This month marks the end of my first 8 months as a person who only works remotely, doing only online jobs through Upwork.com. That’s where 100% of my income now comes from. Last year I had lost all my savings and was covered by a few friends and family for a few months and slowly climbed out of the rubble.
So, in no particular order…
The 10 most important things I have learned about working in the online gigs world:
1. Clients (people, businesses or agencies) post their jobs with their budget and you send them a proposal with your rate. Of course there will be many other people bidding a lower rate and most cases these people get the jobs so the client saves money. But stick to your professional expert level and stick to your desired rate. Once the clients find out cheap labour means bad quality rush jobs, they knock on your door. You get paid by the hour (and thanks to a nifty time tracker from Upwork or entered manual hours) or by project (milestone).
2. Get your business profile right. It’s your business card to anybody you send a proposal to. Be in your client shoes. They get the job proposal from you and might click on your profile on Upwork.com. What they read about you is what they get. Be straight to the point, professional and make them want to pick you for the job. You can always add a link to your professional website if you wish to elaborate more on the services you offer. But keep the client impressed: even your website has to be solid professional too.
3. There is no right or wrong answer on the number of hours you need to work. Sometimes it takes 75 hours one week and 30 the next. The following week I work only 4 hours. The most important thing for me was generating income, also for the long run.
4. Burnout happens when you lose control, not when you work hard for long periods of time. Be organised, arrange your time slots, get those bloody yellow post-it notes in your face.
5. Self-care through nutrition, exercise, down-time (doing nothing!), unplugging, etc. is a MUST. You are not a robot and you can’t go on forever. Do something totally different for the same time you “work”. Go to a gym and get a workout done. Turn your favourite song up loud and dance in your living room (nobody seems to do that at an office).
6. If you don’t have a solutions-oriented mentality, you likely won’t enjoy working online through Upwork gigs. “You” are the structure and all resources are available online.
7. Don’t hang around folks who say something like “can’t be done” or “why would you do that stuff?”. Go find people that accomplish difficult things against all odds and who keep on trying and keep going. Find people that inspire you.
8. Toxic clients can destroy your culture, so get rid of them immediately. You are nobody’s slave: end the contract when things take a weird turn or the communication goes off rails while you did your utmost and professional best: take the loss and cut it from your life. And breathe again. That clears up.
9. Stay active online. If you stare at your screen and wonder why nobody wants to hire you, you should quit and get a real job. Like what ordinary people do. But no, we are special people living a special life and doing special jobs. Send in those job proposals – even daily and even when you have ongoing gigs – for anything you could handle. Clients need supermen like us!
10. It’s hard to plan things in advance as jobs come random. I spent plenty of time daily to send in job proposals for any job I could handle and get job contracts offered in return. But suddenly that doesn’t match the planned long weekend out. Make the choice: cancel that weekend or work during that weekend away? Will I miss a solid $800 income or will I enjoy time with family or friends? Decide what you need most at that time.
11. Don’t ever burn bridges. We all make mistakes from time to time. If you do, apologize. Make things right. You might lose an unhappy client. I could tell you about that one time with that loony Fortune500 CEO that was my client and he was a total – but I don’t. Stay humble and friendly. Your personal brand and your network are the most important things you have.
So how is it going for me as a remote worker at the moment? Boy, did things improve! I started rather empty handed, with an empty profile and no reviews, client feedback or recommendations.
Persistence paid off and Upwork gigs became my real life job, which I can schedule whenever I want, wherever I want. And it is finally paying off too.
Soon all my friends can stay at my place for as long as they need.
In Lisbon, Portugal, that is.