Is it OK to use a freelancer website?

Freelance Site: Upwork

When you decide you want to get started freelancing, you suddenly find there are sources online just for freelancers! It can become overwhelming with all of the options.

So I’m going to answer the question:  is it OK to use a freelancer website?

Yes.

But please keep reading because, TLDR: you can get started on a freelancer site, but don’t hang out there forever!

In this article, I’m specifically going to talk about Upwork. I’ll even give you my experience with it!

About Upwork

Back in 2018, I wrote a review of Upwork for Full Time Job From Home. Even then, I already had experience getting jobs through the platform.

Upwork is a place where people (AKA businesses or entrepreneurs) can post jobs that they need to outsource. And you (the freelancer) can bid on the jobs that you think you’re qualified for. Pretty simple.

How to be successful on Upwork

From my experience, the way you will find the most success on Upwork is to fill out your profile. Make sure it’s 100% complete. This will help you stand out against the competition.

Back when I was a bigger user ( I haven’t had to log in for quite some time, but I’ll get into that in a bit) I was able to take tests to help demonstrate my abilities. The tests could be focused on English grammar, etc.

I looked around and only found 1 test for myself at this time. I found it under the heading Find Work. It’s called an Upwork Readiness Test which I am able to take.

“The Upwork Readiness Test has 10 questions. It covers the best practices and safety tips that top freelancers use to build successful businesses on Upwork.” It continues on to say that each question has a 2-minute time limit. And they give you links to study up!

My Upwork Readiness Test Score

Oops! I scored a 3.5 out of 5… and failed! 😳😥

Definitely read up using the links they provide! I wanted to speed through the test to see what it was about. Thankfully, it says you can retake it at any time. Phew!

When do I use Upwork?

I’ve been a virtual assistant for over 5 years. I have clients and I have other lead sources for jobs. (You have to check out the Horkey Handbook mini-course!) But once in a while, I like to see what kind of jobs people are posting on Upwork.

Clients come and go. In the past, as clients have left, I have logged into Upwork and started bidding on new jobs immediately.

I think that’s the beauty of a freelancing site like Upwork. If you feel like you need more money – get online and bid on some jobs!

How Upwork works

When you sign up (for free) you receive what they call connect credits. The connect credits allow you to connect with the owner of potential jobs. You get a certain number of connect credits per month, so there’s no reason to hoard them. When they run out, you can buy more.

DON’T BUY THEM!

Just bid on jobs that you want. And when the month rolls over you can get more credits.

Why I say don’t hang out there

I say don’t hang out there because you’ll be competing against some people who will low-ball the jobs to get them. On the other hand, not all jobs want the cheapest labor! Some people need a certain skill that they don’t have and they’re willing to pay more for someone to do a better-than-good job.

Also, Upwork takes a portion of your earnings. Twenty percent, to be exact. So if you bid $40, they’ll take 20% which is $8, and you’ll receive the balance, or $32.

The nice thing is, you can play with the number to get it where you want it. I adjusted the field for the amount I’ll receive after fees, to make sure I’m getting my rate, and it adjusted the hourly rate I will propose to the client so that I can receive my rate after the fees are taken out.

Interestingly, I was able to submit a proposal even though I just failed the readiness test! 🤷‍♀️

My experience with Upwork

I have gotten at least 2 good jobs through Upwork plus other small jobs. One of them I’m still working with! After our contract ended, she contacted me to work on a different project for her and I’m still working with her!

Another client I’m still in contact with and we’re actually connected on Facebook! Needless to say, I’ve had a pretty good experience with it. But as I said, I put the time in, completed my profile, and took the tests they offered.

What to do next

If you haven’t started your virtual assistant business yet, there are a couple of ways to get started.

  1. If you’ve got $19 burning a hole in your pocket, you can take a mini-course from Horkey Handbook and find out if being a VA is something you really want to do.
  2. If you want to dive right in (this is you if you already KNOW you want to be a VA) you can enroll in Horkey Handbook’s FullyBookedVA system. It’s basically full access to all of their courses for as long as you want to stay enrolled.
  3. Or, you can take my FREE eCourse! You’ll receive 5 emails that will walk you through starting your VA business and you can literally start your business this week!

So is it OK to use a freelancer website? Have you tried Upwork? Are you ready to start your VA business? What questions do you have? I’m here to help!

Should I niche down

Niching Down

Should you niche down? Yes, for sure! But what does it even mean?

In this article, I’ll tell you what it means to niche down and why you want to do it as a freelancer. I’ll come back in another post to talk about how to do it.

Let’s get right to it!

What is a niche?

A niche is a small, targeted area of a product or service.

If you were to use doctors as an example, a general practitioner is someone who serves many people. But a cardiac specialist is someone who focuses on and serves a much smaller, more focused subset of people.

Why would you want to niche down?

