The last time you heard from me, I had made almost half a million freelancing, and was hanging up my keyboard in exchange for a little honest work. The work was fulfilling and fun, but I’ve always been bad at marketting, and referrals will only get you so far. When I gave up the online work, I was lucky. I got a job at a digital ad agency, doing pretty much the same stuff as freelancing, except I had to sit in an office, and I get medical benefits. They still let me wear jeans every day, and they have sparkly red floors and attic-style roofing, so it’s a really cool deal.
The past few months have been tricky though. Between the dollar falling and the baby growing, finances just aren’t stretching as far as they should, so I reconsidered finding a side hustle. I didn’t want it to be writing work, since I already write during my 9 to 5 [or whatever time the briefs are complete, which sometimes means 9.00 a.m. three days later.] I toyed with the idea of farming, since we kept commercial chicken when we were little. I bumped into some farming info in the days after, and I figured it must be a sign. But to be a farmer, you need, you know, a farm, and that needs money.
What followed was a few days of daydreaming and restlessness. Somewhere in the middle of all that, I decided to log on to Elance and see what was going on. I wanted to check my password and see if my account was still active. Well … it was … and everything was right the way I left it, so yay! I looked up some of my old Elance clients, and was glad to see they still wanted to work with me. One even recommended me to his wife, who has become one more happy client. She gives me work via oDesk, though it took me a while to remember that password and figure out how it worked. I opened my oDesk account in 2008, but I haven’t used it since.
So what has changed since I last worked freelance? Not much. The dollar went up and down again, and Paypal still doesn’t allow withdrawals in Kenya, except for The Kenya Red Cross Society. There are still a lot of middle-men trying to offer that service, but I prefer to get my payments via Payoneer or have a wire transfer straight to my bank. There’s a charge for it, but it’s also a convenient way to keep track of all the money coming in from side work. The gigs are still pretty small, paying between $1 and $5 per article, and I spend 3 or 4 hours a day working on them, which means I’m retraining my body to function on four hours asleep. Anyone who knows me appreciates what a mammoth task that is, but sometimes you do what you have to.
I was very hesitant about getting into freelancing again. I get home from my day job at 8 or 9 p.m. and after a day that long, it seemed unreasonable to sit at a computer for anything but pleasure. But I’ve been having conversations with my friends, the kind where they want a change in their lives but they’re not willing to make any effort, and I realized I was doing the same thing myself. I am where I am because I’m not pushing myself hard enough, and I needed to change that, so I did.
I get a lot of emails asking how to succeed in online work, how to get jobs, how to get paid. In the two or so years that I’ve worked online, I’ve made $1,400, and I know of Kenyans who have made a lot more using the very same avenues that I do. There’s no secret behind it. You just log on and keep trying till you get it right. It’s not as easy as it looks, but it’s definitely worth it.
Put in the same effort in your work, whether you’re working for $1 or $500. That’s how you build a name for yourself, that’s how you get recommended to others, and that’s how every time you walk away, you come back and find work waiting for you. That, and effective marketting, which I’m yet to figure out, but I’ll get there, someday 😉
Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through www.threeceebee.com.