Challenges with Online Jobs and Freelancing and How I Overcame Them
While many were skeptical over the rise of online jobs, the prevalence of it today is something no one can deny. Especially in current times where the pandemic is teaching us that remote jobs are highly possible (to a certain extent). The benefits of working online could do more good for those struggling with commute times, office interaction, or having enough time for their partners or families.
This article was written by Paula Candelaria.
But, while the benefits seem blindingly apparent at first glance, any seasoned freelancer or remote employee will tell you that having higher pay and more time for yourself is not always the case. I’ve been working remote and freelance jobs for over three to four years now, and I can personally tell you that the challenges of this new career path are more severe than you think. As for the pay, well, don’t expect ludicrous salaries for 4 hours of work a day.
However, this shouldn’t discourage you from your freelance or remote work journey. As with all things, you have to overcome challenges through your capacities. and be ready for perpetual learning – both educational and life-wise.
Lack of Work-Life Balance
If you’re a perfectionist and people-pleaser like me, then get ready for a wake-up call. In bigger companies, you have a person for everything. But, with online jobs and freelance, teams with upwards of 15 members are already considered big. Most of the time – especially with one-off projects – you’ll usually find yourself alone.
With that in mind, employers or clients will often ask you if you want to work on more tasks or handle more areas outside your expertise. For example, when I started working as a copywriter remotely, my boss often asked me to edit product photos partly because on my resume, I added experience with Photoshop and Lightroom. Later on, without noticing it, I was given an additional role of a graphic designer on top of my copywriting role and all with the same pay grade.
Now, it didn’t take long before I started realizing that I was working more than 60 hours a week and developing a very unhealthy lifestyle (sleeping less than 4 hours a day, eating fast food A LOT, and projecting my frustrations on those around me). It didn’t take much to set off a mental breakdown (Heck, I would break down over cold food or someone playing DOTA and taking up all the bandwidth).
In essence, we all need a little time for ourselves. After all, personal time is detrimental to your overall sanity. However, when we start working online, we often get blinded by hourly pay and start working more hours to get the salary we want. But, trust me on this. You’ll end up paying more for unnecessary things like fast food, gadgets, and other knick-knacks that you think will make you happy but are just really a very stale band-aid on what you need: a break.
Today, I’m still learning what it means to have a “work-life balance.” I still take a few more jobs than I can handle, but I’ve learned to delegate. I ask for help from my friends or co-workers on tasks I can’t fit into my schedule. I actively turn off notifications for my work chats (Slack or Whatsapp) after 10 PM. I have also created a time-blocking calendar to guide me through my day and weekly routine. And, lastly I also no longer work on weekends and reserve them for more purposeful things like studying a new area of expertise, spending time with my partner and family, and even the occasional video games and Netflix marathons.
In the end, we’re human. Don’t believe the hustle until you break culture. Believe in your capacities. As with everything, you are not a Pinterest or Instagram quote. And, knowing your limits and setting boundaries around them is just as much a milestone as hitting your monetary goal.
Saying Yes to Too Many Projects or Clients
Now, here’s a big one. When you get used to working online, you realize you can start taking on more clients. And that’s perfectly fine. After all, one of the great things about working remotely is the endless possibilities of job opportunities – as long as you market yourself well enough. But, there’s such a thing as taking on too many projects and clients at one given time.
In 2019, I got my first long-term online job after a couple of years of freelancing. I was comfortable and actively revolving all my time on my work routine. I even started fixing my budget based on my salary to give myself an ample amount of money to spend while saving. But in late 2020, my company closed down, and I found myself without income and a job.
Luckily, I found a new job within the next month. However, being traumatized from being jobless and income-less, I started expanding my horizons and taking on more and more clients and projects. It wasn’t long before I juggled two full-time jobs (30 hours a week each) and around 1-2 side projects a week. Now, you can imagine how hectic my life was. I was working 60 hours a week and devoting my weekends to side projects.
While my income stability went up, my mental and physical health started deteriorating. I started drinking way too much caffeine, ignoring my friends and family, and even skipping meals as “eating took up too much time.” And the worst part, at the end of the day, I barely dented my workload as it hi up seeing my to-do list.
