I have been working from home for 10 years. I started as a part-time freelancer while I had my day job, then jumped into full-time freelancing in 2010. And then, in 2017, I transitioned to being an independent LinkedIn trainer and consultant, but yes, I still do operate from home.
Now that there is so much buzz about remote work because more people and more employers have begun to embrace this work setup, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned through the years as a work-from-home independent contractor for nearly a decade.
If you’re contemplating becoming a self-employed professional as a remote worker, a freelancer or independent contractor, consider these 15 quick tips to get you started:
#1. Ask yourself these questions and be honest
Do you think you’re cut out to be a remote worker or freelancer?
If you’re just looking at remote working or freelancing as an “escape” from your 9-to-5 job or an excuse to set yourself free from the worsening traffic condition, then remote working or freelancing might not be for you.
To succeed in this industry, you need separate sets of skills. And you must be very clear with your why.
So why do you want to work from home?
Before you dive in, think about it several times. Weigh in the consequences based on the benefits and downsides of remote working. Do further research by asking remote workers and freelancers before you dive in.
#2. Understand the basics of remote working
Like many other freelancers or remote workers, I started in this industry in 2008 without even knowing the answers to the basic questions that I needed to know. I just learned them as I went along.
Looking back, however, I realized that educating myself about the basics would save me a lot of frustration and eliminate a ton of surprises along the way.
The major aspects you need to understand include financial security, payment structure, work arrangement and flexibility.
Specifically, these are some of the questions you need to answer to gain clarity on what you’re getting in to:
- Is there financial security?
- How do you get paid?
- Does the company pay remote workers on time?
- What are the expectations?
- What tools do you need to succeed in your role?
- What skills make you qualified to work remotely?
- Will you be paid per hour, per project or based on results?
- Is the pay remitted weekly or monthly?
- How much are the charges when you receive your pay via PayPal, Payoneer, TransferWise or other platforms?
- How many hours are you expected to work?
- Are you required to use a time-tracking device,e.g., Time Doctor or HubStaff time tracker, so the client can monitor your activities?
- Which timezone are you expected to work? PST? EST? AEDT?
- Which holidays apply to your work arrangement? Your local holidays or the holidays on your client’s location?
#3. Choose the best career path that can make you thrive
There are different career paths to thriving in remote working. You’re the only one who can tell which one works for you, especially at the beginning.
Your starting point as a remote worker has a significant impact on how you thrive and how fast you overcome industry challenges.
I don’t recommend staying in any career that doesn’t make you happy and fulfilled, but it’s always best to make an informed decision and take calculated risks when possible before joining the remote workforce.
Here’s a short post I shared on LinkedIn about the four possible career paths for remote working:
#4. Don’t quit your full-time job yet
Unless you get hired in a remote working agency to render full-time working hours, always remember that being self-employed, especially as a freelancer, is a totally different world. No matter how excited you are to leave your 9-to-5 job, you still have to be realistic.
Here’s what you might consider:
- Start as a moonlighter. Keep your day job while you take part-time freelance jobs. This helps you gain an understanding of what it takes to be an effective self-employed professional and learn the skills needed to thrive.
- Take part-time freelance jobs that are aligned with what you are currently doing. That was how I started. I was in the academe, so I started as a freelance academic writer. I wrote and edited research papers, speeches and other academic papers. It was easier for me because I had the skills needed to do the jobs. Doing a totally different job while you’re employed full time could be so exhausting.
#5. Listen to what people are not saying
When you finally decided to transition to remote working or freelancing, expect to hear a lot of comments or remarks from people around you. Your close friends will be excited for you. Some may doubt your decision.
Others will ask you endlessly, “Why? What kind of career or future awaits you if you’re just working from home?“
With a lot of misconceptions going around about remote working and freelancing, particularly in some countries including the Philippines, you’re better off doing your research to learn as much as you can about the industry, so you can make an informed decision. Don’t rely on other people’s opinion, esp. from those with no actual experience doing remote work.
#6. Set clear boundaries at home
First, have a home office or any distraction-free spot in your house where you can focus. So, when you’re ready to work, you just need to go to that spot and your body knows it’s time to work and time to focus.
Second, let everyone in the house know when you’re working and why they should not disturb you unless there’s an emergency. This is important when you’re in a call with your client and when your work requires deep focus.
Sure, your client will understand that you are at home, and therefore your kids might be around during calls, but it also shows that you don’t set boundaries at home and you don’t set up your work area to be conducive to doing focused work.
If your family understands the nature of your job, you’ll get that kind of support from them. You may also consider staying at co-working spaces where you can meet and work with other freelancers.
#7. Invest in good equipment and a reliable Internet provider
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. You can’t function well if you don’t invest in these basic requirements. And always be ready with backup plans. If your ISP fails, you need to have a backup Internet connection or maybe a pocket Wi-Fi.
You’re required to have a reliable Internet connection. Without it, don’t attempt to get a work-from-home job.
It also helps to have an idea about which co-working space you could go to in case you encounter issues with your ISP. Just recently, I had a problematic Internet connection for three weeks, and that prompted me to work in co-working spaces for several days.
I’ve discovered three co-working spaces near our area. So now, I know which one I would go to when I encounter similar issues.
