Shailesh is a provider from India I have worked some years ago. He was one of my favorite co-workers. I asked him if he could send us some interview answers for a case study about outsourcing. He asked us not to publish his photo, since he is working offline, too.
How old are you?
Where are you from?
How did you come to work as a freelancer?
There was a time in the year 2006-2007 when I had very less salary around $80-100 a month (As is for every fresher who start’s his/her career).
I was looking for some extra work which could earn me money that would repay my hostel fees, Mess fees and that too using the spare time I had after full time job. That was the time when I thought of freelancing.
After lots of web research (Google + Yahoo search etc.) I came across to a website named www.odesk.com, thanks to Yahoo Answers! This is where I got the reference from.
Why did you choose to do freelance work on oDesk?
Well…the answer for this is “The way oDesk operates”. Nice and simple and eaaaaasssy. (Yes there are lot many “a” in easy. That’s what I feel working on oDesk). I had registered to lot many freelancing website. To name a few www.guru.com, www.getafreelancer.com etc.
But I don’t like their mode of operation. Some freelancing sites ask for to deposit some money to get a job. Why should I give money to get job? I should be paid only to the work I have done. And that’s what oDesk is. They pay for what work you has done. As simple as that…isn’t it?
Do you use other freelance sites too? If yes, which ones and how they are different?
I do not use other freelancing sites, but I can tell how they are different from oDesk. As I said some asks for money to give you a work, some say you can apply only few jobs before you need to register so as to continue applying to jobs.
Again the registration will ask for some money. Registration accounts are divided into 3 sub categories, Starter, Intermediate and Premium. Off course every account will have its own different fees.Also some freelancing websites talks about “Escrow” funds from the employer when someone is awarded the project. This specifically confusing to me.
How long did it take you to get the first assignment on oDesk and how did you struggle during that period?
A month. June 2007 to be precise. I opened account during May 2007 and got my first work in June 2007. Probably I might be lucky enough to get my first job so early and that too without a portfolio. Rather I was looking for jobs related to CAD, being a mechanical engineer. But to start off we all need something and there was an opportunity to do so.
Regarding struggle: Yes there was a bit. As I said I was interested in jobs related to my profession. But then I realized I cannot get a work unless and other I build a portfolio. So I had to redirect and started applying for data entry related jobs. It didn’t earn me lots of money but what I earned made sure I saved money at the end of the month.
What is an hourly rate you would be very comfortable working with and why?
About $8-$9 per hour excluding oDesk fees. I usually work for say 1- 2 hours a day. Which makes around minimum 28 hours for the month. This whole accounts for money which contributes partly for my expenses of a month.
What sort of work would you be willing to do with this rate?
The work will be related to Industrial designing, CAD, Building prototypes, renderings, design and development of plastics parts, engineering drawings, building a product from concept to reality.
Nowadays I am more interested in doing CAD related works which are related to my profession (I am a mechanical engineer, specialized in designing of plastic parts).
What is an hourly rate that is unacceptably low and why?
I don’t have exact figure of what is the unacceptably low price. But I would like to answer this question in two parts. First with a perspective of a data entry operator and second with a perspective of a CAD designer/Industrial designer. Because I have gone through these two phases while working on oDesk.
Data Entry operator: Any hourly rate which is offered to an employer only for sake of getting the job in your basket is unacceptable to me. At the times when I was into the data entry jobs I had seen many jobs being quoted for reasonably low prices. You can read my reply to the post on oDesk.
There’s a hand of some employers in this too. They ask for the job to be done at low prices. And this ruins all the reputation oDesk has.
CAD Engineer: As a CAD engineer one thinks that we will earn a good amount of money. (At east in INDIA we think so). But again lots of jobs are being done at very low prices. I still remember one of my employers was asking me to do a job for only $50. But when i had a look at the drawing and requirements I had to say no. but there was huge amount of work in it and $50 was too less for it.
