We interviewed a freelancer from Sri Lanka, Rilwan. He works on oDesk and was kind enough to share many great photos with us, that my virtual assistant organized into a photo gallery.
How old are you?
Where are you from?
Colombo, Sri lanka
How did you come to work as a freelancer?
I was an Internet Geek involved with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, etc apart from my main Profession. Suddenly I came across an advertisement on a one-day workshop in an Institute on Freelancing at a cost of LKR 5,500.00. I was hesitating to register at the first sight since I did not know the term ‘Freelancing” was and our community view internet as a fraudulent activity when it comes to business. Then I took the risk in attending the workshop and came to know Odesk and other freelancing sites.
Why did you choose to do freelance work on oDesk?
Odesk guarantees payments on hourly jobs when compared to my known other freelancing sites after the workshop. The first job was hired under Odesk as hourly for a long-term contract and still in progress to date. The mode of payment seemed realistic and cheaper to encash in our country by means of Payoneer. Therefore, I decided to give more priority to Odesk from initial stage onwards.
Do you use other freelance sites too? If yes, which ones and how they are different?
Yes, I use Elance and Freelancer. Freelancer is a UK based website which mainly focuses only on the Fixed Price Jobs with certain milestones upfront.
Although they mention an option for milestones, the clients mainly do not wish to pay upfront unless the job is complete. This is very unfair for a contractor, when it comes to do a sample piece of work for a Client to get satisfied and hire the contractor.
At Elance, the registration stage itself is very complicated at the initial stage which verifies so many things to complete the profile. Furthermore, there is a heavy competition in applying to a job and most of the good skills tests are not free. However Elance is my second priority.
How long did it take you to get the first assignment on oDesk and how did you struggle during that period?
I am very lucky and I got my first assignment within weeks of registration. This is the main reason I still focus more on Odesk. Since I did not know the freelancing market at the initial stage, I had a perception that hunting jobs were very much easy as soon as I got the first one. But later realized that it was NOT.
What is an hourly rate you would be very comfortable working with and why?
To my external qualifications and experiences, I have a value of $20/hr upwards. I can also guarantee this job in Middle East Countries as colleagues in my capacity earn the same. However, it was said to start with as low as possible from $2/hr since newbies are given less priorities unless they earn reputation on freelancing.
What sort of work would you be willing to do with this rate?
I would do any work that gives meaning to my qualifications such as Management, Accountancy, Business administration. Even I prefer lecturing on business aspects to students upto Higher Education. Money does not ONLY matter in life. A career based on my qualification is one of my great concern with a satisfactory value.
What is an hourly rate that is unacceptably low and why?
Hourly rate less than $ 7.00/hr is considered a waste of time according to my standard since the Opportunity cost is very high on similar jobs outside freelancing with accomodation and holidays. However, on average, I would suggest $ 3.00/hr is a decent rate for anyone at freelancing capacity.
What were your prior thoughts about earning money online?
I did not have any idea on earning money online when I started my initial career. Online earning was fake and fraud since no assurance on either parties in a contract was my thought. And it was confirmed by certain pyramid structures that were in place in my city whereby paying through online existed for a few days and disappeared with a huge deposit of innocent victims who were engaged.There was and still is a perception that demands for careers on higher qualifications are only available outside my country. I really DO NOT like to leave my home and relatives just for the sake of earning money to lead a stable life. In this perspective, if online earning stands equally to my standard, it is a great blessing, I would say. I would earn at least extras to contribute to my wedding ceremony which will be on next February.
What motivates you as s a freelancer? As a Person? What kind of extra push (extra motivation) do you expect from an employer?
Staying home and earning in a very flexible way motivates me very much as a freelancer. There are other several home-based jobs such as providing tuitions, etc. However, such jobs need to run on a pre-defined schedule, which I hate the most. I am much towards result-oriented rather than task-oriented. I am a person of FLEXIBILITY, FLEXIBILITY and FLEXIBILITY.
How would you handle it if your employer criticizes your work?
Initially, I would ask on which areas I am not satisfactory. This is an important stage to correct our self before pointing others. Then I shall ask for any grace time and proper guidance to rework on such area unless the employer is satisfied. However, the rewards and grounds should be fair before making a criticism to do the above.
Tell us one of your success stories as a freelancer. (Did the employer give you any sort of extra recognition, some respect or some attribution what you ever mentioned in your work or helped you in any of your future jobs.?)
My initial freelancing job itself is a success story. I was very much worried whether I am doing the right thing as expected, else my efforts go waste. Then I used to review my work with the client very frequently by communicating him with Odesk messages.I sometimes seemed leggy at the initial stages and commit 5% errors. Later it was proven by client that I have been much improved. My limit per week doubled after a good performance. On the next performance review, it was said that my pay rate will also be rewarded with an increase very soon.
Suppose your employer is not happy with the work quality and you’ve tried your best to satisfy his needs, but in vain. In this scenario, how ill you respond?
I shall initially find out from the employer on which areas is he not happy and understand what he really requires. Then I would find an alternative way to do the job. If such requirements need extra effort, I shall explain him and revise the pay rate. Finally, I shall ask whether he minds using an alternative person and shall complete the job. However, if I feel that I cannot fulfill the requirements, I shall quit with some milestones and let him hire another.
