Freelance Job Boards: Why They Should NEVER Be Your Only Option

When I started freelancing, I knew early on that I had to branch out.

I began as a “freelance writer”, my first two “clients” being content mills. Work wasn’t always stable, but I managed to get by. During the slow times when I wasn’t fervently writing to clock up a survivable hourly wage, I would research more about freelancing. More specifically, online freelancing.

A little later down the line, I also began “in person” freelancing as a TEFL teacher. While better paid than content mills, TEFL also wasn’t the most stable job. Of course, now being a seasoned content mill writer my original thoughts of “Great, I can sit at home all day, sip wine and write for cash!” were now long gone. However, as much as I enjoyed TEFL I didn’t really see a future in it.

peanuts
That is unless I didn’t mind earning peanuts for the rest of my life.

So, I sipped a lot of wine. I wrote for (not so much) cash. And I did more research into freelance job boards.

Upwork, oDesk, eLance, Guru… whatever. There were almost too many. After a lot of fumbling around, I managed to find my feet and actually snag a few decent-paying clients. I even forged one or two long-term (business) relationships. Content mills remained my “slow time” fallback (when work was available). In general, I made an alright living for someone in a cheap city with few expenses.

Between working with freelancer platforms, my own clients, content mills and teaching English, it dawned on me just how much work freelancing really is. It was a good education, to say the least. The searching, the bidding, working on projects just to get an interview… I spent hours of work without even a guarantee of getting a job.

In many ways, it sucked.

Finding work as a self-employed person is just as tiring and as much work as finding a full-time job – actually, probably even more since you always have to be hustling alongside your own projects.

When it comes to freelancer sites, really try to remember:

They should never, ever be your only option.

Get out on social media and the real world and network – forge relationships, maybe do a bit of pro bono work here and there to build up your portfolio. At the same time, do pick at least two or three platforms you feel will work and put some time and effort into crafting a profile.

Why? Well, because…

At the very least, a freelance job site offers you free advertising.

This all comes down to personal branding and a bit of advertising. After all, the more your face and profile pops up on the internet in the right places, the more likely it is that the right people will see it. The same can be said for publishing a portfolio on these sites.

Freelance Job Boards: The “keys” to increasing your chances of success

I cannot give you a 100% guaranteed formula that will definitely land you a list of clients so large you almost can’t keep up with the work. If I could, I’d probably be selling ebooks and courses on it (it’s what all the cool kids are down now, apparently).

However, I can give you the methods I used in order to land clients. Sometimes they worked like a charm, sometimes results took longer to materialize. Either way, they are reflective of the business world. You have to get the right target audience, sell the right product and market yourself the right way. Additionally, there are slow times and times when you have nothing but work to do.

When it comes to freelance job boards, however, these points are non-negotiable. They’re important, even if you just want a basic smattering of visibility.

Define what you ARE and what you’re SELLING

DO NOT write “Online Freelancer” as your job title, followed by “various freelance services – online!”. Anything in the area of too vague and too general is either going a) get you a bunch of jobs no where near your field of expertise or more likely b) get you absolutely no response whatsoever.

Define what you ARE. Are you a copywriter? Are you a digital strategist with a focus on writing good copy? Are you a JavaScript engineer, with a focus on front end development? Write this down, make a bullet-point list. Let your clients know what your expertise is, what you are selling and exactly what kind of pain they have that you can solve.

Your profile(s) are important

No matter how many freelance job boards you sign up to, craft them with a whole lot of love. While the actual structure of your profile can vary from one platform to the other, in general you should…

  • …have a clean, professional profile photo. This doesn’t have to be a photo of your face although I would highly advise it for individual freelancers. You are the friendly face of the business you’re running. Alternatively, you may want to consider a logo.
  • A comprehensive tagline that defines what you ARE. Harking back to the previous paragraph, are you a digital strategist? A web developer? What’s your focus, what’s your specialty? Try to think of a creative but clear way to send the message, too.
  • Fill out your bio/profile description. It’s amazing how many freelancers neglect to do this. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) detail every aspect of your job history but you should provide a comprehensive view of your professional background, your services, skills and the type of “pain” you can solve for your prospective clients. If possible, try including testimonials.

