set of skills which can be used to complete a part of a project or the whole project. Common freelancers include marketing professionals and graphic designers. Remote job refers to full-time jobs which can be done out of the office. Companies which offer remote positions often have core working hours during which all members of a team (despite time zone differences) all work together.
It does not matter for either of these job types where you are located, or what you are wearing. However, you need to be reliable and trustworthy, have a certain set of skills and enthusiasm to get the job done. Moreover, a fully functional computer (or whatever device you work on) and reliable internet are both needed while working remotely or being active as a freelancer.
Both being a remote worker or being a freelancer will provide a great amount of freedom. But remote workers still are conventionally hired. Everything is the same as being a normal worker in a company, the only thing which is excluded is an office. Being a remote worker involves a constant virtual presence through online communication channels and sometimes employee monitoring software.
Being a freelancer has all the freedom to make decisions regarding projects and/or clients. You are not bound by contracts and in most cases you can turn down a job offer at any time (at least if you are in the financial position to do so). Freelancers often have nothing to do with working hours, seeing that they schedule all of their activities and assignments in such a way that they deem convenient. They usually need to complete tasks or projects within a time period which was agreed on upfront. Once done they can move to their next project. Work is also less monitored by a client; freelancers sometimes have to present their own ideas to make sure things work.
When being a freelancer you often need to make use of platforms which offer freelance jobs, however the lowest bid often wins. When looking at companies that are willing to hire remote workers, they are looking for two things: if you have the hard skills to complete the job and if you care capable of efficient communications within a (remote) team. Seeing their need for such requirements, positions for remote jobs often lead to a rigorous selections process which include applying and providing proof of your skills through interviews and tests. The little difference which separates freelancing from working remotely lies in the fact that the development of a long term relationship with a client while working for them as a freelancer could turn into a fulltime remote position in the company.
Uncertainty is a huge factor in the life of a freelancer, seeing that they often only have themselves to find a job/client. Therefore – if a client is not found after a project finishes – they might not always have a reliable/steady source of income. This is one of the reasons why more people favor being a remote worker over being a freelancer: it feels more secure because you always have work and thus an income. As a freelancer you have to plan out every single detail and have a plan b-c-d-e-f-etc. ready to go at all times, even when some situations are completely out of your control which can make you look unprofessional.
Loneliness or boredom
Both being a remote worker or freelancers brings the possibility that one might get bored or even lonely. But for both career paths this is easy to overcome. You just need to keep up a high level of concentration and keep your social life and other daily chores into the mix: keep variety! It sometimes takes time to get used to working out of office. At the point that you have a schedule in which you can get the job done and mix in the fun stuff, you are set. Once you arrive there you can do the best you can and enjoy it as well, this while comfortably sitting in your cozy socks on your couch or while sitting under a coconut tree sipping a delicious smoothie.
Things you can do to become a successful remote freelancer
On of the most important things you need is the ability to hustle combined with discipline to make freelancing (or any time of solopreneurship) work for you. In the beginning (when you do not have much experience and/or audience) it will be a huge amount of work for days on end for a long period of time.
- Start with formulating your “why”. You basically need to have a good understanding as to why you are doing what you are doing. It is especially helpful when looking at it from a psychological point of view. It helps you going on during bad days or hard times, basically anything which forms an obstacle during your business journey. Just sit down an put on a paper (or anywhere really) why you want to start freelancing. When times take a turn, just look at it for positive reinforcement, the mind is a very powerful thing!
- Build your own business circle. You need a lot of things (and maybe people) to run even the simplest of freelancing businesses. We are talking here about marketing, sales, to the actual work which also involves client management, etc. This can take a toll on its own. Ideally you will have some mentors, peers and people who you mentor in place. This can be seen as the law of 33%, seeing that each of the earlier mentioned groups makes up for 1/3 of your social circle: this to prevent you from missing out of a social work environment.
- 90-90-1 rule. You could implement this rule and grow your freelancing business healthily over weeks and months. It basically comes down to this: for the next ninety days, devote the first ninety minutes of your workday to the most important thing on your “to-do” list. The first hours after you wake up are when you have the highest levels of focus, energy and willpower. Better use them, especially when in this day and ages distractions can be found everywhere and focus has become increasingly more important. Something to keep in mind here is that you should focus on the important things, not the urgent ones; therefore you need to distinguish those two. If you just found your first client, the important thing is to do such a great job that the client will repeatedly hire you and also recommend you. If you only have one or two clients and want to increase business, focus on finding a niche in your area of business as to get more projects with new clients at a consistent rate.
