The Online Freelancing Guide - Introduction and History
The creation of the Online Freelancing Guide happened as unexpectedly as my online freelancing career.
In late 2008, my sister Cari mentioned to me in passing that she had hired a Web developer from a site called Elance, which was a marketplace where clients and freelancers could do business. Knowing my background, she encouraged me to check it out. At first I was skeptical, because I didn’t really think I would be interested in this sort of arrangement—I was happy “doing my own thing”. As detailed in my short biography, I am a “computer guy”—a programmer by training—who became an author in the late 1990s. Over the course of several years I transitioned from working on computers to writing about them, and very much enjoyed only being accountable to my readers.
At the same time, though, I recognized that my new career wasn’t everything I hoped it would be. While I enjoy my writing career and the guides I’ve written, part of me has missed engaging in what was my original vocational “true love”: programming. I’ve also struggled at times with the problems inherent in making a living from writing projects: there’s a great deal of uncertainty associated with ad revenues, and there are also long lags (usually years) from the time you start on a project until the time you start earning money from it.
To me, it seemed like online freelancing would be a natural complement to my own work. As is my wont, I didn’t dip a toe lightly into the waters: I dove in head first. I signed up not only at Elance but several other sites over the following weeks. I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning, but learned quickly, and within just a few months I had moved beyond the “beginner phase”. I developed my online freelancing career, making some good money, developing clients, and learning the ins and outs of the process.
At the same time, I also became involved in some freelancing communities, and started to talking and listening to many other freelancers. What became quickly apparent to me was that a lot of contractors were really struggling with trying to make a go of online freelancing careers. I have several advantages that made the process easier, including a “big name” university degree on my resume, and both training and experience in the business world. Many folks are not so fortunate, and they had a difficult time making the adjustment to online freelancing work. Some would give up on freelancing very quickly after getting started, out of frustration or due to initial bad experiences, even though they were very talented individuals who could have succeeded if they got some help and encouragement.
To make matters worse, even those who tried to learn about online freelancing would discover that there wasn’t much help available. Extensive searches online for guides to online freelancing turn up nothing but “tip lists”, many of which contain variations of the same vague, hackneyed pointers. Some freelancers are able to get help from peers on online forums, but most don’t know these exist, and the help provided on typical freelance site forums is spotty and unreliable at best. Besides, there is so much to know in order to be a successful freelancer that asking a few questions on a forum will never be a substitute for a proper guide to the process.
It seemed obvious to me that there was a need here that I had the ability to fill. I decided to combine my success at online freelancing with my experience as a technical writer and as a businessperson, and set out to create the Online Freelancing Guide. After starting work on the guide in 2009 I ended up setting the project aside for a while to work on other things, but then picked it up again in late 2010 and you are now reading the result. I decided to publish only part of the guide at first, and will be filling out with much more content throughout 2011 and into 2012.
My goal with the Online Freelancing Guide is simple: to allow you to learn from my experience how to be a successful online freelancer. My own freelancing career has been relatively short but rather intense: I’ve completed over 250 projects on online marketplace sites, and have a virtually spotless record: over 99% have been successes with happy clients. I have learned a lot along the way about how specifically to use online freelancing sites in an effective manner, and more generally how to deal with clients and run a successful freelance business. I’ve researched the sites themselves and can help you understand their ins and outs before you plunk down money on them. In this Guide I will share with you everything I know, to help you get off the ground with your own career quickly, and help avoid some of the mistakes I made when I was starting out.
I hope you find the material useful.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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