The Way We Work
December 2, 2009 by Alex Hornbake

Freelancers' Top ConcernsA recent oDesk survey showed that the top concern for 76% of freelancers is maintaining a steady income. Of the other worries considered, no other single concern netted over an 8% response. As a freelancer, I know that this is my top worry as well, especially during the holidays when my personal life begins taking a progressively larger and larger chunk of my schedule. When it comes to managing my current workload, marketing myself for future work, and continuing to develop my skills, I subscribe to Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, “slow and steady wins the race.”

Managing Your Time

The essence of the “slow and steady” metaphor is time management. Setting your own schedule can be overwhelming, and having the flexibility to say “I’ll get to that later” is both an empowering perk of working for yourself and a serious pitfall. Learning to stagger your workload and devote enough time to marketing yourself can be a difficult balance.

I prefer to work at least an 8 hour day, from 9am to 5pm. You know yourself best, whatever your prime hours are, schedule those to be your work time. If you have a lot of assignments on your plate, schedule the majority of the day for your current workload, but be sure to leave at least 1 hour to marketing yourself, and 1 hour a day to further developing your skills. Don’t be rigid, this schedule should be flexible as your workload, marketing needs, and educational demands grow and change.

For example, if you only have a sinlge project on your plate due in one week, projected to take 20 hours, don’t wait to complete it. Conversely, don’t work the entire 20 hours over a couple of days, either. Think slow and steady. This is when it makes sense to spend 4 hours a day on your project, and spend the rest of the day marketing yourself, applying to jobs and insuring that you’ll have work next week.

Marketing Yourself

It sounds simple but, check relevant job posts everyday (it’s easy if you use oDesk’s “Job Alerts” via email). Only apply to jobs that you are qualified for, and value your time appropriately when suggesting a price for your work.

Add a “Hire Me” on oDesk link to your blog , LinkedIn, Facebook, and other networking sites. If you are active and contributing to online communities then your insights may directly correlate to future work. (Note: you must be logged in to oDesk to follow the link above.)

Nourish good working relationships with your existing clients. Your quality of work and communication skills are prime marketing tools when developing good relationships with clients – and repeat business is a powerful resource for a steady income.

Developing Skills

Developing SkillsDeveloping your skills can greatly increase your value to buyers. Learning new skills will keep you on the cutting edge, prepared for the future and help insure that your talents are always in demand.

Knowing what to study is just as important as the learning itself. Follow trade journals and blogs that cover your field, but don’t be fooled by hype – check resources like oDesk’s Trends page and see firsthand what skills are in demand, what skills are in decline, and how many providers are you competing with for jobs.

You’ve already invested a lot of time and resources to get to where you are now, but continuing to build on your current skills is essential to expanding your opportunities for future work.

Steady Work, Steady Income

The key to a steady income is working steadily. If you can chip away at your current workload, market yourself effectively, and continue your professional development, then you’ll be on your way to developing a healthy freelance operation, and hopefully a steady income.

Alex Hornbake

Freelance Tech Writer

Alex Hornbake is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. He joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, and brings more than a decade of technical expertise to his clients. Alex shares his point of view to help you make informed decisions for your personal and business technology choices.