To say you are a “Freelancer” or “Virtual Assistant” could mean any number of things. Like seriously, hundreds! No, thousands!

But if you say that you’re a “Customer Experience Expert”, that shows a narrowed focus as to what kind of service you provide. That’s your niche – customer service!

In this article, I talk about what you should (or shouldn’t) call yourself. Finding your niche isn’t exactly the same as finding a better name to call yourself. But if you’re thinking along the same lines, you’re going to find your niche.

When you niche down, you are no longer a general virtual assistant. You have a narrowed focus, and your expertise in a subject matter increases. And so do the rates you can command!

By narrowing your focus, it helps you find better clients, because you’re looking for people who specifically want the thing that you do. And it will also help them find you!

This is an awesome article that I read on the topic of niching down. Brennan Dunn actually reviews a book he read, written by Philip Morgan. He goes into further details about the benefits of choosing a niche.

How do you find your niche?

This deserves a whole blog post. But just to get you started, think about what you like to do.

Let’s use customer service as our example again. Any business with customers needs customer service. But, is there a specific industry you want to serve?

I, for example, have a background in manufacturing, so I would enjoy servicing manufacturers or builders. If you have experience in the medical field, that might be your niche.

So you’re thinking: what do I like to do, and who do I want to do it for?

Now you do it!

Best follow up hack

How to follow up like a pro

Good follow up practices can make your business thrive vs make your business die. It sounds harsh, but it’s kinda true.

In this article, I’m going to talk about following up, why you want to do it, and how to do it!

And I’ll give you my #1 best follow up hack!

Why follow up?

It sounds like a no-brainer, but not everyone does!

  1. One thing that happens when you follow up: the recipient knows that you are still there.
  2. The recipient knows that you are still interested.
  3. The recipient knows that you are on top of things.
  4. And you don’t let things fall through the cracks.

Why don’t they respond?

You’re right, they don’t all respond. It sucks! You pour your heart out to a potential new client, you tell them what’s so good about you and why they need you and they don’t even reply. I admit, it sucks.

They’re busy! They need your help – probably because they are busy!

This is exactly why you need to follow up!

When to follow up

Is there a specific time frame you should follow? I usually follow up 5-7 days later, just depending on the day of the week that I sent the initial email.

For example, if I send them my initial email on Monday, I might follow up as early as Friday, so they can go into the weekend thinking about me! Or the following Monday at the latest.

If I send my initial email pitch on Wednesday, I might follow up as soon as the next Monday.

Either way, put it on your calendar or on your pitch tracker and when it says to follow up – just do it!

What do you say in a follow-up?

I follow up with something like this:

Have you made a decision yet? If you chose to go with someone else, could you provide feedback so I can make improvements if needed? Thanks for your time and good luck to you!

That is literally, exactly what my follow up email would say! Very simple and to the point. If they didn’t have time to reply to my first email, why would I want to overburden them with another long-ish email?

Can you force them to reply?

Unfortunately, no. There’s nothing you can do to force someone to reply. But you never know – they may be so overwhelmed that they haven’t even decided yet, and your follow up could be just what they need to make a decision!

I actually got a client this way back earlier in my virtual assisting career!

Why You Need a Follow Up System for Your Business

What else can you do?

Is there anything else you can do to aid in your follow up efforts?

Actually, there is!

I use something called Get Notify. It’s a free read-email notification. Check it out at www.getnotify.com

Ok, so using GetNotify is two-fold.

  1. When you see that the recipient has opened your email, then at least you know it got to them and they opened it. Yay!
  2. But it tells you more – if you see they’ve opened it several times, that could give you an indication that they wanted to read and reread your email!I think that multiple opens is a good sign!

Something you can do when you see they’ve opened your email is to call them. I’m not big on phone calls until they are an established client, so I don’t do it exactly this way, but it may be a tactic you could use.

This is it – my #1 best follow up hack

Picture this: your prospect opens your email. Then all of a sudden they get a call from you! Some will feel like it’s fate, or serendipity, that you called just as they were looking at your email!

But be careful! DON’T say, “I saw you opened my email”. You don’t want to sound like a creepy stalker! Lol

DO say, “I emailed you last week and I just wanted to follow up and see if you have any questions.” WOW!

Back when I was doing outside sales, this sort of tactic would work well when sending a proposal to a current customer. If they’re looking at my email, they might be ready to talk to me right now.

Same goes for pitching a new client. If they’re looking at my email, they may be ready to talk to me or hear more about me. If I think I left anything out of my email, I have used their opening an email as an opportunity to reply and add any relevant info that I feel I missed.

It’s like I’m answering potential questions they may have before they even respond. Just remember to keep it short. It’s perfect to say what I said above, “Just following up to see if you have any questions.”

