Freelancing, offsite work, remote work, whatever you want to call it, is an ideal way to work while you travel because you’re both location independent and don’t have to worry about that fateful day where you might have to go home because you’re broke. It sounds ideal, right? Well, ideal is the right word, because, like with anything in life, remote work has its own drawbacks. Different job, different problem. Here are some things I learned during my journey to become a full-time freelancer, and what I would do differently if I had a time travel machine:
1) Discuss Payment in Detail Before You Begin Work.
People often hesitate to ask about payment when they begin working with a new client. They’re so excited to be working remotely, and they feel like their new client is being so nice to agree to these terms – even if those terms are in the clients interest. It’s a common newbie problem, and one which I totally fell for. But here’s the deal. You know what’s worse than looking too bold in front of a client by talking about money? Not getting paid. Not getting paid is about 3 billions time worse than that initial awkwardness of starting the money conversation.
“That’s fine,” you think, “only an idiot would fail to discuss these things before working.” Sure establishing an hourly rate is great. But what you also need to discuss is billing. You need to draw up a contract establishing what work needs to be finished by what date and when payment is to be expected. You also need to clarify exactly how they’re going to pay you. Don’t just say, “I guess we’ll use Paypal.” Be specific, and make sure everyone has the information they need to know before the payment date. If you don’t receive payment on time, stop work immediately.
2) There Is a Huge Difference Between Working Remotely and Taking a Vacation.
While you could pull off drinking a martini by the beach with your laptop in tow, you can’t always drop everything you’re doing and go ziplining just because you feel like it. You often have deadlines, and sometimes phone/skype meetings. It’s about a million times easier to have day-to-day adventure while working remotely, but you have to remember that it’s still a job.
3) You Will Actually Have to Work. When Your’e not Working, You’re not Paid.
Let’s be honest. A lot of 9-5ers spend just as much time on social media and blogs as they do actually working. Remote workers aren’t offered that luxury. Whether you charge hourly or are working at a flat rate, any time you’re not working, is time you’re losing money. Because of this, I’ve learned to work a lot faster than I used to. If I want to goof off and not make money, for example, I’d much rather use that time to go on a walk with my dog than refresh someone’s photo on Facebook. As a remote worker you’ll always have to make executive decisions about how you spend your time.
4) Looking Out at the Beach Will Suck If You Hate What You Do.
One of the number one reason people hesitate when it comes to remote working is all the distractions. If there’s any place that’s going to remind you of all the things you’d rather be doing, it’s your home. If you hate the field you’re in, remote working can sometimes be agonizing, especially on a sunny beautiful day. For this reason, I strongly advise you to choose work you like doing. Just because you can do it from home, doesn’t mean you’re going to like it.
5) Choose Clients Who Value Freedom Too.
You know what’s great? Working for a client who also wants to be location independent and travel. These people will never give you issues about working remotely. Examples of these types of clients are entrepreneurs, start-ups, and bloggers. While it’s great to work in a field you love, working with a team who shares your same values is the key to a successful remote working environment – or any working environment for that matter.
6) Set Up Monthly Retainers.
Want to say goodbye to all that time calculating your hours and sending off invoices for small piecemeal projects, all while anxiously waiting for your next payment? Then, set up monthly retainers. Some freelancers create monthly retainer packages in which they specify the type of work they’ll do, the frequency by which they’ll do it, and any other exceptions. You can also create a package according to your client’s needs. The important thing, though, is that your client will pay up front, on a monthly basis. That’s worth a lot, and will really help you plan in advance as a traveler.
So that’s what I learned about freelancing, working offsite, these past few months. I now know how to make this a viable business where I can enjoy the benefits, like being able to go to the gym in the middle of the day, without the drawbacks of checking my bank account everyday. It’s been a journey, but through experience and lots and lots of help from other freelancers and virtual assistants, I’ve learned a lot.
What are your experiences with freelancing and working from home? What would you do differently?