What are the biggest threats while working as a freelancer / working online?
The biggest threat that I hate in a freelancing job is that earning a Star to get Good jobs. This is so weird that we spend so much of time and money in higher studies and training for experiences and gain all the certificates. Yet, a simple STAR decides whether a client should hire a potential or not.The second thing is that when a vacancy is existing for a particular contractor, there are so much of applicants applying for fun, whereby serious contractor gets lost in the pool of applicants and loses the chance of getting hired if only a sample of applicants are picked. Third, jobs are very discriminative.
I see so many basic jobs prefer Philippines to do where as a small child in my country can complete in seconds such as converting 5 PDF pages to Ms Word, etc. Finally, all the hard-earned money is eaten by bankers as transfer fees, maintenance charges, withdrawal charges, etc.
Fixed price jobs or hourly jobs? Which would you prefer and why?
I prefer hourly jobs the most, because there needs to be a stability and trust between both the parties of contract to work peacefully. The work gets highly specialized and quality can be improved, which is good for both client and contractor. Time to time, there needs to be fixed job as well in order to reduce the monotony on a routine based work. This will also enhance expertise over other areas. Therefore Hourly 1st and Fixed 2nd.
How do you see your future as a freelancer?
I have come across so many successful profiles at Odesk with a good flow of work history and feedbacks yet they are in other higher positions in a company. I would like to be a successful freelancer purely based on my qualifications along with a good full time employment. As the technology develops at a rapid pace, I expect that freelancing will overtake the traditional jobs at a point of time. Which means, I should start earning my reputation from now onwards.
If there are only highly paid jobs (above $5/hr), obviously there would be a lot of competition and people from Europe and US would also apply for this job, in this case how do you see your future as a provider?
I would try to find out what is my competitive advantage on performing the job over Europe and US and state such advantage to the client in my cover letter. I would as much as why I am preferred for this job. We might not know that a small reason might count more to the client, such as less jobs in progress leading to more concentration at work, etc.
Would you rather be hired for 500 hrs at a lower rate (below $2/hr) or shorter jobs (for example 50 hrs @ $5/hr). What would you prefer and why?
I would rather be hired on 50 hrs at $5/hr. I do not see any fun in wasting time doing the same stuff over and over again for a small amount. Because life is short and we have less time to engage in more activities. A multi-tasking person is much preferred than a single specialized person. Of course, stability is also important as a backing force.
What is the maximum number of employers for whom you have been working at the same time?
Maximum number of employers at the same time was only two in freelancing. One being fixed and the other being hourly. I always love to have a fixed to motivate myself to continue with my hourly job.
How would you efficiently manage all of your employers at the same time?
When I feel that flexibility reduces overtime due to more jobs, I would resume back to schedule my work and ascertain that all the work shall be completed before the deadlines. The priority takes place in the sequence of: deadline, effort, fixed jobs, pay rates, etc.This will ensure that I complete the most important jobs first and leave the hourly with less hours in a week so that client and myself will be transacted only on hours completed at last with a win-win situation.
From your previous working experience on oDesk, what helped you most in getting hired?
I would rather say, my covering letters play an important role in making a client run further to my profiles. Then I realized that above the covering letter, it is the luck that a client opens my covering letter plays the major role. This has been critically examined from my experiences.
What is the best tactic to write a cover letter for the job post and what is your winning rate?
As basic guidelines outlined in various training programs, I would say the Salutation first. Next, our skills based ONLY on the requirements except blah blah. Then how we understand and take a motive to initiate the requirements of the job. What will be the deadline (believe me – this needs to be honest). What is our rate (this should only reflect the efforts and not the competition, because as I said, there are non-serious applicants bidding at a very low rate for fun).
How much you can earn if you have a normal white collar job (starting level) in your country according to your qualification and experience. In addition, is it easy for you to get this job? What skills do you think would they hire you for? What are the changes that you will get this job?
Presently, we can earn up to $ 500 per month for a qualification of my nature in our country, which is very less compared to foreign opportunities. However, I find that it is easy to take up similar jobs on freelancing rather than normal jobs in my country when we are on the right track with good stars and job records.
Do you think that your virtual job experience would count or help you in giving confidence in getting jobs?
Yes, I definitely think that my virtual job experience will count on getting good jobs since my loyalty on my job increases my hours and minor fixed price jobs increases stars. Also most of the jobs listed at Odesk are purely related to my qualifications and it is only a matter of fact that trust needs to be built for the clients over earning stars and loyal towards a single employer.
Are there any tax deductions in doing freelance work?
No, there are no tax deductions. Thanks to Payoneer. Else the wire transfer would unnecessarily make tax deductions under foreign source of Income.
What is the feedback of your family and friends about your freelancing job?
The feedback from my family is to earn a decent job based on my qualifications and NOT to waste time and energy on low contracts, since I can run a Saloon on a Sunday if I have to work for $ 1/hr. I will at least save my eyes and waist pain sitting all day long in the computer. My friends do not trust in freelancing unless they see a living example like me earning cash with proven systems. I act as a promoter to freelancing indirectly and three of my friends started the same under with my referrals under the same client of mine.