What I would advise is briefly forgetting about freelance platforms and simply crafting and online resume with at least the above points. Additionally, include a portfolio of your work and then create a website and publish it there.

You can then take this “core” professional profile and adapt it to whatever platform you’re using.

Beyond Freelancer Sites: Be your own “command central”

Ultimately, you should view each freelance platform you sign up to as one of many “channels” through which you can spread your message. People may either reach out to you on these platforms, or you may have to do a bit of job bidding to at least get your face out there (and who knows, you may end up scoring a client/gig or two).

Ultimately, this will ensure that you have a strong presence on these platforms and additionally can spread your personal brand.

However, you should maintain your “central” profile. Publish a blog posts every now and then (once a month at least). Share this post on social media (Instagram is great for photographers, LinkedIn is good for most professionals).

Join a few online communities, get involved in discussions and publish your opinion in different (relevant places). Get to know people and build relationships online – really make a name for yourself.

Ultimately, freelance job boards are really little more than a gimmick. It is possible to get a lot of clients through them, but they shouldn’t be central to your strategy (at least when you’re starting out).

The Plague: How to Avoid “Work from Home” Scams

What I was surprised to learn was that work from home scams are pretty common – even today.

Why?

Well, remote jobs are easier to find than ever these days. There are plenty of remote job boards available with real, legitimate companies listing actual positions.

Long-gone are the days of the low-paid, “grunt work”-type telecommute jobs. Programmers and customer service workers tend to have the most choice but digital marketing, HR, finance and management professionals are also beginning to see more remote-friendly jobs available in their field.

So why, then, are work from home scams still a thing?

Well, first all remember this:

There will always be scammers and con artists. They will always try to prey on those of us who need something. If anything, the more desperate you are the more susceptible you will be to a scam.

I’m not knocking desperation here, either. We’ve all been there. Sometimes, we see an offer that is too good to be true and hope, just hope, that maybe it is the answer to our prayers.

Up until recently, I did digital marketing for online dating sites. Part of the job was researching and creating content about online dating scams. Many of these dating scammers followed similar principles to job scammers. The only difference is that job scammers aren’t playing off your need for affection. Rather, they’re playing off your need for an income.

PLEASE NOTE: Job scams exist in the “real world” too. Although remote jobs have a higher level of legitimacy these days, it is much easier to get away with a scam on the Internet.

That’s why when you’re looking for a job online (which, let’s face it, is the main method most people use these days), you need to be all the more vigilant.

What makes telecommuting a particularly “lucrative” industry to scammers, however, is the fact that getting a remote job is competitive business. The good news is that many remote job boards do a pretty good job of vetting potential employers and cleaning up job advertisements.

However, as a job seeker you still need to should some of the responsibility and…

…you should still be able to recognize a work from home scam yourself!

That means looking for certain signs. As a general rule, I would recommend remaining suspicious if anything seems fishy. And I mean really fishy, not that they just took forever to respond because, quite frankly, that’s the sad state of recruitment these days.

Evaluating a Work from Home Scam: What you should look for

There are a couple of points which immediately scream “scam!” in your face when you encounter them. As a general rule of them, I would maintain that if something is too good to be true, then it’s a lie. However, consider the following points…

  • If it looks like a “get rich quick scheme”, then it most certainly is. For the scammer, that it is. For you, it means you’ll simply lose a lot of money. Get rich quick and pyramid schemes naturally predate the Internet, however the digital world has become a very viable medium for scammers to carry out their work (hey, it’s great! Even scammers can work remotely these days!).
  • If they want you to part with ANY amount of money, then get out fast. Some jobs in the real world do require you to pay upfront for certain materials (uniform, etc.). However, this generally shouldn’t be a necessary. It is you who are selling your services to a company, not the other way around. If they want to train you then they should pay for it. The same can be said for any software or hardware they provide you – and if they want to train you. You should never have to pay out of your own pocket for any of that… Ever.

Think of it this way: the main thing a scammer wants to do is extort money from you. It is as simple as that. If the “employer” on the other end consistently insists on getting cash from you, then you know you’re dealing with a bullshit merchant. Forget about what they promise you because it’s not true.

