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Working from home is rewarding for so many different reasons. Your schedule is often flexible, you can choose a job that you love, and you get to be your own boss. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15 million people were self-employed in 2015. As you can see, this is a career choice that has excellent potential.
If you’re interested in working from home, there’s a lot you need to learn before making the plunge. It’s possible to start immediately, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be super successful. Doing your research is the key to success, and that’s why I’ve made this in-depth post for you. Read on to learn my personal tips, tricks, and experiences from my work from home journey.
1. Make Social Networking A Priority
Social networking is such a crucial part of successful self-employment. I view social media platforms as a huge pool of potential clients and opportunities. I’ve found clients via Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram. You may be surprised to learn that social networking is fairly easy.
If you’re 100% inexperienced with social networking, I suggest that you read this simple WikiHow article. It covers all of the basics in simple language, so you can get started without a hitch. Another great read is the article 8 Tips To Grow Your Business Using Social Media. These tips will help you further expand your outreach.
I personally think any aspiring freelancer should make a Facebook and Twitter solely for their business. Making a separate Facebook page for your business or service is easy and worthwhile. You can even use sites like Instagram, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Reddit to promote yourself. The best part is that social networking doesn’t have to cost you a single cent.
2. Understand Self-Employment Taxes
When you are self-employed, you’re responsible for paying taxes on all of the income that you earn. As of 2017, the self-employment tax rate is 15.3 percent of your income. I’ll admit that paying self-employment taxes was confusing for me at first. Others have told me they felt the same way. Fortunately, I’ve found plenty of helpful information.
A good place to start is the IRS Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center page. This page covers everything you need to know, and it links to additional resources. I also like the Self Employment Tax Calculator offered by Calc XML. This will give you an idea of how much money you’ll owe.
Many individuals who are self-employed write off their work expenses as tax deductions. For example, you may purchase a computer that you use solely for work. This in-depth article by Quickbooks covers practically every single write off imaginable. If you plan to write off items, keep your receipts and document everything.
3. Get The Most Out Of Craigslist
Craigslist can be a gold mine for finding work at home gigs, but there are also tons of scams. If you aren’t well-versed with Craigslist, I suggest reading 10 Ways to Determine If A Craigslist Job Posting is Legitimate. I think the two most useful tips are using a separate e-mail account and following your gut. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So, how do you go about finding legitimate freelance jobs on Craigslist? I learned an invaluable tip on a freelancing forum. You can use websites that combine all Craigslist listing results into one page. For example, click the link above and use search terms that apply to you as a freelancer. Some keywords to try include:
- Work from home
- Work at home
- Freelance (your position)
- Independent contractor
- Remote position
I typically use the term “freelance writer” to find at-home writing gigs throughout the country. By using a website like the one linked above, you can greatly expand your search. If you aren’t familiar with replying to Craigslist job postings, read How to Respond to a Job Listing on Craigslist.
4. Learn How To Write Pitches and E-mails
No matter what your expertise is, pitching is a crucial part of succeeding as a freelancer. A pitch involves selling yourself to companies or individuals. Some businesses receive dozens of pitches each day; others receive hundreds or thousands. How will you make yourself stand out from the competition?
Knowing how to write a great pitch can make or break your work from home career, In my opinion, the hardest part about writing a pitch is overthinking it. It’s a pretty easy process, and there are tons of examples online. I recommend reading these articles if you need to learn how to write one:
- How to Write a Pitch in 8 Essential Steps
- Write a Business Pitch | Scribendi.com
- How to Write a Killer Pitch – Contently.net
- This Is How You Write a Cold Email That’ll Get Your Foot in the Door
- 6 Tips for Landing Your Dream Job with a Cold Email
This may seem obvious but always proofread your pitch prior to sending it. I mentioned the large amount of competitions you’re facing. The difference between you and your competition landing a job could be a simple spelling error. Don’t let that happen to you.
5. Join Online Communities For Freelancers
One of the most difficult things about working from home is that it can be isolating. While I do enjoy the peace and quiet, I also like discussing the daily grind with fellow freelancers. It breaks up the monotony, and I often learn about new tools and opportunities. Here are some online communities for freelancers that are useful and reputable:
- Reddit’s Freelance Subreddit
- Reddit’s Freelance Writers Subreddit
- WAHM.com Forums
You can also find forums that specifically suit your niche. For example, let’s say that you specialize in marketing. Search for “forums for freelance marketers”. You’ll find several communities for you to take part in. Use freelancing forums to stay social, learn, and network. It’s absolutely worth your time.