After a few months, I got the message. I quit one of my full-time jobs and opted to go with the less demanding client – even if it was for less pay. I also took on a more flexible part-time job, and now, weirdly enough, I have more time to take on side projects…well, more energy to handle them. Likewise, I also give better output and consistently work within deadlines.
At the end of the day, your work is not your whole life. You have family, friends, and yourself to think about. And, creating enough time for all of them (including yourself) will reward you far more than a higher income.
Complacency With Current Skill Set
The thing with freelancing or remote jobs is that they follow a trend. What you found yourself specializing in will someday be obsolete or rather not as in-demand as it was once before. But, while you can see this as a bad thing, you can also look at it in the light of a great learning opportunity. Especially today, when online learning has progressed so much that even free resources like Youtube tutorials can make a world of difference.
And, even if your skill is still in demand, learning a new area of expertise can never hurt. In my case, I specialize in copywriting. While this skill is still very much sought after, it’s not technically the most high-paying, nor do I see myself doing it for the next 10-20 years. But, the great thing about being exposed to online jobs and freelancing is that you start to discern which skill is currently valuable and what skills will be more valuable in the long run.
On that note, I try my best to allot time within the week to study. Right now, I take Udemy classes (take advantage of the seasonal sales!) and free resources I can get a hold of to learn website development and graphic design. And, funny enough, I’m starting to realize that I find them more fun and exciting than writing. While copywriting will always be a specialty, it doesn’t have to mean it will always be my main specialty or expertise.
Think of what makes you happy, what has better opportunities, and what you can envision yourself doing for a long, long time. After all, what’re a few hours in a week versus career growth and learning something new?
No Long-Term Plan
Here’s the kicker. When taking on online jobs or full-time freelancing, you have to be ready for a few weeks or sometimes even months where you have no job or gigs. And, don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. What’s not normal, though, is not having a long-term plan.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of studying, expanding your skill sets, and laying out a 5-year plan and even a 10-year plan. And alongside that is also handling your finances to offset the weeks or months you have no income. After all, you don’t want to spend all your money on a new shiny gadget only to find weeks of no clients and no budget for any of your necessities.
In that respect, I recommend periodically writing down your career goals (this includes the skills you want to learn and hone and your 5-year to 10-year plan) and fixing your budget to include emergency funds and other savings allocation. Likewise, it would be wise to network as well during off-peak seasons in your work life. You could take up free projects for your friends or NGOs so that you can build a better portfolio – that’s likely to reward you with generous job opportunities in the long term.
And, of course, never burn your bridges. Whether it be with other remote online workers, freelancers, or even your one-off project clients, you never know who has the opportunity that would likely suit your developing skill sets, and making sure that your name is of good reputation goes a long way in this line of work.
Forgetting to Get Health Insurance
Get health insurance. Period. The offset with working freelance or remotely is that they don’t have benefits that bigger companies offer most of the time. And, one thing you’ll inevitably need in the future is good health insurance coverage.
Last year, I spent A LOT of money fixing my teeth. This was due to my poor diet, which consisted mostly of sugar and fast food. What was unknown to me is that most HMOs cover dental – to a certain extent, of course. But, I was blinded by higher pay and more work hours, so I didn’t realize how much I needed health insurance until I was broke and figuring out how I’m supposed to pay for myself if I got hospitalized.
But here’s the thing, you don’t need to pay a lot for health insurance. You can opt for prepaid health cards that you pay once a year that covers Emergency Room Fees, Confinement, and even dental! Trust me when I say getting at least the most basic package for health insurance will be worth its weight in gold in the long run.
Also, don’t forget to pay your taxes. You’ll thank me later when you’re trying to get a loan from a bank or PAG-IBIG.
Take Pride in Everything You Do
I think the most valuable piece of advice I can give you is to take pride in your work. While it might not be the most exciting thing in the world, motivating yourself is key to surviving the vast world of freelancing and remote jobs.
So, take pride in what you do and never stop learning! Grab every opportunity you can to expand your skill sets and your mind. And, if you’re scared of starting all over again with learning and shifting career paths, take pride in that too. Nobody starts as a master in their field. At the end of the day, taking that first step is already something to be proud of.