Let me repeat that again in more clear, concise language. Just so those of you at the back can hear me clearly…

NEVER, EVER, EVER GIVE MONEY TO A RANDOM STRANGER ON THE INTERNET. EVER.

Are we clear on that? Good.

In addition to the “employer” wanting money from you, there are a few other signs which should spark your suspicions. Consider if…

  • …the job ad itself is written clearly and concisely. Now, I have seen real, legitimate job listings which were terribly So bad, in fact, I wondered how the person behind it even had a job in the first place. HR is in a sad state these days so I can understand that a lot of legitimate listings may seem “scammy” at the start. Which why you should also…
  • …check the job ad’s credentials. By credentials I mean telephone, email and web address as well as other social media. How big is their web presence? How consistent is their branding (and check URLs!). You’ll usually know pretty quickly whether or not it is legitimate.

Remote “jobs” that are usually scams

There are certain “jobs” that are indeed complete bogus. Generally speaking, the easiest jobs with the highest promise of income are out and out scams. Data-entry positions, for example, should be avoided if they offer you something along the lines of US$50.00 an hour.

Below, however, are a few “jobs” you are probably better off avoiding:

The Assembly “Job”

I hadn’t even heard of these until I actually did some research on job scams…  This type of “job” seems particularly mean (and depressing). The “employees” are sent starter kits to assemble craft supplies… And the products are then sold on by the company. Of course, the assembler gets paid… Not. It’s pretty obvious off the bat that this is a scam because… guess what? We’ve got machines to do that nowadays.

It’s simply not a valid business model. Forget it!

The Data Entry Job

Unlike assembly jobs, data entry is actually a valid type of work… And yes, a lot of people do it. You can actually find valid data entry gigs online which will pay you a couple of dollars. Honestly though, a full-time data entry is not only a) rare to come across and b) doesn’t pay very well. That’s because it’s quite literally grunt work. It’s the digital equivalent of stacking shelves.

Data entry is part of a host of other jobs. From VAs, secretaries to online marketers and programmers. All at different pay scales.

You’ll know that this job is a scam when you’re promised even a liveable salary.

Nope, forget it. These are usually bullshit as well.

So then what is the best way to get a remote job (without being scammed)?

There’s no magic formula to finding a remote job. It’s just like finding any other kind of positions. You need to have the qualifications and/or experience for the role you want. And during your job search, make sure you’re aware of the most common types of work from home scams. As well as any other kind of job scam.

Just being a little savvy will help you separate the wheat from the chaff… and get you the job you want.

LIES: Remote Work Myths That Are Nonsense

The concept of remote work is plagued by myths and misconceptions.

This is, in part, thanks to the rising popularity of telecommuting. While many people read the facts and statistics, many more prefer to listen to half-truths and outright lies. After all, they are much quicker and easier to believe simply checking the facts.

Guess what’s worse: some (no many!) of these people are managers, HR professionals and even company leaders. Many of them balk at the idea of letting their employees work from home.

To these managers, leaders and human resource professionals, being unable to physically see their employees and peer over their shoulders means they may as well not be working at all.

Well… at least until said employee breaks their leg and needs to stay home for a few weeks. That’s far too long to wait and there’s lots of work to do… Ah, simply let them bring their laptop home and work from their.

But only until they’re better! Apparently, working from home is perfectly fine if you’ve done yourself an intense injury.

For these people, working from home is also a very viable solution. If it happens to be the weekend. Somehow, though, it just doesn’t work during the week. Must be the magical weekend fairies and their productivity dust.

woman doing a line
“Productivity dust”… Yes. That’s what we’ll call it.

It is this particular type of poisonous attitude towards remote work that causes a lot of people to be miserable, holed up in atrocious “open plan” offices, get on each other’s nerves, significantly decrease their productivity, lose money and commute for nearly two or three hours a day.

Younger, trendier companies have countless solutions. “Isolation” pods, pizza parties (yay?), foosball, games..!

Leaders decide against treating people like adults. Instead, they do a u-turn and every employee becomes a naughty child who must be carefully monitored. “Work from home? Why? Here, have whatever your want… right where I can see you!”