6. Know How To Spot Scams
When I tell people that I have a work from home job, they often question if it’s legitimate. Honestly, I can’t say that I blame them! There are a lot of work from home scams that offer high pay for little work. Some of these schemes are pretty obvious, while others are more difficult to detect. If you hear of an opportunity, consider these tips:
- If you know the name of the website, run it through ScamAdviser.com. You will be presented with a safety percentage rating that determines how safe the website is. You can also see the website’s value, domain age, owner, and more. This tool only takes a few seconds to use, and it can save you from a world of trouble.
- Read these posts about the latest work from home scams. Top 10 Work At Home and Home Based Business Scams and 16 Work-At-Home Scams To Avoid are two popular articles worth reading. They cover some of the most common schemes that people fall prey to. I also personally recommend that every aspiring freelancer read 10 Common Freelance Scams (And How To Avoid Them).
- Browse the work from home forums listed in “Join Online Communities For Freelancers”. Simply search for the name of a company or website to see if there are already posts about it. If you can’t find any information, don’t hesitate to start a new thread to ask questions.
Overall, I think that these three tips are the simplest way to avoid web-based scams. A bit of research goes a long way. There are truly wonderful opportunities out there; knowing how to find the true gems is crucial to your success.
7. Build A Digital Portfolio
One major challenge for freelancers is getting their foot in the door. If you’ve never worked from home before, how can you showcase your skills? The easiest solution is to build a digital portfolio. A digital portfolio allows you to present your work whether it’s examples you just made or publishes pieces.
I’ll use my online portfolio as an example. As you can see, it’s pretty straightforward. The main page discusses why clients should hire me. The other pages offer examples of my writing, information about my rates, ways to contact me, and more. If you don’t have published work, that’s no big deal. Simply create some samples and post them to your web page. Here are some free options where you can host your digital portfolio:
I personally use WordPress, but all three of these sites are popular, user-friendly, and professional. If you don’t want a personalized domain name, you won’t have to pay a single cent. However, I think that buying a domain name is a great investment and very affordable. I pay about $25 per year for mine, and that’s worth it to me.
8. Use Free Tools For Editing And Proofreading
This tip is not just for freelance writers; it applies to every single person who has a work from home job. For most online jobs, you’ll be communicating through Skype, e-mail, or some other similar platforms. From daily chats to job applications, you need to present yourself as professionally as possible. In order to do that, you should consider using one or more of these free editing and proofreading tools:
- After The Deadline
- Hemingway Editor
- Small SEO Tools Plagiarism Checker
- PaperRater Plagiarism Checker
For daily communication, Grammarly is my go-to tool. I use the Chrome extension to proofread my e-mails, Facebook posts, Tweets, and more. It allows me to sound polished and fixes minor spelling and grammar errors. No matter what you’re doing, you always need to come across as skilled, savvy, and competent. Nixing the little issues with these free tools can really strengthen your Internet presence.
9. Explore Online Job Listings
I mentioned the benefits of Craigslist above, but it is only one of many options. There are dozens of websites and forums dedicated to online job listings. These places have listings for one-time gigs, full-time employment, part-time employment, self-employment, and much more. The options that I’ve listed below are ones that I’ve used personally or that have good reputations:
- Reddit’s For Hire Subreddit
- Monster.com Work From Home Jobs
- Work At Home Job Listings – WAHM.com
- Work From Home Jobs | CareerBuilder
- Remote Work – Jobspresso.com
- Skip The Drive
Over the past few years, I’ve used Reddit’s “For Hire” Subreddit to land a handful of writing gigs. When I first began working at home, WAHM.com was my go-to resource. I suggest checking out all of them because you never know what you’re going to find. Use the keywords mentioned in the Craigslist section above to get accurate search results.
10. Create A Freelance Contract
If you are a freelancer and do not use a third-party company, it’s your responsibility to come up with a contract. It’s crucial to have a contract in place for all jobs; it is beneficial for both you and your clients. Your client can feel confident that you will deliver work as promised when you use a contract. Additionally, you can have a signed document stating that you will absolutely get paid at a specific date. This peace of mind is excellent for anyone who works from home.
It’s common to feel confused and overwhelmed about creating a contract. Start with reading How To Create a Freelance Contract on WikiHow. It’s straightforward and sticks to the essentials, so it’s a great starting point. Freelancers Union has an excellent Contract Creator tool that allows you to make unique, detailed contracts for each client. Lastly, use the article 8 Contract Clauses You Should Never Freelance Without to ensure you’ve covered all of your bases.
