Being a work at home contractor or a freelance worker as it is often referred to as ia a great stepping stone to a whole new career or to owning your own business. For those who are still green to the entire idea of working at home, it is always not so rosy as there are so many hurdles to deal with – just like starting any other office career or starting a brick and mortar business. Successful work at home career is a possibility and offers greater opportunities than most other careers besides all the other benefits associated with freedom to work anywhere, at your own schedule and to be your own boss.
What work at home opportunities are there?
Once you have decided to be your own boss and start a career as an independent contractor, you have to some research and find out just what opportunities are there for you and pick the most promising or the one you are comfortable with. The most popular categories of possible work at home careers include:
- Service provision e.g. data entry, blogging, web design, answering calls and customer service.
- Online marketing.
- Career jobs in line with what you studied e.g. architecture, business management or teaching.
- Start your own online or offline business.
There are some crucial factors to consider when choosing which path to take. The most crucial include the skills and resources you have for a particular career or job, the job demands and market availability for the service or product, competition and current rewards or rates for the particular job or task. In most cases, you may have a hard time getting started because dealing with clients online will require you to prove yourself before getting a place on the high table of reputable service providers.
To get started, there are a number of steps to follow in establishing yourself. This guide will help you through these crucial steps.
Step 1: Brand yourself
One of the first things you should do as an independent contractor is to establish an image to represent you in the market. You may associate yourself with a particular name or you can use your own name such as ‘Gray Middle Designs’ or go with a more corporate kind of business name such as ‘Gray Designers’. Whatever name you go with, you should realize that it is a business identity you are creating and as such you will naturally need to come up with a website where potential clients will find information regarding you and your business, a business card and a logo.
Since you are a business now, your online image and communication channels will need to be professional too. If possible, create a dependable email address with your business name and domain and do away with your high school email address such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
While branding yourself, you will also need to have information that your prospective clients will need to know without necessarily contacting you such as an introduction of yourself or company, the services you offer, a portfolio of your previous work, contact details and where applicable, pricing and availability. You can put all this information on the profile page of the site you get your work or create your own website with this information.
Step 2: Finding work
Just like every other aspect of life, the key to success as a career independent contractor is to find work. As an independent contractor, you will need to look for work in online job boards and freelance websites among other places such as local job boards in your area. There are a number of great websites to get clients from. In most job boards, it is free to apply for and to get jobs and the best part is that the most workers are guaranteed payment for the services they offer.
Finding the first job may be a little tricky though. You will have to pull every trick you can think of to convince clients to respond to your application without actual proof of previous related work. Most independent contractors may even go weeks or months before landing their first jobs. If you have friends or acquaintances who have carved a place for themselves in the same career or job type you may consider using them to land the first couple of jobs. Meanwhile, you should never relent looking for jobs even on non-online job sites, you might be surprised what you can find.
Once you have completed a fair number of tasks successfully, even at a lower rate than you think you deserve, you will discover that finding jobs will be much easier and your work rates will start going up as you establish yourself and your brand.
Step 3: Pricing your services
How much do you think your work is worth? This is a very difficult question to answer especially if you are still new to the work at home job types or career. However, after branding yourself, the next task will be to decide on how much to charge your clients. Most work done online will be hourly in nature but as you get started, the rate will probably be even lower than the minimum wage where you live. This will shoot up however as you prove yourself and you may even as much as $30 to $50 for our work.
There are a number of considerations you have to factor in when determining your hourly rate:
- What are others charging? It is not so difficult to find how much other freelance workers are charging for the same service – online job boards and freelance job sites should provide you with this data. If everyone else is charging an average of $40 an hour, it may be difficult for you to find a job if you set your rate at $100 an hour. At the same time, setting your rate at $20 an hour to get more jobs may make you seem not serious or clients may assume your jobs are substandard.
- What is the maximum charge? If you think your rate should be $60 an hour, and there are clients willing to pay you that much, it would be silly not to charge as much as long as you know you will deliver to their expectations. Finding the maximum rate you can charge may be trial-and-error but eventually you will know the maximum you can charge before clients start walking away.
- What are you charging for? Not all jobs are the same. A researcher, for example, may charge $30 an hour because it involves visiting websites and reading content then piecing information together on a word processor. A voice over artist on the other hand will need to get a studio-quality microphone and room and a call center agent may need to buy a phone – these equipment cost money and the money comes from the clients. Be reasonable when billing clients and at the same time be careful not to undercharge them.
- Unbillable time – There are hours you can bill clients because you worked on the specific tasks they required, then there are other hours you may have put into other support tasks. For example, if you work for an hour a day on a task but you spend three hours learning more about the client and the products you are working on, your hourly rate will obviously be higher than it would ordinarily be.
Getting started on a work at home career is not easy, but with these three guides, you shouldn’t have too much trouble establishing yourself.