The truth is that in the knowledge economy, you’re being paid for your knowledge. Not your physical presence. You are not a tradesperson or a doctor. For decades (nay, CENTURIES), businesspeople were happy to pay external freelancers for tasks they didn’t want to do. Oftentimes, these people wouldn’t even be in the same building.

Nowadays, the only reason you have to be in an office is because of your contract.

Well, it’s time to give up the bullshit. Let me introduce you to some of the most common remote work myths I’ve common across and tell you why they are bullshit.

“Collaboration without face-to-face communication is impossible/ineffective!”

meeting collaboration hands

Yes, it is ineffective.

Until it isn’t.

Circumstances (like a business trip) may force colleagues to be apart for weeks or months. In fact, it happens quite a lot. Contracts are negotiated, products are sold and money is made all the time with neither party ever physically meeting one another.

This also happened long before even ARPANet existed. The thing is, when it comes to making money… business finds a way. Do not underestimate the power of human greed.

Just watch dramas from the 60s and 70s featuring businessmen who can’t leave work at the office. They still do paperwork on trains. They draw up strategize at home. They telephone their bosses and clients from their living rooms and hotels.

If you’re dedicated to your job and have shit that needs to get done, you will get it done.

This myth is weakened even more thanks to modern communications technology. Unless your job literally involves working on someone’s actual body, physical presence is wholly unnecessary. While there are many jobs which call for that, I’m pretty sure it’s actually inappropriate in most business contexts.

cat licking
“Aww come on, just one lick. One lick and your company has the Morgan Account for the next 20 years!”

“You can’t let people work from home. They’ll just arse around on the Internet all day!”

party lights

That is very true. Certain people exist whose life ambition seems to be to do nothing but spend time looking at cat pictures on company time. But, here’s a secret: work shy layabouts who do nothing at home will go to the most extreme lengths to avoid doing work in the office, too. Sure, it may be harder for them, but you’ll amazed shocked at the ways people will try to appear busy.

Without actually being busy!

I’m no business genius. Yet if I set a series of tasks for someone on a team I’m leading, I can easily tell if they’re working because I can see the results. You, as a manager, should have a certain set of metrics by which you measure your employees’ success. Whether they’re sitting in the office or in Bangladesh, you’ll know if they’re working because shit is getting done.

It’s not rocket surgery, people.

Oh, and those lazy people who need ‘supervision’ in order to actually do their job? I have a simple question for you:

Why the fuck haven’t you fired them yet?

“Remote work is new-fangled, passing fad…”

bewitched 500x

I believed this remote work myth for the longest time. As the years trickled by, I started to realize that it probably wasn’t true. What really made the penny drop, however, was watching Bewitched (I kid you not!).

How many times did Darren Stevens (usually thanks to a spell of Endora’s) stay home and work on his advertising campaigns? Or call Larry Tate to say he was working from home? Or do work on the weekends because a client was coming to town the next day?

And people, people… That show was set and filmed in the damn sixties!

Yes, I know it probably wasn’t that common for a regular employee back then to work from home. I am also aware that it’s a television show about witches. But television reflects real life. Steven and Tate had urgent business to do, and they did it. Office or no office.

Let’s expand further. Accountants have been able to work from home… Since forever. So have newspaper/magazine journalists. Carpenters. Oh, and just take a look at this article while you’re at it.

Telecommuting is absolutely nothing new. It has just become more common and a hell of a lot easier.

“Everyone, everywhere can and should work from home… All the time!”

woman by the pool reading

I personally would slightly prefer to work for a fully-distributed company. However, as long as they have an effective remote work policy in place and I can choose where I work, it’s not a necessity. I am also not opposed to fully-distributed companies, either. However, we need to realize that not everyone can or wants to work from home.

There are many dedicated, intelligent and talented employees who just prefer and even excel in an office environment. In the same way that I both prefer and excel at my work when I’m in my own space, listening to my own music and sitting on a bean bag rather than a back-crippling office chair.

ergonomic chair
And don’t get me started on that “ergonomic” nonsense. Humans were not meant to sit in chairs of any kind for long periods of time.

Although I talk about “remote working” a lot, in reality what I’m trying to advocate is employers treating employees like adults and focusing on getting the work done and achieving results. NOT watching people like hawks, treating them like children and fussing over stupid rules that actually waste precious company time($$$). Sure, in jobs where physical presence is necessary, you have to be there. End of story.