If you want to view specific examples of freelance contracts, check out these templates for various jobs:
- Independent Contractor Agreement Template
- Sample Contract, a Letter of Agreement
- Sample Contract: Freelance Writer Contract
- Freelance Graphic Design Contract [SAMPLE]
- Bonsai Freelance Contract
Of course, you have the ability to customize these templates to suit your needs. If you want to digitally sign contracts, you can use a program like DocuSign. While I do like DocuSign, it’s a paid website. You can sign contracts or have them signed for free using Google Docs. This WikiHow article explains how to do so.
11. Use Simple Blocker To Eliminate Distractions
While there are definite upsides to working at home, there are some cons to it, too. One thing that I struggle with is distractions. I’m a pretty focused person, but working on a computer all day can be tedious. It’s easy to click open a tab for Facebook or Reddit, and I lose 20 minutes here and there. Over time, those small distractions add up and cost me money.
That’s why I use Simple Blocker while I’m working. I use this tool to block Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and other distractions. I’ll block the websites during my work hours so they aren’t accessible. This really boosts my productivity. You can temporarily block an unlimited number of sites, so focusing on your work is a breeze. If you’re easily distracted or simply want to work more hours, then give this free tool a shot.
12. Implement A Daily Routine
In my experience, the easiest way to be productive is to stick to a routine. This may mean different things for different people. Here are some of my personal tips that apply to me as a freelance writer. Many of them apply to any other work from home job, too:
- Take short, timed breaks throughout the day. I use Online-Stopwatch.com. On most days, I will work for 45 minutes and then take a 10 or 15-minute break. During this break, I spend time away from my desk. Using this small amount of time to recharge helps me stay focused in the long run.
- Use an hourly planner to keep your schedule on hand. There are many smartphone apps for planners, but I prefer using the Panda Planner. It’s excellent for detailed organization, prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and more.
- Track the time that you spend working on projects with Toggl. Toggl is a time tracker and employee timesheet software website. If you bill your clients on an hourly basis, this is a great way to show them exactly what you’re working on. You can also use it to reflect on your daily patterns; this may help you set your own schedule.
- Have a “start” and “stop” time for work as you would at a traditional job. For example, I begin at 9 AM by checking my e-mail. I work on and off throughout the day; my work is split up into unpredictable increments because I also raise a toddler. However, my cutoff time is always 9 PM or 10 PM – no exceptions. This allows me to “clock out” from work and spend time focusing on other aspects of my life.
In addition to implementing my tips, I suggest reading Managing Time – The Definitive Freelancer Guide – Proposify and The 5 Rules of Working From Home. These articles offer great advice on how to make working at home work for you.
13. Become Familiar With Fair Industry Rates
When you’re new to freelancing or working from home, setting your rates can be confusing and overwhelming. You want to charge a rate that’s fair to your clients, but you also want to make enough money. Unfortunately, you may run into clients or businesses that take advantage of your inexperience. As difficult as it may be, try to stick to jobs that offer a fair industry rate.
When starting out, you may take lower paying jobs – I did to get some experience. However, don’t get stuck in a rut. Know that your time is valuable and that your work is worth a fair wage! Here are some guidelines for what a “fair wage” means in different industries.
- If you’re a writer or editor, the Editorial Freelancers Association and The Balance are helpful guides.
- If you’re a video editor, this Valoso.com article can help you figure out what a fair deal is.
- For freelance video makers, this Video Rate Calculator is a great tool.
- Freelance photographers should read How Much Should Photographers Charge in 2017 to help set their rates.
Aside from these resources, a quick Google search will help you find the information you’re looking for. Search for “freelance (job title) rates” to find numbers that are relevant to your field. Additionally, you can often find wage information on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Search for your job title or keywords, and you’ll likely find some helpful and accurate numbers.
I’ve also found that Pricing 101 – How To Price Yourself As A Freelancer by Jake Jorgovan is a helpful resource for determining rates no matter what your specialty. This article also discusses the issues surrounding unfair low wages and how to avoid them. Another article that I find helpful is The Complete Guide to Setting and Negotiating Freelance Rates. It discusses negotiation, minimal acceptable rates (MAR), and more.
Get Started With Your Work At Home Journey
With the tips and resources in this article, you can begin working at home. Pace yourself, follow these guidelines and research your niche. If you do this, you greatly increase your chances of successful self-employment.
Here at FFL, we’ve shared several other articles about working from home. These posts cover specific job types, passive income methods, and more. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
- 15 Businesses You Can Start for $100 or Less
- 50 Legitimate Ways On How To Make Money From Home
- Survey Junkie Review: Earn $15+/Hour Taking Surveys Online
- Textbroker Review: Is This A Good Way To Make Money Writing Online?
- 7 Simple Tips & Tricks For Starting A Profitable Etsy Store
As you can see, we’ve got all of the resources you need to get started. To discover more opportunities, make sure to browse our Make Money section. Good luck with your work from home journey!