#8. Be comfortable with technology and productivity tools
Because your clients and colleagues are from other parts of the world, you will communicate with them using technology. You should know how to use at least the basics: Skype, Google Documents, Dropbox, Zoom, Outlook, Trello, Slack, and many others.
#9. Brush up on your communication skills
To thrive as a remote worker or freelancer, you must have good communication skills, i.e. writing, reading, listening and speaking. Whether you are a virtual assistant, a graphic designer, a web developer, or a content creator, you will benefit tremendously from having effective communication skills.
You will have to write emails, talk to your clients, negotiate with prospective clients, write proposals, read tons of references, do web research, etc. Everything that you will do, basically, is communication.
#10. Seek support from industry groups
Here’s the truth: The freelance industry is not very friendly to those who are just starting out. And working from home can make you feel isolated and lonely.
The competition is so high. I’ve even encountered freelancers who attempt to put their fellow freelancers down or make them look bad in front of foreign employers. Whatever is happening in the corporate world is also happening in remote jobs.
So, it’s important to manage your expectations in terms of working conditions, the industry and your colleagues. Take advantage of meetups for freelancers in your area.
Hang out with your fellow freelancers, share your skills and talk about your experiences.
#11. Make learning a part of your daily routine
Every remote worker, every freelancer is a learner. Unlike in an office where your manager arranges training for you each month or quarter, if you work from home or do freelancing, you’re the only one in charge of your own professional growth.
If you don’t enjoy learning (and I mean learning on your own) or you’re not keen at upgrading your skills, you will be left out and lose your remote job before you know it.
Always remember that there are so many freelancers who join the industry every day, so if you don’t consistently perform at your best, many others are ready to fill in your position.
The skills you acquired in college are no longer enough to make you thrive as a freelancer. In fact, remote working is a skill in itself that requires so many sub-skills if you want to thrive.
For example, journalism students might have learned writing, editing, proofreading, data gathering and interviewing while in school, but as freelance content writers, they need to learn other skills, including search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, inbound methodology and content strategy, which they most probably haven’t heard of while in school.
The good thing is, you can now learn everything, so there’s no excuse not to know whatever your remote work requires. Several learning opportunities are available online. Here are some learning options to consider:
- Enroll in massive open online courses (MOOCs). You’ll find paid and free MOOCs on Udemy, FutureLearn, Open2Study, Coursera, edX, Udacity, and many others.
- Watch relevant videos on LinkedIn Learning and other similar platforms. You need a premium subscription to have access to these learning videos. Take the 30-day free trial if you haven’t done so.
- Read books and ebooks from your computer and other devices.
- Listen to audiobooks.
- Find a mentor or use LinkedIn’s Career Advice.
#12. Adopt the right mindset
Working from home as an independent contractor or a freelancer is a business. As a self-employed professional, you will do practically everything for yourself.
Be ready to do your own marketing, manage your finances, do the actual job, manage your resources, pay your bills, negotiate with clients, create proposals, track your invoice, etc.
You may hear others say that as a freelancer, you are your own boss ― this may sound great, but in reality, you are still accountable first to yourself, and then to your clients — the ones who help you pay the bills.
#13. Build your online portfolio
I know what you’re thinking right now ― what if you haven’t really started freelancing? Well, remember tip #4? While you’re a moonlighter, document all your projects and do great jobs that you can include in your portfolio.
You can create your own website to showcase your portfolio or simply optimize your LinkedIn profile where you can highlight all your great work.
Whether you’re applying as a remote worker or trying to win clients yourself through direct hiring, you should know that those prospects have their own fears ― they’re afraid of hiring you.
While you’re thinking about whether you’ll get paid by potential clients, they’re thinking about whether they could trust you and whether you can get the job done the right way. The fear is real on both sides.
So it’s important to consistently do great work that can help you build a portfolio that will help eliminate your potential client’s fear of hiring you as a remote worker or a freelancer.
#14. Polish your digital footprint
Clean up your digital footprint because your potential clients are searching through Google to find out more about you before they take a chance on you.
So how do you get started doing this?
Do a Google search of your name using the Incognito mode on your browser. If the search results include any posts that you won’t be proud to show your potential clients, e.g., those posts when you were ranting about your current or past employer, delete them or adjust the privacy settings on your social media profile.
The point is to make sure that your online presence will help you land the remote work that you want, rather than lose an amazing opportunity before you even have it.
#15. Stand out by building a powerful personal brand on LinkedIn
Personal branding, in simple terms, is a way to market yourself and your career so you can attract the right opportunities that can help you become successful.
Whichever path you choose as you transition from the corporate world to remote work or freelancing, having a LinkedIn profile that helps you stand out can absolutely accelerate your success.
Here’s how I used LinkedIn to achieve my goals in 2017 ― Personal Branding Works: My LinkedIn Journey 2017
LinkedIn has been a game-changer in my life as I transitioned from corporate to freelancing to consulting.
You can use LinkedIn to be found by your target clients, be remembered by those who need your expertise and services and be recognized for what you stand for.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Remember, though, that at the end of the day, you’re the only one who will make that BIG decision on whether remote working or freelancing is right for you.