Summary

While you can make a consistent process for yourself, you can’t control the prospect variable. But following up never hurt anyone. I promise. And if someone says, “your follow-up kinda annoyed me (or replace that with the word that sets you off)” – trust me, you don’t want to work with that person!

Please subscribe so you can get my weekly tips for new freelancers!

 

Quit calling yourself a freelancer

Should you call yourself a freelancer? There's probably a better term you could use!

I might be aging myself, but when I hear freelancer, I think hippie. Even now that I know I’m a freelancer, I still think it.🤷‍♀️

If you’re a freelancer, please don’t be mad! I’m a freelancer – it’s a stigma we need to get past!

Since people still think like I did (do?) we need to shift our mindset.

Bottom line: You need to quit calling yourself a freelancer!

What is a freelancer?

Let’s start here. What is a freelancer? A freelancer is someone who works for themself as an independent contractor.

Oftentimes, people go into freelance work for freedom and flexibility when it comes to the work they do. While that notion seems brilliant, sadly, one of the things commonly associated with “freelance” is inconsistent income, and presumably, a lack of business savvy. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!

My mindset story

I have always said that I became a virtual assistant when I SAID that I was a virtual assistant. It was my attitude. It was the perception that I conveyed when talking about my new endeavor.

Actually, I didn’t speak as though it was new. I spoke as though I was in the thick of it, when in fact I didn’t even have a client yet. But I had the experience, so I felt like I was doing it all along!

That was my mindset.

Freelancer to Virtual Assistant

Change your mindset to change the perception

If the association with “freelance” is less than desirable, then don’t call yourself a freelancer.

A term I’ve recently been using is “independent contractor”. I feel like more people understand that means I work for myself. As in, I don’t have an employer. I like the connotation of that, and that’s just what I’ve found myself saying.

If I get into a discussion about what I actually do, that’s when I say that I’m a Virtual Assistant, which usually leads to describing what I do for my current clients.

So let’s find a better “name” for what I do. What do I do for my ideal client? Well, my favorite task is to respond to customer emails. I want to solve their problems!

What does that do for my clients? It provides a superior experience for their customers. Everyone wants to be heard – to receive a response. When customers are attended to, they feel important and that makes them happy.

And when customers are happy, they remain customers. And they refer their friends!

So what could I call this? A customer coordinator? Customer experience manager? In simple terms, I say that I manage their inboxes. 🤷‍♀️😂 While it’s true, if you were trying to find a better title, you might pick something like Customer Experience Manager.

Actually, I like that one!🤔 Oh! Customer Experience Expert! Yessss!!!

What other professionals have to say about mindset

Don’t take it just from me. I mean, anyone can write on the internet! 😂 Here is what some others have said about the topic…

I like how Borja Moya describes the freelancer mindset in this article. It basically says that you become a freelancer when you think about yourself and act as a professional. It’s your mindset that takes you to the next level.

Brennan Dunn of Double Your Freelancing advocates finding a better name to describe what you do. Brennan’s course, Double Your Freelancing Rate, revolves around a mindset shift that needs to take place so that you are properly valuing yourself and your services.

Go to his website and right off the bat you can get a FREE 9-day course tailored to you! Click the big blue button to get started!

Raelyn Tan is a list-building expert. On her website, she has online courses to help you build your email list. I love her List Building Incubator course, but scroll past that and you’ll find some free downloads! She calls herself a Profitable Visibility Specialist. Isn’t that a jazzy way to say, list-building expert?!

Does your degree or professional designation change anything?

Umm, I mean, sort of. And not necessarily. 🤷‍♀️

If you have some letters after your name, it’s a credibility that you earned and you should use that to tell people what you’ve accomplished! Realistically, they’ll figure it out if you’re legit or not.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have any letters! This is not to say that you need them to be a freelancer!

But definitely use your professional designations. People with letters after their name can usually command higher rates because of the perceived authority that comes with the education required to get those little letters!

Actually, I think this is a whole other conversation, so I’ll be circling back to it in the coming weeks: how to go from a professional employment career to a freelance/independent contractor gig.

Actionable activity

Grab a piece of paper, or open up a Google Doc. Describe what you do for your clients.

Don’t have any clients? What is it that you want to do for your ideal client? What have you done for clients or customers in the past (think past life, like employer situations)?

What outcome do they (or will they) experience as a result of working with you?

Try using short, bullet statements. Look through your bullet points and start combining words like I did above. “Customer Experience Manager”, “Customer Experience Expert”.

As you’re pulling together the different words, certain words will start to sound right. They’ll POP. Notice that I gravitated to Customer and Experience – these words were popping for me! But the 3rd word wasn’t exactly right.

Keep stringing the words together in a different order. Say them out loud. Hopefully, you have a big Ah-Ha moment like I did when you strike the right combination!

I would love to hear what you come up with!

