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Marina Andreas: My story as an established online-based freelancer

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My name is Marina and my freelancing journey all started around 7 years ago, after finishing my bachelor studies in Internet and Mass communication in my home country, Cyprus.

Up until a decade ago, the field of Internet Journalism was sort of a new “thing” in my country that was constantly gaining ground and so I chose this study field because I knew the Internet would spread so much that 80+% of humans, companies and nearly everyone would be online. My Internet studies taught me the good and the bad of the Internet from a social and economic standpoint and I learned extensive research methods that would help expand my knowledge on various subjects and particular Internet marketing, Internet journalism and Internet content writing in general.

Once I had successfully finished my studies, I knew I had to pursue an online-based career as working as a traditional writer or journalist wasn’t something that appealed to me. I’m an introvert and working at a typical 9-to-5 job or night shifts to cover breakthrough news events wasn’t my dream career--even though I admire others for going this route. I just had to find a way to follow my field of study in a more flexible manner and earn a decent income as well. Money, to be honest, came second to me as my primary focus was to follow my passion and studies for the online world.

So once I finished my studies and went back to my hometown, I began looking up for online opportunities to work from home that were legit and approved. I’d had a fair share of “work-from-home” scams back when I was a uni student, but I knew there must be a legitimate way to exercise my knowledge and earn a decent income online. This is where I stumbled across two freelancing platforms-- O-desk (now Upwork) and Fiverr. I had no clue at first how these worked and how I’d join as a freelancer or what my gigs and services would be. I initially thought that all these freelancers must be coders or graphic designers but I found out, to my surprise, there were all sorts of freelancers covering multiple online tasks--from social media marketers to senior content writers, translators, and even media buyers.

Since marketing and content writing were the two areas that enticed me the most, I began crafting my freelance profile on the first platform. I took clues from other established freelancer profiles and also started to build my own portfolio, which was essential to showcase my skills to new clients. This was a quite challenging part as even though I knew the basics of online content writing from the university, I didn’t know exactly what to write about and how to market myself. But I thought “I’ll just write about something that really interests me” and I wrote a health article and an article about fine wine varieties. They weren’t perfect now that I see them but they were fine for a start. I also completed all the necessary platform tests to demonstrate my English content writing skills and earn badges for my profile. They weren’t as hard to earn as I thought.

Soon as I completed my profile and began working on my skills, I started to bid on multiple client projects. As a newbie, landing my first client was quite grueling. I remember bidding and bidding again and again for several days and weeks to no avail. Because of my lack of experience and my lacking portfolio, most clients ignored my bids. But I noticed that there were some entry-level projects that did not require any prior experience -- of course, the pay for these was very low, but I thought “whatever, I’ll start from the bottom before I climb to the top”. And I’m quite embarrassed to admit at this point that I started with jobs that paid me peanuts (from $2-5 per article or content piece).

When my parents and friends asked me how much I made, I was inclined to tell them “it’s none of your business” but I hesitantly told them roughly how much I earned. Their response was that “it’s peanuts, how are you going to survive and make a name for yourself like that? This is not a decent job”. But even though these words were discouraging, I didn’t give up. I kept bidding and earning client projects, building my portfolio, and reading online books and tutorials on how to be a successful freelancer. I recalled my Uni Professor's words “Don’t ever think for a second that you know everything about the Internet--the field is constantly evolving and you need to keep on learning and working on your skills to be successful”. Going back a few years ago, what I knew back then was nothing to what I know now and still, I haven’t reached the level where I want to be.

My first year of freelancing passed with many ups and downs. I had landed a decent number of clients but I noticed that they didn’t hire me back and instead of focusing on getting new clients, I worked to keep most of my old clients, especially those that I loved working for. I struggled to set my hourly and project rate because, when you are a freelancer, you have this dilemma--charge less in an effort to get more clients or charge more but risk losing some clients in the long run I leaned on the first option during my first two years of freelancing, despite what my family and friends told me to do. I wasn’t that confident in my skills because first I’m not technically a native English writer and secondly, I was only a year or two in this field. But, I slowly and gradually raised my rates, as my skills and portfolio kept growing. I didn’t have a family of my own or many bills to pay, I was still living in my parent’s house, but I had my own personal expenses and I needed to charge more for reputation reasons as well.

Today, after 7 years of freelancing, I already count more than 200 clients from all across the globe and have an 80% repeat hire rate, working on two major freelancing platforms online. I’ve been involved mostly in article writing, e-book writing, website content writing, and inbound marketing projects and now that I checked my entries, I have successfully completed between 300-400 projects with 98% 5-star ratings from clients. This was a target that I really struggled at first to achieve but I finally made it and I’m proud of myself.

Because of my diverse working experience and a great professional reputation, I’m now able to charge more and not settle for anything less than what I deserve. It takes courage and determination but I believe anyone can get to this level or even surpass it. It would be a lie to say I’m totally satisfied with where I am now and to be honest, perfection is next to impossible when you are working online. There will always be room for improvement. But, I’m more satisfied with myself compared to 5 years ago and the progress that I’ve made so far. My good ratings and considerable earnings encourage me to keep freelancing and not quit, even though for some this is a quite unstable and unpredictable way to work. I do agree that freelancing has many ups and downs in general and it’s not for everyone, but I personally love this flexibility and unpredictability. It keeps my interest intact and motivates me to go on, despite some external interferences that sometimes make me second-guess myself.

My advice for everyone considering working as an online freelancer will be to be persistent, patient, and not be afraid to start from the bottom to climb the top of the ladder. Freelancing has many challenges indeed but it’s a totally fascinating field for those who are seeking more flexible opportunities to escape from ordinary 9-to-5 jobs and boring work routines. Personally, this isn’t a career decision I regret and I feel this is what I’m wired to do and keep doing in the future!
Author: Marina Andreas