But there are some employers who rethink on the pricing. Recently I had an experience with an employer who offered a job for $100 but looking upon requirements there was considerable amount of work to be done. I had a chat with him and he offered me the revised quote of the work.
Moral is don’t apply for job with own prices, there are good employers which will offer correct pricing of the work because “If you pay peanuts you will get monkeys working for you and with a good wage you will be able to attract a better quality of worker”.
What were your prior thoughts about earning money online?
There’s a common myth here. Earning money online means only data entry. And data entry means only copy and paste jobs. And mind you there are some people who offer these works and I know they are fake.
My prior thoughts were same as others too. Data entry is done as a work to earn extra money. Even I had some friends doing so (They have stopped doing now after being cheated 🙂 )
What motivates you as s a freelancer? As a Person? What kind of extra push (extra motivation) do you expect from an employer?
Me myself. That’s the person inside me who motivates me to do work as a freelancer. Rather I enjoy working as a freelancer, I enjoy extra responsibility. Yes it’s the work done to earn extra money but unless you enjoy what you are doing you cannot give your best.
Extra motivation expected from employer:
- No rush- I am expecting that an employer should not push me to get the work done. By doing this I usually get irritated and creates differences between me and him and that indirectly affects the work done. By no rush means, if say we have an issue, it will take some time to resolve it. And the employer should give time to resolve whatever the problem is.
- Replying to emails on time – If I send an email to the employer i do expect a timely reply. If not then I don’t like to keep waiting neither I keep someone waiting.
- Explanation in proper way- I have seen so many employers explaining in long emails. That’s like increasing the confusion what we have. Picture speaks lots of words… isn’t it? It’s really easy to draw a rough sketch and explain whatever is needed. This saves lot of email exchanges and words.
How would you handle it if your employer criticizes your work?
That’s only a feedback that he/she thinks of me. That’s the feedback for the work I have done. So I always take it on a positive note and if possible ask employer for what can be done to improve. Yes there have been some cases where I haven’t got an expected feedback but never mind everything happens for good and we got to move on.
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.?)
There are many. Right from the start of my career as a CAD engineer on oDesk to the latest feedback I have got. One story I want to highlight is when the part I designed was prototyped by the employer. This is a success story because that was the first part that was designed and developed by me from the scratch.
I usually explain the problem in a presentation. Adding one or two pictures in slides and explaining them what is the issue. The presentation is most time self-explanatory. I have even got appreciation to this effort. And this helps in getting future jobs because it increases the chances of getting 5 stars.
Some wall-paintings from Shailesh’s room
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 usually write an email saying is there any scope of improvement? And to be true there is a scope for improvement in many cases. Writing an email in a polite way, if possible chat/talk is the best option (that’s what I feel). We can also ask for a second chance from him/her for improving the quality and what is expected.
If any worse case if you are not given any option for improvement then we can just end the assignment on oDesk and give a feedback about him/her. There’s every chance that their feedback is also affected because of me. And at least somebody will think twice before working with them.
What are the biggest threats while working as a freelancer / working online?
The biggest threat off course is not getting paid after doing work. More often thought comes to my mind for fixed rate jobs, that if the client refused me to pay then what. Even oDesk does not assure any payment for the fixed rate jobs. Or say client does not pay for the work done if he is not satisfactory with the work done or he is satisfactory with the work but he does not show like.
Next biggest threat is if say the freelancing website on which you are working stops or closed one day. Say oDesk stops working one day rather at the end of month, well it would be disappointing as all the efforts you have put into the work and is accumulated as money into oDesk account is gone.
Another threat could be like if someone from your company sees you working as freelancer then what? There are many companies which has a clause in their offer letter which says “An employee is not supposed to work for any other company either part time or full time”.
Fixed price jobs or hourly jobs? Which would you prefer and why?
Not much to choose in between these two as far as I am concerned. For me both are fine provided I don’t have any disputes with employer for the fixed rate jobs.
How do you see your future as a freelancer?