- See yourself as an investment. You should realize that investing in yourself is one of the best things you can do to improve your learnings and thus realize your goals. Through taking courses and workshops you can learn from people with expertise or the best of the best in your active field of work, therefore you can avoid mistakes they have already encountered. There are many ways you can do this – getting a mentor, reading relevant materials, entering online courses etc.
- Report to yourself about, well, yourself. Spend time on understanding the right metrics for your business and track them.
- Don’t be picky, become a master. Take on jobs which might not really fit your expertise, but make this clear to your client as well. This way you both can work towards a solution and you both learn from the experience. When you go deep into you field you will learn the most.
- Set up systems, processes and teams. When your business starts to grow you don’t want to spend most of your time on mundane things, and stuff that keeps on repeating such as: the sales cycle, setting up calls, etc. It would be advisable to automate as many parts of your business as possible so you can be as productive as possible during your working hours. Examples of this could include:
- Search for projects daily: instead of searching for gigs yourself, find out the biggest problems in your field of work and add these tags to your website or profile on a freelancing platform so possible clients will approach you.
- Wasting time on planning calls/appointments: use apps like Calendly to automate this hassle and send a link to potential clients where they can chose a time which gets directly added to both your calendars.
- Repeating process for new clients: set up client onboarding documents and processes and start them whenever it starts off.
- Too much work: if your finances permit you, increase your rates by hiring a team to get jobs done faster.
- Prospecting stage is the start. The easiest and fastest ways to boost your freelancing is at the prospecting stage. This basically means that you need to respond to jobs, requirements, or anything potential companies/clients/ or businesses want you to do. Going to where the root and quick requirements are, and being where clients are actually looking for people to solve their problems is the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to get your first couple of jobs. When you start freelancing, you do not have to network, promote or create content. Those things are helpful yes, but they are a long-term process which can be doing while growing your business. The main focus for you is to get your first clients and finishing those jobs the best you can (to gain mouth-to-mouth advertising and possibly returning clients).
- Slowly get away from promoting and prospecting. Prospecting is a good start, but when growing your business you need to work towards growing out of this stage, and to get clients in a different discovery stage. This will aid you in getting higher value projects, connect with a bigger audience, make name for yourself, and many more benefits. Networking and thought leadership are two major concepts you need to take notice of, and are the ultimate aim of your slow growth.
- Do not end as a one trick pony. Freelancing is great but you are still trading your valuable time for money. To make something more scalable, it is a good idea to provide packaged products or services which solve problems and irk-points in your sphere and add a high value. These will need a deeper understanding of your clients, their problems and your area of expertise. You will need to dedicate hours of research and then their development which you would end up repeating four clients in a certain field. Moving from 1-to-1 to 1-to-many is one of many ways you can scale your business and have a bigger impact.
Couple of keys to take with you
- Offer products or services which are an outstanding solution (remote) customers actually need and are willing to pay for.
- Know (and how to use them) the platforms you can use to get clients.
- Master the art of writing, interesting, short and hooking, introductory proposals.
- Do not waste time by explaining how great you are.
- Show interest in your client.
- Do not be scared to challenge a client.
- In case your bid rate is high, explain why.
- Mirror the job posting of the client: if it is short and sweet, reply the same.
- Focus on making contact and keeping it: this establishes trust.
- Offer the client several dates and times you would be available for an interview. Also be as polite to convert the times into the time zone of the client if applicable. Maybe even let the client bring up a suggestion for a day and time.
- Gain confident by asking lots of good questions and give honest answers.
- Invest your time in several conversations or any type of communication.
- Propose a trial: finish a small job for them so they can assess if they are happy with your services.
- Try to aim for big projects.
- They have a smaller timeframe for acquisition.
- Your earnings are higher from them.
- They relieve pressure for a while seeing that you do not need to search for another gig for the length of the project.
- See yourself as a project manager, because in fact, you are one.
- Communication above ANYTHING!
- Feedback is precious, seeing that in remote freelancing, your online feedback is the reputation you have going for you.
Freelancing sounds amazing and there are already a lot of tips given on how to be a good one. But this workstyle also has downsides. These include loneliness and rejection, for example when a possible client vanishes without a word. And the financial uncertainty. Just these are often enough to sink a freelancer. If you are still holding a burning passion to become a freelancer, let me provide a last bit of advice before I give you a farewell salute into the world of freelancing. Match your working environment to your personality and preferences, everyone likes to work somewhere where they feel good. You need to be able to handle rejection, because it will hit you in the face very often. Seriously think about your finances, are you still floating when work is scarce or are you as gone as the Titanic? We wish you the best of luck on your freelance journey.