• B.M.

The Harsh Reality of Freelancing

#Freelancing #Online #RealityBites

If you've ever considered becoming a freelancer - especially during this pandemic - then you've probably found a ton of websites claiming to help you "earn easy $$$." They'll tell you why you should freelance, and just how awesome it is to work for yourself, be your own boss, and work from the comfort of your own home.

Well, that was me.

I needed the money, and with the scarcity of job openings due to the pandemic, working from home seemed ideal. I foraged the internet for information I needed to feed on and start freelancing. I was given the very same fantastic notion that becoming a freelancer would be the dream way to earn a living.

This blog post, however, is here to tell you that there are a LOT of unpleasant things you will most likely have to face if you're starting from the bottom (as I have been doing) and of course that's perfectly normal. No work field is perfect.

Here are a list of things I wish people had warned me about online freelancing; all of which are based on my personal experiences. I am by no means a professor in - I don't know, freelance 101? I'm just an ordinary 25-year-old who wants people to know (people like my mom) that it isn't as easy to make money this way as people make it out to be, virtually everywhere!

Number One:

(This has been the biggest hurdle in my freelancing journey)

It is much harder to get English language jobs online if you are not a native English language speaker.

Okay? Pretty clear and obvious there isn't it? I'm a Malaysian, and aside from Malaysia, the only other country I'd ever lived in by the time I was majoring in English Language and Literature was a country in the Middle-East (which I shall not disclose for personal reasons).

I'm brown, South-East Asian, and Muslim. My headscarf, Asian features, and history of never having resided in an English-speaking country were all factors that made it extremely difficult for me to get any work online that had to do with English. Whether it was editing, proofreading, creative writing, storytelling, tutoring, etc. A lot of people on websites that hire freelancers will request for or give preference to native speakers, and of course, this is understandable. If I wanted to learn Spanish, I'd be more inclined to hire a native of Spain, wouldn't I?

I'd pointed out this impediment in self-employment to an American professor, who reminded me of the "Englishes" linguists have come to agree on. But that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if English no longer belongs to the Brits, but rather the world. It doesn't matter if English is my first language. Everyone harbours a specific image of what sort of mouth good, fluent, proficient English comes from. I've been rejected from popular freelancing sites like Upwork for this reason.

The Solution:

I'm at a disadvantage, yes, but this was why most of my successful endeavours were not found online. The freelancing work that I could easily land was tutoring the children of my parents' friends, and later on an online English tutor job for the locals in the Middle-Eastern country I'd been living in. But this did not mean that I found being an online freelance tutor the best kind of job one could ask for. It was extremely demanding and mentally taxing. The difficulties were so unexpected and exhausting that it drove me to write "What It's Really Like Being A Freelance Tutor."

Number Two:

Bidding is a thing, and timed-out posts will eat you up.

What this means is, that some of the online platforms that encourage and allow you to find clients to work for incorporates a "bidding system" whereby you literally need to "bid" for a job opportunity that has been advertised. Instead of bidding cash, however, you bid using your own marketing strengths.

An advertisement may say, "I'm looking for someone to write a blog for me," followed by a list of criteria. Anyone who wants the job will then bid for it by writing messages to market themselves, detailing why he or she is best suited for the job.

Why it sucks:

  • Coming up with these messages to sell yourself take time, especially since more personalized messages are more favourable than the sort of message that could be applied for any job.

  • If the advertiser has found a freelancer to hire within the 15 minutes you have just discovered the ad and are typing out a message both convincing and impressive, then the advertisement for the job will "Time Out." This means that the message you were typing out and reviewing twice in order to secure the bid, is, well, for naught. This can be really frustrating, especially if you were really confident about scoring this job.

  • You have to do it all over again for every job you want to bid for - without a guarantee that you will get the job.

The Solution:

If you're determined to keep trying and bidding on websites that utilize this type of system, then keep it up, but just try not to let any of it infuriate you. This isn't something you have to slave over. You're not a robot with all the time in the world to scour the internet for jobs, spend time and effort into bidding for them, and then repeat the process like a machine. If this method is unhealthy for you, like anything in life, get out! There are other websites that do not incorporate this bidding system. Maybe it works for people with greater chances of landing online work. It didn't work for me.

Number Three:

It's not always free to get work online.

Just as how in some public places, you need to pay a fee to have your ad put up for a month, it's the same online. I'm not talking about websites and companies taking a percentage of what you are paid. I'm talking about you having to pay the website/company cash to simply be able to contact potential clients who can easily reject you. So you will be spending money to try and sell your services, and that's it - you won't get any refunds if the client does not choose you.

It's a thing some websites do. If you have the money to spend on this, then this won't bother you. You could get rejected 10 times and only get accepted once - or not at all. Either way, as I'd mentioned in another post about freelance tutoring, the more money you have, the less obstacles you'll face. Eh - that's life.


To finish this off, here's a list of very obvious problems you could face as a freelancer:

- getting scammed by clients and companies

- having spent time and energy producing something only to have it rejected and not get paid for [eg: writing an essay]

- have your laptop or computer decide to restart and update all of a sudden in the middle of work, and if it doesn't, it will lag like a snail

- work your butt off behind the scenes and only get paid very little [eg: research, content creation]

- your earnings through freelancing won't be as much as you were convinced they would be;

so you don't get to travel the world and work wherever you want like that successful blogger whom you know does.

**Note: I am not against freelancing. In fact you should certainly give it a go regardless because it might really suit you. I just want people to know that it's not all sunshine on the freelancing side of the fence. It has not been "quick and easy $$$" - I don't think anything is.


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