For me future as a freelance shows lots of hope, lots of encouragement, builds lots of confidence in me interacting with people of various cultures. No one cannot build a confidence in you for talking with others. There are classrooms which teach how to vary you accent, how to use words, which words to use etc. while official interaction with people from various parts of world. But no one could give confidence and courage that is needed.
For me the future as a freelancer is great along with my full time job.
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 am right up there to compete with the providers/freelancers from Europe and US. I love competition and that’s the only way to realize one’s potential isn’t it? Now I have a portfolio that could challenge any one of those. Currently for the jobs I am doing 90% employers are from US and Europe. I see bright future as a provider.
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 prefer shorter jobs. Because this assures benefits/profits at short terms. Prices of everything are changing day by day. And hence we need to update the hourly rate accordingly.
There’s every chance of getting stuck on the $2/hr for a long time. If say i work for 2 hours a day, to complete 500 hours it will take approximately 8 and half months as compared with 50 hours which will be consumed in about a month time.
What is the maximum number of employers for whom you have been working at the same time?
How would you efficiently manage all of your employers at the same time?
I regularly discuss about the deliverables regarding work needed by each employers. To start off I always list down the pending work at the start of the week (Monday).
If any queries, the mail communication/ respective presentations/pictures are sent to them at the start of the week. If possible setting a voice call is a good option, it builds confidence about you in them. According to the discussions I plan a relevant date for the deliverables and work accordingly.
From your previous working experience on oDesk, what helped you most in getting hired?
Strong portfolio and good feedback. These are the two which helps a lot getting call for interviews and getting hired. As per my experience 90% of the job is won on how good your portfolio is and how well you have done in previous jobs. 5% is the cover letter and 5% how you represent yourself at the time of interview.
Last but not least one important thing building a sound relation with the employer. I always keep in touch with them even after the assignment is done. Saying hi, hello on chat may be a good option to make them feel that you still remember them.
What is the best tactic to write a cover letter for the job post and what is your winning rate?
Well, best way to write a cover is already described by oDesk here.
Very nicely explained on their website. Just to highlight some of the points in them,
- Write to the point: Never try to explain the employer what the job opening is about. Tell them are you able to do what is needed.
- Start with hello or hi with their name (if given) rather than writing Dear. Start with a professional greeting.
- Re read what you have written.
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?
For my qualification, starting level salary for a fresher is around $50 to $60 per month. That makes around (Rs.2500 to Rs.3000). For someone who is super talented, getting highest marks during college days and if you are recruited in the college campus interviews companies will offer around $200 to $300 per month.
It’s not easy getting jobs on oDesk though. There were times when oDesk was new but now as the popularity of oDesk have grown and more e-providers are attracted towards oDesk it has become difficult to get jobs for a oDesk new comer.
Considering skills it’s much easier to get data entry related jobs rather than getting some core technical jobs.
Do you think that your virtual job experience would count or help you in giving confidence in getting jobs?
Yes it does. It does lots of good things to you. It does change your view of looking at the work in your workplace. For example say if I have freelancer job which says I have to design and develop a bracket for some instrument which has some specific requirements. Now what this does is even if I go to office for my regular work, my eyes keep on searching for the parts (brackets) which are available at my office.
My mind is continuously thinking, ah…can I get something from this etc. So yes it does enrich and add up to your experience. Although this freelancing work experience I cannot add on my resume it does gives lots of confidence in taking decisions.
Are there any tax deductions in doing freelance work?
Can be. But provided you declare the extra income you are earning during the income tax declaration.
Depends on the bank in which you are holding the account. Most of the private sector banks do not deduct any amount. But Govt. banks do.
What is the feedback of your family and friends about your freelancing job?
It’s good. They are happy. Now they know that I am contributing some time in doing extra work which earns money for me. The money which I can utilize in paying my utility bills and finally it contributes to my savings. I have even spread the freelancing work into my friends, have told them about the oDesk thing. They are happy with what oDesk offers.