But that’s exactly why I chose to be a digital marketer over being a receptionist.

For workers in the knowledge economy, we should ultimately be afforded the choice to work either in the office or at home or on top of Mount Vesuvius.

While remote work still has many myths surrounding it, it is my hope that one day we (read: MANAGERS) will have gotten these pedantic, patronizing attitudes we have towards employees. It is no wonder so many of us are miserable at work.

Just look at how we’re treated.

 

Digital Nomad Myths – What You Shouldn’t Believe!

The idea of being a digital nomad is becoming very popular. Remote working allows us to do this… Which in turn has created a unique and fast-growing lifestyle that many want to pursue.

And as with anything that becomes popular, plenty of myths and misconceptions have made themselves known. With the spread of misinformation, its probably a good idea to clear up some of the false ideas that many people may have about digital nomads.

Being productive is difficult if you’re a digital nomad

Probably my favorite one because this myth also applies to remote workers. Digital nomads are often seen as flighty individuals who book plane tickets on a whim and disappear for months. On the surface, this seems to be true: except that for the most part, a lot of travel is actually planned painstakingly in advance. Visas are a thing, people!

That’s not to say you won’t get distracted by your environment. It happens. Everyone has on and off days. Some people are more prone to distraction than others. Interestingly, I’ve always found that having a bit of chaos around me actually makes me more productive. That’s why I like to do some of my work in noisy cafes (not all the time, though!).

If you primarily work from home, you may do so to avoid office distractions. Yes, offices can be very distracting places. Especially the disaster that is the open plan office. Not only that: office politics is often a big (and unnecessary) time-suck.

It’s impossible to build a successful career

Here’s a tip: It’s possible to build a successful career anywhere if you want to, digital nomad or not. It takes a lot of work, but humans are very good at overcoming the challenges that are thrown at them. For many, ingenuity and creativity are actually enhanced by lack of resources or major obstacles.

This myth also assumes that the only way of having a successful career is climbing the corporate ladder. Which is a load of crap. Successful careers are built on determination, collaboration, communication and a willingness to go the extra mile. That can happen in any work environment, remote or not.

It’s only for tech people!

I’ll admit I fell victim to this one for a long time. Especially when I was looking for remote work: I thought as a digital marketer/copywriter that my full-time remote work options were severely limited. Most of the remote jobs I saw were based in programming and tech… And while it is true that a significant number of digital nomads work in tech, and that many remote jobs are tech-based, plenty of careers can be worked from a distance.

As a non-tech remote worker or digital nomad, you may have to negotiate a bit more. Fight a little harder for what you want… But it is by no means impossible. In fact, customer service is one of the largest industries for remote work out there.

Digital nomads live a life of constant excitement

This is a non-work related one and I can understand why many believe this. After all, digital nomads travel constantly, meet new people and learn new languages. They also have new experiences are always up for an adventure… Well, maybe not so much. Moving countries constantly and acclimatizing to new environments is great. But it has HUGE downsides.

  • Loneliness affects a lot of people when they move away. Suddenly, you’re in a place where you have to be open to making new friends. If you still want social contact, that is. It can be quite daunting for a lot of people… And very much a skill to learn in and of itself.
  • You may have money problems. It’s always wise to have a “nest egg” to fall back on, but there will definitely be times when you have to scrimp and save. It may mean not being able to go for cocktails on the beach.
  • Let’s not forget homesickness and culture shock either… Newer digital nomads tend to be more prone to this than seasoned ones.

Conclusion

The nomad life is undoubtedly great, but its not all glamor and beaches. Every type of lifestyle comes with its ups and downs. And while you can read all the advice in the world, there’s nothing better than actually experiencing a lifestyle to see what it’s truly like!

Taking the Leap – Why Should I Consider Remote Work?

It wasn’t long ago that I started my first “office job”.

I had very good reasons for doing so. Up until then, I had been working freelance as a copywriter. I didn’t spend all my time behind a computer, though. I also made money on the side as a TEFL teacher (great side income, not so great career-wise).

Teaching English in companies gave me the urge to try it out for myself. I wanted to know what it was like to work in a more “professional” capacity. I knew with the skills I’d acquired over the years, I would be able to get something.

