How I became a full time freelancer
In January 2008, I had very little experience building websites or doing any other development. I had just lost the job I had spent all summer studying to get, and had very few prospects for other work. In desperation, I applied for a job at Best Buy as a member of the Geek Squad. I really don’t have very much computer repair experience, and in retrospect, I’m glad I was turned down.
I am currently very glad to be one of the fortunate few that does something that he really enjoys. I am a full time, freelance web developer. Unlike many people who run a business from home, I spend very little time looking for prospects, writing proposals, or making calls. I never write invoices. None of my clients are local. The market I work in is global. I have one employee: myself.
Yes, I never write invoices. I have a service which does all of that for me. I never take money up-front, am always paid on time, every week, and do everything by the hour. In addition, I am pretty much free to set my own hours. Also, despite the current economic slowdown, my earnings have increased, and my future prospects seem bright.
I do have a website, but until recently, it didn’t have very much information on it. People don’t find me from my website, and although it seems more professional to keep one, I don’t really need it. I have a secret: oDesk.
The first thing people usually ask when they see where I work, is “do people really work for $3 per hour??”. My response is, “well, I’m not sure, I guess some people in the world can afford to work for that, but I live in the U.S., so that is not a living wage.” I make a comfortable wage, and have no problem competing in the global marketplace.
The how and why I came to do what I do is ultimately not so important. What is remarkable, is that it was possible, for me to do what I do at all. My educational background is almost non-existent. Before I started doing this I had two failed jobs and one failed business. I was pretty much a failure. I had no vehicle, and one half-busted computer. Don’t get me wrong, I had huge potential, and raw computer talent, but all of the normal indicators of success were not present. All I had was a little programming ability, and some knowledge of HTML and CSS. I could make websites without using tables for layout. This turned out to be an important key to my success.
So what is oDesk, and why is it so easy for people like me to make a living there? A cursory glance at the site does not leave much of a clue. The self proclaimed title of the site is “Outsource to Freelancers, IT Companies, Programmers, Web Designers from India, Russia, USA, and more – oDesk”. This doesn’t say anything about the writers, who have also carved out quite a niche for themselves in the system, and seem to be growing in number. The average wage on oDesk is about $15 per hour, which is less than half of what I usually charge, but is not bad, considering it is a global marketplace.
Getting your foot in the door on oDesk takes some persistence, patience, and the ability to represent yourself in writing. It also helps to lower your rate at the beginning. My first job was for only $11 per hour, and I worked very hard for that meager wage, since I knew the rating I got would be very important. When the jobs one applies for have 30 other people on the list, standing out from the crowd is important.
Another thing about oDesk that has impressed me, is the honesty of its rating system. The rating system is what is known as “double blind”. This means neither person doing the rating knows what rating the other person is giving, until both people have completed rating the other. Two weeks after a job has ended, if both parties have not offered a rating, any ratings given are published, and ratings can no longer be given. This has proven an excellent way of sorting out who is doing a good job.
One interesting statistic that oDesk keeps is the so-called oConomy. My favorite statistic from the oConomy is the total amount of earnings since oDesk was founded. It is currently up to approximately $60 million dollars, most of it earned by individuals. Some insiders refer to the oConomy as the “the internet’s best-kept public secret”. Here is another interesting snapshot of oConomy statistics:
|Providers Working Right Now:||249|
|Job Posts, Last 24 Hours:||601|
|Fixed-Price Job Posts -
|Total Providers in Network:||195,003|
|Total Jobs Posted:||176,195|