Today’s job hunters are facing a drastically different landscape compared to twenty, ten, or even five years ago. With unemployment rates anywhere from 5-10%, on average, competition for job listings across the spectrum can be fierce whether it’s for entry-level jobs for new college graduates or for director-level, six-figure salary positions.
One of the latest trends that is leveling the playing field for many who are searching for work is online freelancing. Back in 2010, Intuit predicted that as much as 40% of the U.S. workforce would be comprised of “contingent workers” — self-employed, contractors, and temps — by the year 2020. For some in that 40%, such work may seem less desirable than a seemingly steady, salaried position, but they find themselves obligated to accept any offer that comes their way in order to put food on the table.
On the other hand, there is a growing movement of individuals who prefer freelance work: the freedom to choose their own work environment from project-to-project and not be tied down to a cubicle farm, the ability to charge higher rates when they feel it’s appropriate rather than waiting for a raise, and even the opportunity to reinvent themselves and start out on a new career path.
No matter how you look at it, online freelancing is here to stay. From Time Magazine to CNBC, everyone is talking about the pros and cons of working outside of a traditional brick-and-mortar, 9-to-5 workplace.
Is online freelancing for you? Here are some things to consider.
It goes without saying that online freelancing means that you have access to the technology and the connection that will allow you to find, complete, and submit projects. While there are a number of ways to begin your journey as a freelancer, most newbies will create a profile on sites such as Elance and Upwork (formerly known as oDesk). Take a look at both of those platforms and browse the jobs available: within any given month, there can be as many as 120,000 new jobs posted.
If you don’t already have a laptop/desktop and Internet at your home, and you’re not in a position to invest in those as a business expense, you aren’t out of the running.
Do you have access to a public library? You CAN make money while you look for work!
For an extremely wide variety of online freelancing jobs, you can work from anywhere! In fact, if you Google the phrase “location independent”, you will probably find photos of people happily typing away next to the ocean or at a café on a busy city street. For your purposes, however, picture yourself at the library, where you can likely find all the tools you will need to get yourself started at no cost to you.
Some clients may want you to communicate via Skype or Google Hangouts, so you would need to make alternative arrangements in that instance; if you have a smartphone, you might be able to take the call in that way, or borrow a friend’s iPad or laptop just for the initial interview.
You may already be feeling discouraged:
The beauty of online freelancing is that, for many jobs, none of those factors make a significant difference. Clients do want to know that you will do the job well and on-time. Take a look at your skills and ask yourself what you can do that would meet those two criteria, and what you can give as an example from your everyday life that demonstrates your abilities. Are you fluent in social media because you have thousands of Twitter followers? Did you use AutoCAD at your previous job? Have you been writing a personal blog? Chances are, you have plenty of evidence that a client’s project is in good hands with you.
If not, create that proof! Most of the freelance platforms like Elance and Upwork have skills tests where you can demonstrate your proficiency in everything from English grammar to travel planning; you can choose to make public only the test results that make you look good!
Elance success story Danny Margulies started out with zero experience as a copywriter, and within a short period of time was commanding rates as high as $125/hour, making more than $100,000 in 12 months. He recently shared some incredible tips for creating a portfolio that shows what you can do, even if you haven’t been paid to do it.
While she has been published across multiple genres, including real estate and travel, Shannon is particularly passionate about the power of freelancing as a means of helping people move forward financially.
Using the popular platform Elance, Shannon went from zero to Top 50 writers (out of more than 320,000!) in less than four months; her work allowed her to step in as the temporary breadwinner after her husband was laid off from his six-figure job.
In addition to writing, Shannon’s other hats include wife to an IT geek/social media guru, homeschool mom and teacher to four kids, book addict, and Mormon. You can see her current adventures at