 

I hope this article and the exercise help you to shift your mindset to a place of greater value and help you find a different way to describe yourself! Because what you do is surely valuable!

Should I start freelancing during the pandemic?

Should I Start Freelancing During the Pandemic

So you’re thinking about freelancing? In the midst of a pandemic, I’m not surprised! There are many reasons that people turn to freelancing. But should you start freelancing during the pandemic? The short answer (TLDR): yes!

Now I’ll explain.

But first, what is freelancing?

What is freelancing?

Freelancing is a non-traditional means of making money. It is non-traditional in the sense that it is not the typical means of employment. Freelancers are independent contractors. They are responsible for their own income reporting and taxes.

Why do people want to freelance?

So why would someone want to freelance? When you’re a freelancer, you’re your own boss. Who wouldn’t like that? Some people don’t work well without a boss telling them what to do. But if you’re a self-starter and don’t need someone micro-managing you, telling you when and how to do your job, then freelancing could be for you!

Freelancers set their own hours. They work from their own home office (or kitchen table). They can take time off as needed and don’t usually have to let anyone know about it.

Freelancers, like myself, are home and available to get the kids online for eLearning. I make sure my 4-year-old is paying attention to his teacher. When he’s done, I hop back online to work for my clients.

If you’re not convinced yet, here are some other pretty interesting statistics that might perk up your ears. According to this article on Websitebuilder.org, 25% of freelancers can find work within 1 day if needed. And in 2019, freelancing contributed $1 trillion to the US economy. WOW!

Should I start freelancing during the pandemic?

Should you start freelancing now, during the pandemic? Sure! It’s a sad fact that you may have to try. But let me tell you why that’s OK.

According to Market Watch, more than 22 million people lost their jobs in the first half of the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic that emerged in the US in March of 2020. I’m sorry if you or someone close to you is one of those statistics.

But it’s time to look forward! So…

How to Start a Freelance Gig

 

How do you break into freelancing?

I think one of the hardest things about losing your job or getting into freelancing is explaining why you’ve come to the decision to start freelancing.

If you’re used to working in an office, you don’t realize how mainstream freelancing is in some circles. But I can see how someone might not want to tell their friends and former co-workers that they are now freelancing. It just sounds strange. Or does it?

Change your mindset. Now.

Say this out loud and take ownership of it: I decided to start (fill in the blank with your job or skill) as an independent contractor instead of an employee because (fill in the blank with your key reason for working for yourself).

Here’s what I would say: I decided to start doing marketing consulting as an independent contractor so I can be home and available for my kids when they’re little.

Now, you may have lost your job because of the pandemic and if you’re comfortable saying that, then by all means say that! But if you’re feeling down about it, like you didn’t have a choice, put a spin on it.

Find the reasons that freelancing is an advantage for you and say that you made this decision just in time. Or it was serendipity that you can now be a freelancer instead of an employee.

Say, “I had been thinking about going out on my own for some time. Now it’s a blessing to be home with my kids while they’re eLearning.”

I’m going out on my own

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard someone say, I’m going out on my own. 

Anyone who says that is a freelancer! They may not consider themself a freelancer, but it’s essentially the same thing! They are an independent contractor.

True, that person going out on their own may eventually incorporate their business. But the beginning of the process is very similar.

If you’re not comfortable with the term freelancer, you can say it this way.

Examples of jobs you can do freelance

Let’s look at what you can do. Freelancers take a skill that they have and offer it “on the side”. If you find yourself without a job, you can take something that you did for your employer and offer it on a contractual basis to someone else similar to your former employer.

The examples are going to be endless, but I’ll start a list.

  • Bookkeeper
  • Content creator
  • Secretary
  • Scheduler
  • Calendar management
  • Appointment setter
  • Customer service
  • Designer
  • Developer
  • Programmer

I think you get the idea. Horkey Handbook has published a very long list to give you some ideas of things you can do as a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant is basically a freelancer.

How do you start getting jobs?

When you get in the groove and get comfortable with your new role as a freelancer, you’ll see opportunities. You’ll be prepared to talk about it – what you could do to solve someone’s problem. Or better yet, what you can do to increase their revenue.

But what about now? There are several job boards for freelancers. One that I’ve used with success is called Upwork. I don’t use it regularly now, but I probably have looked at it in the last year just to see what people are looking for.

If I suddenly lost all of my clients, I would look there to see if anything caught my attention. According to that article on Websitebuilder.org, freelancers earn over a billion dollars yearly on Upwork.

What’s next?

Well, I guess it depends on if you’re out of a job or if you’re just thinking about your options.

If you’re out of work, I would get signed up with Upwork immediately and start making offers! The site is pretty self-explanatory. Fill out everything as completely as possible. And start pitching!

If you’re looking at options for stay at homework, or to replace your day job, check out this list of services you can provide. You can get it in exchange for your email address. It’s totally worth it!