So, after a few months of applying, I landed myself a job in the online dating industry.

man woman dating
In the office, of course. I wasn’t one of the unfortunate field testers.

The first year was great. I learned a LOT about SEO, social media marketing, how to build/run a website, analytics… You name it. Essentially, you could say that as a copywriter I got the core of my online marketing education which expanded my skillset beyond the other two jobs I had previously done.

Since most of (no, all) of my work was done on a computer, I realized that the whole need for an “office” job was… Well, redundant. What I’d wanted was a chance to improve my skills, learn more and of course, earn a stable salary.

I had heard about remote work before. I knew as a freelancer working from home, I had technically been one of those “remote workers”. What intrigued me more, though, was the fact that…

You can have a stable, “9-to-5”-style job and still do it from the comfort of your home office.

At first, it seemed crazy. Then, I thought about it some more. Working remotely at the time was becoming popular and since then it has only continued to increase. The only people resisting seemed to be fearful managers who think that “management” involves walking around a room and checking over people’s shoulders.

The more I read and learned about remote work and telecommuting, the more I was sold. So, one day I very meekly walked down the smokey (no exaggeration) corridor to my boss’s office and asked him if I could work from home.

Just like that, he said yes. I was back in the saddle, working from my own desk/sofa/kitchen table just like I had been. It was the biggest relief I’d had in years.

NOTE: I will also add, it was a huge relief to get away from the petty squabbles that infested our office daily. My colleagues were nice people but I really don’t think it is healthy to spend all day, every day with the same people in one tiny room.

For me, going remote was easy. I just had to ask. For others, it may be tricky. Many more may need to consider a career change if they truly want to work from anywhere.

However, in my opinion the benefits are so, so worth it.

If you’ve been considering going remote, let me give you a few reasons of why you absolutely should give it a shot, at least once..!

Remote work doesn’t limit you geographically

Probably the most important point for me. While this means for many (like digital nomads) that they can travel the world, having no geographical limitation goes beyond that. It means you can live where you want. You can work for a big city company but live in a quiet haven in the country.

You can go to another country and learn a new language. If you live away from home, you can visit your family regularly without using up those precious holidays.

I am aware that many remote positions require you to be in a certain time zone. However, rules and regulations vary depending on the company and the position. Even the most restrictive remote position is far, far more liberating than any in-office job can be.

You don’t have to be remote all the time

Maybe you like having one or two days at home to get certain types of work done. It means you can sit down, concentrate and avoid the commute for a day or two. Perhaps, however, you still want to join your office colleagues for lunch and other activities. No problem – there are also jobs which allow telecommuting on certain days.

Actually, I’ve never worked for a fully-distributed company. I have always worked for companies that allowed telecommuting if the employee felt like it. Naturally, I take full advantage. I go to the office sometimes but for me, it’s a choice. I’m not obligated to be there.

You may have more social energy

This may be more relevant for the more “introverted” among us. I have a social battery with a certain amount of power. When I worked in the office, that social battery was drained when I came home. The thing is, I was not happy to sit on the sofa and watch TV after work every day. I wanted to go out not to fulfil social needs, but to see my actual friends.

It was exhausting. While I liked my colleagues, all of my social energy was being used on them rather than the people it was meant for. I needed my evenings to be at home but I preferred being out.

There are a lot of articles about remote workers being lonely. For me, it had the opposite effect. I was alone during the day, communicating with colleagues via Skype and Slack, sure. But by the time I closed my laptop, I went out to activities in the evening or to the pub.

beer hand
Okay, I’ll be honest: I was mostly in the pub.

If you’re introverted, working remotely means you can choose exactly where you want to spend your social energy.

Your employer benefits too

With fewer overheads, less need to worry about supplying you with coffee/drinks, less time wasted on stupid office politics… Actually, I think employers get the best deal out of remote work. Some may even insist on paying a lower salary, however this is something you should absolutely not allow to happen.

Overall, telecommuting has benefited me in more ways than I can write about here. If you feel that it’s something you’d like to give a shot, I would highly recommend you try it. If you hate it, don’t worry: there’s always coworking spaces and there are still plenty of office jobs.