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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  Introduction - Online Freelancing Overview, Options, Opportunities and Challenges
      >  Is Online Freelancing the Right Choice for Your Skills?

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Factors that Determine Whether a Work Discipline is Suitable for Online Freelancing

The biggest part of figuring out whether online freelancing makes sense for you is assessing yourself to determine if you are a good fit for this way of earning a living. But as important as your skills and your personality are in that determination, the type of work you do is really the prime determinant of whether you are even a candidate for this kind of work at all. No matter how well-suited you may be personally for the freelancing lifestyle, if your chosen field isn’t appropriate, you probably aren’t going to get very far.

Both of the words in the phrase “online freelancing” are important in determining whether your profession will translate well to this method of work. By this I mean that you need to consider if what you do can be performed by a freelancer, and also whether or not it is apt for online communication and project management. Only fields that are able to clear both of these requirement hurdles are generally well-represented on Internet freelancing sites (though there are some exceptions, as we’ll see later on.)

Here are some of the key attributes that describe vocations that are appropriate for Internet freelancing sites:

  • Remote Work Capability: Some jobs really require you to be physically present in order to perform them, and when that is the case, online freelancing is generally ruled out. This is why there are so many freelance software jobs but very few hardware jobs—you can write a program for a computer over the Internet, but you can’t replace a hard drive or diagnose a printer problem very easily.

  • Limited Need for Personalized Service: There are certain jobs where personalized service is just expected of a provider, and where customers generally feel uneasy with the thought of dealing with someone they don’t know well, or can’t meet in person. These projects usually go to established companies or local freelancers, not those working on online freelance marketplace sites.

  • Short to Moderate Duration: The majority of projects completed via online freelancing sites are short in duration, typically requiring less than 100 hours of work, and often much less than that. (I’ve done jobs that took under one hour.) There are a few that go longer than this, but very large projects are rare.

  • Concrete Deliverables: Most Internet freelancing projects are oriented around the creation of specific deliverables that meet the requirements of an employer. These deliverables—be they articles, software programs, data, illustrations, audio files or whatever—are very important, because they really represent the ultimate goal of the work arrangement between client and contractor. Defining the deliverables is what ensures clarity between the two parties as to what the job entails, and their delivery, in part or in whole, is used as an indicator of progress or completion.

    In general, types of work that require coming up with ideas or other intangibles are uncommon in online freelancing. In fact, one major Internet freelancing site—vWorker—
    actually prohibits jobs from being listed if they lack specific deliverables. The reason is simple: if the two parties can’t agree on what the contractor is meant to deliver to the client, how can they ever know if the project has been successfully completed?

  • Technical Proficiency of Providers: There are certain fields that might be well-suited to online freelancing, except that most of the experts in the field aren’t “computer people”. This means that the pool of available providers is limited, which can lead to a particular area being under-represented, and that in turn may mean fewer clients looking for these contractors online. Of course, it can also be a very good opportunity for a provider who has the skills to develop such a market, but that’s not easy to do if the client base isn’t there.

  • Moderate Bandwidth Demands: Doing work over the Internet means also sending data over the Internet, and in some fields the amount of information to be transferred can be significant. Internet bandwidth is much less of an issue today than it was, say, ten years, ago, due to the presence of broadband Internet connections in most homes and offices. But even with today’s high-speed net service, some applications are so demanding in terms of the size of the data they use, that they may not be practical for online freelancing.

Occasionally you’ll find jobs listed on online freelancing sites that seem to break the “online” aspect of these rules. For example, there are sometimes jobs for wedding photographers, network administrators and so forth—these are tasks that appeal to freelancers but require them to be onsite. Buyers attempt to fill these needs by listing their location in the job description, and hoping they can find someone nearby. This added requirement of physical proximity makes finding a match a lot more difficult, and that’s why these are a tiny minority of the overall job base on net freelancing sites. Note that some marketplace sites cater to these jobs more than others.


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Is Online Freelancing the Right Choice for Your Skills?
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Common and Not-So-Common Online Freelancing Project Areas
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