Wanna ditch the cubicle and go location independent? I’ve found my freedom in freelancing, almost 5 years ago. As a software engineer, I took my IT career on the road with me and have been travelling around the world ever since. No permanent residency, following the wind and the sun, living the endless summer and kite&windsurfing in some of the best beaches in the world. With good time&money management, working 4h/day has been enough for me to fully support the dream lifestyle and make some savings for the rainy days or — for the extremely shiny ones when I want to have a break from work :)
Here are the WHYs and HOWs:
1. You get to use what you’ve been building all these years: your education, skills, experience, all the years you’ve put in the corporate career. In many cases, there is no need to get new professional skills, just to learn how to leverage them in a new environment. Actually, you’ll find out that the communication itself doesn’t differ that much — even in the office most of my correspondence used to be over e-mail, Skype etc. — the clients were often abroad , the team was distributed among different company outposts, and even the ones sitting next to me often couldn’t be bothered to take off the headphones playing their favorite music. With today’s choice of online collaboration tools, where you can even do a presentation for your clients by sharing your screen, there is no real technical challenge. What needs to change is your mindset — you won’t be passively waiting for the tasks any more — you will be making your own way.
2. Unlike corporate environment, the world of freelancing supports location independence, and choosing your own working hours schedule. But the freedom doesn’t stop here: for many people the difference between choosing your next project over being allocated to one by company’s management is the main motivation for freelancing. Just imagine how many creative and interesting projects are out there once you open up to the world. And it’s you who’s picking them! And how about making a gap between two projects? Or working part time? 40h/week as the corporate default doesn’t exist here: you choose your workload yourself.
3. Long term commitment is not necessary. Investing your money in a business idea can lead to a huge success and a source of the passive income eventually, and yeah — passive income beats working part time with your own schedule. However, once you invest the money, you’ll gonna wish to make sure it’s coming back. Therefore the first phase will require working around the clock and definitely not making gaps or taking up another project when you feel like it. This is the crucial question you need to ask yourself: how soon you want your freedom? With freelancing, it comes immediately: it took me a few days to land my first freelancing part time job and I was instantly able to live where ever on this planet I pleased while working 4h per day and having perfectly balanced lifestyle.
4. Nowadays we have freelance platforms to make it easy. Unless you have a solid client base (if you’re coming directly from corporate this might be a challenge — most of the contracts prevent employees from taking over the clients), getting the visibility might take some time. By joining some of the platforms like Upwork (formerly known as oDesk), you are out there within seconds. Sure, they do charge a percentage of your income, but they make sure you have that income in the first place — by matching you with the right clients and making sure the money lands on your account (that’s right, they do guarantee the payments — thus taking away the hassle of charging your clients in time — which used to be the biggest freelancers’ nightmare).
5. In case you decide to go back to corporate (if so, pls let me know why would that be:)), you can always use the projects you’ve completed as a freelancer to pump up your corporate CV with international experience and variety. I had some long term arrangements (2+ years) as a freelancer, was able to assume some of the leading roles on those projects and progress in my career while travelling the world all year round.
How to become a successful freelancer?
1. Having a well built profile on one of the platforms (I use Upwork) is crucial. With 7000 + hours, I am the one being contacted by the clients, not vice verse. That sure feels nice. For a start, carefully state your skills and your previous (corporate included) experience and do some of the tests to prove you know your s**t. The tests are offered by the platform free of charge, they come in huge variety and definitely make your fresh profile less empty — more appealing to potential clients.
2. The references! Talking about social capital… Upon successful completion of a project, both sides (you as a freelancer and the client) will have a chance to leave a reference (you can see the one about you only upon leaving yours ). This is exactly the way to build your profile. Be responsible, professional, reliable. You need your clients to speak the world of you.
3. Unlike corporate where it’s often required to keep your salary as a secret towards the other employees and competition, here at the freelance platforms we love it all transparent. Learn how to leverage it:
- check the potential client — how many and what sorts of projects in the past, who were the freelancers working at those projects (their skills, references, other projects, other clients etc.), how satisfied they were with the cooperation — you want to work for serious people who know how to communicate their needs and respect the service you are offering
- check your potential team — freelancers with the ongoing contracts for the same project are the people you might end up cooperating with on daily basis — here is your chance to pick your colleagues (that wasn’t happening back in the cubicle days, right?)
- check your competition — when applying for a job, check who else applied to estimate your chances and make the right strategy for the interview
- leave your competition behind — if somebody else landed your dream job, check what is it that they have and you don’t — yet! And then go ahead and build up the skills you are lacking in — due to the transparency, the competition motivates progress, instead of hard feelings.
4. Think twice before you commit to certain workload. Bare in mind that 8h/day in corporate terms is more likely 4h/day of effective work with a lot of water cooler and/or coffee machine breaks, IMing on your phone and similar. If you charge by hour, this is not really acceptable. If you absolutely must have all the breaks, block more than 4h of your day as “working hours”. However, I found that I am way more motivated and productive since I live the life I love, and 4h mean 4h to me. I usually have something nice waiting for me at the end of the working part, for instance the wind starts 11am when I am in Brazil, which means that 7am-11am (notice that both the numbers are followed by AM — yes, that would be all for a day:)) is perfect timing to attend to the clients in European time zones and be on the water just in time for the perfect conditions. I even stopped drinking coffee — the excitement and motivation keep me up now.
5. I am always charging per hour, as opposed per project. This way I don’t have to worry if (or shall I say when, since it always happens) the requirements change. In addition, all the emailing, Skype calls etc. are paid as well and I don’t need to think of it as something that is taking my time away from the paid project.