Monday, September 15, 2014

Thoughts on Freelancing

Last year, in addition to the occasional copyediting assignments I would get from the universities, I started freelancing on oDesk.  It's been an interesting experience working as a freelancer, so I thought I'd share it with you in case you wanted to give it a shot.

First of all, oDesk and eLance and other similar websites are not the only source for freelance work, but unless you've already made a name for yourself, they're a decent place to start.  If you get lucky, and if you persist.  Because here's the thing with those sites--ANYBODY from anywhere can bid for work there, and that means that you've got to put serious work into your cover letters to make sure that you don't land in the same "fuck 'em" pile as a spammer. And there are jobs that have 40, 50 people applying.  It really is a wild and crazy market, and sometimes you just get lucky.  There are tactics you can use to increase your odds of getting a job, of course.  Nothing is ever guaranteed, of course, but you can increase your chances.

Secondly, it's work.  I know there's a terrible joke that goes something like, "I'm not unemployed, I'm a freelancer" but the fact is, even if I'm not working for clients, I'm working--putting bids in, researching positions, writing offers, etc.  You can't write a generic cover letter and hope to have a prayer of getting through.  I don't change my CV for oDesk jobs, but writing a smashing cover letter is still a good deal of work. And then there's the actual work.  Digital pulp fiction--I do a lot of ghostwriting--doesn't seem like work, until it's 9 pm and you've still got 3000 words to go in order to meet your deadline.  And this is on top of keeping a kidlet happy, occupied and fed for a full 12 hours a day.  I may be able to pick my hours and pick my clients to a certain extent (see below), but it's still a long slog.

Thirdly, know what you're worth and stick to your guns.  My price for ghostwriting gigs is almost double what most people will pay.  I may occasionally take fun jobs for somewhat less, but it's not something I make a habit of doing.  On the other hand, I tend to underbid somewhat for translation jobs, mostly because I've got zero certification for translating and even less experience doing it.  Whatever you do, do NOT lower your bid too far from your posted rates--it makes you look like a desperate noob and will get you kicked over to the "spam" pile regardless of your credentials.  And yes, I have turned away clients that don't offer enough, or expect too much, or both.

Lastly, freelancing is what you make of it.  If you put in your hours, you'll probably get some returns.  Probably--there are people who've applied to hundreds of jobs to get their first one (they're not doing it right)--I don't think I'm overly exceptional in what I'm able to give a client, but I try to be smart about which jobs I apply for.  Herer's the thing, though:  If you don't, you most certainly won't.