Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Freelancing 101: How I stay at home and still bring in a significant income

I simply cannot find my Christmas spirit, and I was going to write about that today but am feeling BLAH about the loss of my festive mood so much so that I don't even feel the need to write about it! How about that?

I've been asked a number of times how I make an income working from home. Believe me when I say this; I spent years trying to figure out how to make money while still taking care of my kids full time. Years. I just never thought it was possible. I have researched every single thing out there, and watched as others sold Goji juice or other direct marketing things.

In 2003, I started a web site called Kidswap.ca . I had just had my second baby, and Kidswap was my way of making money and staying home with them. I did make money for awhile, and it was a very popular web site. Unfortunately I hired a company who took me to the cleaners while they provided an entirely new web site that actually never materialized, and that was the end of Kidswap. I hope to bring it back to life some day soon, because it was a great resource.  But I digress, as we are talking about freelancing.

I spent some of my time promoting Kidswap through press releases I wrote.  I always had great success with the releases locally, and gained a lot of press for myself, so I thought I might be able to do that for other people. In 2008, I found a web site called Odesk. I signed up, not really thinking that I would find something for myself on there.  I bid on a few jobs and didn't have any success.  I was asking for $9 per hour, which is really low, but I thought if I could get some feedback I would have a chance to start working.

My first job was as an editor for a video about gas consumption. I did the video for the client, then edited his eBook for him. As I was working for him, I found another job writing short articles for a company in Australia. When they asked me to bid on that job, I panicked! I really thought that my writing skills weren't up to par with the other providers, and worried I'd get horrible feedback.

I did my first assignment for the client, and felt sick when I sent it off. She came back to me practically glowing about my writing, and hired me for a long term project right away.

I worked for her for 6 months, and as time went on I picked up small jobs here and there. I'd write press releases for random people, do web copy, book descriptions, even edited and rewrote an advanced Masters level Psychology paper. I think I knew more about it than she did!

As I progressed on Odesk and my 5 star feedback grew, I also upped my rate. I think the key to freelancing is starting off low and then slowly increasing your rate when your feedback goes up. I went from $9 per hour to $11, then $15, then $19. I'm now at $27, and I'm quite happy there. For me, that is a realistic amount of money for certain writing.

As my feedback went up, I stopped getting invitations for certain jobs (like video editing) and was asked to do jobs for bigger companies. I have a regular client who I tweet and blog for, as well as another who I blog for, and three more who I regularly write articles for.  Generally I've made over $1000 per month for the past few months, and really, that is nothing to sneeze at. It's not full time, and although I work weekends and evenings, for me it is simply the best job I could have.

I do have a work in progress, like many of the other writers on Twitter, and I try to get to it as much as I can. Some weeks it's all I can do to write 500 words of fiction before I head back to writing about drums, cymbals, or the environment. 

My experience has only been on Odesk, although I get updates from sites like Elance and they look appealing as well. I've never had a bad experience on Odesk, although I have had a few on Craigslist. The two jobs I took for paying gigs on Craigslist have resulted in a byline in a local magazine, but no pay and 3 press releases that a lady HOUNDED me for and never paid me. She likes to use the illusion of "Oh, I sent you an email months ago". I have written it off as a bad experience, and just blocked her from my email.

Juggling the children while working is difficult. I tend to try to do work in the mornings after I drop them off at school, then forget about it until evening when I try to work again. I've worked until 1 am if I can manage to stay up that late, and I've worked straight through my last pregnancy and right after delivery. If I can manage to come home 15 hours after giving birth and empty the dishwasher, I can write an article or two. And I did.  I actually think freelancing would be more difficult for someone with one little baby or toddler at home, because of the constant attention they require. My kids play together, and at 8,6, and 4, they are all fairly self-sufficient and understand if I have to work. The baby, at almost 6 months, is another story, but I try to squeeze stuff in between naps and I drink ALOT of coffee (preferably StarBucks but mostly Tim Hortons b/c it has a kick to it like a shot of speed).

I get stressed, a lot, but this is what is best for my family. I find I envy those whose kids take the bus to school or have full time house keepers. My WIP would be finished I think, if I had any time at all.  Did I mention my husband frequently travels for work and often works evenings and weekend? Oh yes, it's basically just me on duty over here.

I hope this helps those of you who asked how you can really work at home, because it really works for me.

Happy Holidays!

1 comment:

  1. Shelly! You are awesome. I am SOOO happy that you have found your 'thing!!'

    Happy Holidays!