June 4th, 2009
Got an email from some mystery reader the other day asking, “Is this site still active? I haven’t seen a post from Michelle in many months.” (Actually it’s been just under two, but who’s counting?) In an upcoming blog post, I’ll explain why I disappeared from the blogosphere for such a long stretch. But first, some fresh content…
Work It, Mom! just ran a new Q&A with me and I wanted to share my favorite question of the bunch:
If you were just starting out as a full-time freelancer and had just enough money each month to pay for ONE of the following things, which would you choose, and why? (1) Hosting for your own website. (2) Mobile web and e-mail on your cell phone/Blackberry. (3) Membership in a paid job listing site like FreelanceSwitch. (4) Four Americanos.
My answer: Easy: web hosting. It’s criminal to not have a website as a freelancer these days. You need your own corner of the digital universe where people can easily learn who you are and peruse your samples and/or client testimonials.
Number one, it makes you look like you’ve joined the twenty-first century (if you forego a site, don’t expect potential customers to be impressed). Number two, it saves you extra time you might have spent explaining your work/approach/MO to a new client. Number three, you can make a one- to four-page WordPress site in a morning. Number four, Web hosting costs less than $10 a month. Number five, in the time you spend scouring those (often crummy, $10/hour) ads on freelancing job sites you could have sent your new URL to everyone you’ve ever met in your life, started schmoozing with other freelancers on Twitter, and drummed up your first client by word of mouth or the power of SEO. I’m a big fan of joining a community and cultivating relationships rather than bidding into the void on projects advertised on job sites, unless it’s a really, really kickass-sounding job.
As for options (2) and (4), I don’t use a smartphone and I don’t drink coffee.
Bonus answer: Yes, you can build a site with an address like http://anti9to5guide.wordpress.com/ for free, but having your own URL is so much easier for people to remember and looks a bit more serious.
Yes, coffee makes the deadlines go ’round, but it’s expensive. If you drink it, brew your own.
Yes, a cool smartphone + data plan will liberate you to work anywhere, but as a new freelancer you should be watching your pennies. Besides, do you really need to be online 24/7?
And yes, some people swear by using freelance job hunting sites like Elance, oDesk, and Guru to land their first few gigs or to supplement their freelance income, despite all the cons they themselves are all too happy to admit (wading through all the crap-pay listings, giving the site a cut of your earnings, the preponderance of bidders willing to work for slave wages). But on freelance email list after email list I subscribe to, people regularly say that they haven’t found such race-to-the-bottom bidding frenzies worth their time.
I can’t speak to the job listings on Freelance Switch specifically; if anyone has a review to share, by all means please do. I’d love to find a job listing site serving multiple freelance disciplines to recommend to new freelancers. As for writers, I hear wonderful things about the publication editors and the freelance listings they post on Freelance Success, which costs about $100 a year.