freelance

5 Great Tips To Develop a Successful Remote/Work From Home/Freelance Habit

By Catherine Lang-Cline

In brief, my career has consisted of working for a company, freelance,  working for a company, freelance, working for a company, freelance, etc. While I was self-employed as a freelancer and even when we started our business, there were a few rules that had to be followed as far as setting up shop at home. These were put in place to make sure that I/we developed great work-from-home habits that turned into real business behavior.

Here are the 5 top things that worked:

  1. Get dressed for work. You can keep it casual, but get dressed. No successful business person stayed in their pajamas all day. Getting dressed means that you have a purpose, you are ready for anything! While you are at it, make your bed, too.

  2. Have an “open-for-business” start time. Pick a time that you think you will be ready to work and stick with it. In the beginning, I showed up at my business partner’s house at 9 AM, dressed and ready to work. Every day. Then do your best to work a “full day.”  Time will go faster than you think, so when start time arrives, get to work!

  3. Have a dedicated work space, separate from distraction. When working from home I have tried working at the kitchen counter but within my view was the television, the laundry room, and food! Just one show, one snack, or maybe throwing in that laundry slowly chips away at the time. Once I set up a desk in the guest bedroom did I actually stay in there for hours and conquered all of my tasks. If you don’t have a guest room that is okay, just set up a workspace that is void of or not facing any distractions. Also, try not to let your work take over your entire house. If possible, keep the work in the workspace. (I will admit when we started our business it did take up a lot of my business partner’s house...but she had a lot of space to do so.)

  4. Set up a daily or weekly schedule of when you will work on things. A calendar on your computer is perfect to plan and set up reminders. Set aside times to work, set aside time to send out invoices, deposit checks, do some marketing, and of course, sales and networking. Map it all out and stick to it! If you need to save some time for working out or running errands, do so. This schedule is meant to be flexible and make time for you but also cover all of the basics of business. You will be surprised how quickly invoices can back up if it is not scheduled and you want to keep that cash flow coming in. 

  5. Have a stop time. Since work and home have now become one you need to be able to separate the two as well. You might find yourself working well into the night because you conveniently live at your office now. “I can get just one more thing done.” This may work for a few days when chasing a deadline, but you really need to unplug and refresh at the end of every day. Again, this is business, be aggressive, work hard, but know when you are done for the day.

The overall idea here is disciplining yourself in your “new” surroundings. Up to this point you have just lived in your house. It has been a place of safety, comfort, and rest. Working from home changes that overall feel and it does take some time to get into a rhythm. You can do it and you can enjoy the flexibility that you have worked so hard for.


Flexible vs Remote Work Part 3 (keys to making Remote Work work)

By Kristen Harris

In Flexible vs Remote Work Part 1 we talked about these two workforce trends and dug deeper into Remote Work in Part 2.

So, depending on what needs to be done, Remote Work can be a great option for both the company and worker. But we don’t see a lot of companies embracing this trend, or even considering it. They may think about it in a traditional sense, where they outsource a project to another business or freelancer, but there are other situations where it works just as well.

For example:

  • a retailer needs someone to manage their social media for 10-15 hours per week.
  • a non-profit organization needs someone fulltime to handle a variety of marketing work, including press releases, an e-newsletter, and an online events calendar.
  • a corporate internal communications department needs someone to edit and proofread all of their materials; workload varies so this can take anywhere from 25-40 hours per week.

In all of these situations, once the person gets to know the business and brand voice, their work can easily be done remotely. There may be the need for the occasional meeting or project review, but most of the work and communication will be online whether they’re sitting in the company’s office or not.

One problem we’re seeing right now is a mismatch between business needs and expectations for these type of projects. The company may be trying to hire someone on a part-time, flexible or on-call basis to do these types of work, while also requiring that all the work be done onsite in the company’s office.

We’re in a hiring market where talented people have lots of options, and most want to know approximately how many hours they’ll be working each week. Unfortunately, a candidate may accept this part-time type of scenario but will leave for a full-time role as soon as they can. These companies are looking for a unicorn, or maybe a four-leaf clover...what they want might exist but there are very few of them.

Often someone who is set up to do Remote Work would be a better fit for these type of needs, but businesses often don’t take advantage of this option. Why? I think it comes down to trust.

Companies and managers have concerns about Remote Work. The idea of working with people they don’t see every day makes them very uncomfortable. And their concerns are legitimate.

They have questions like...

  • how do I know when the person is working?

  • can I be sure they’ll get the project done on time?

  • will the work be high-quality, to my expectations?

  • won’t people feel disconnected from each other?

  • how will we communicate?

  • can they collaborate with other team members?

  • what about attending meetings?

  • how will they absorb our culture and what we’re all about?

First, it’s important to select someone who has the right skill set and self-management ability. Then, the rest of these concerns come down to the ability to build a high-level of trust and communication on both sides.

If you’re working with someone you trust and they trust you, then you know they’ll do what they say, hit their deadlines, do quality work, and let you know if they run into an issue. Aren’t these the same expectations you’d have of someone, whether they’re in your office or not?

One thing that can significantly help build that trust and keep projects on-track is an abundance of communication. Utilize all the tools at your disposal to find what works for the two of you: email, chat, phone calls, video calls, and in-person meetings if it’s feasible. Be sure to include conference calls with teams or collaborators; video calls can be great for this because everyone can see each other and body language so the conversation tends to flow more naturally.

Create a schedule for communication so expectations are clear on both sides. For example, you could email and chat anytime, have a phone call every afternoon, and a group video call weekly. Communicate as much as possible...if it’s feeling like a lot, maybe verging on too much, that’s probably just about right for a remote relationship.

There are a lot of benefits of tapping into Remote Work for your business. Explore the options and find ways to build the trust that makes it work.

Flexible vs Remote Work Part 2 (are you missing great talent?)

By Kristen Harris

In Flexible vs Remote Work Part 1 we talked about these two workforce trends, and how they are NOT the same thing. Flexibility is becoming more commonplace in business and can be a great retention tool.

But Remote Work is another trend that is getting a lot of attention lately. As a refresher, Remote Work is when the job doesn’t need to be done in the company’s offices. The person might work from home, a coffee shop, the library or a co-work space.

With our knowledge economy and business being more global, many jobs can be done remotely. Recently I saw an article about 170 companies that operate with remote workforces. Some companies are embracing it and others aren’t; success can be very dependent on the industry and role.

This week someone was telling me about her last corporate role–she worked for a global company and was the only person on her team in the local office. Her boss was in Europe, and most of her coworkers had no idea who she was or what she did. She often worked at home or from a coffee shop because it didn’t matter where in Columbus she was, she was always remote in relation to her team.

This Remote Work option can have advantages for both companies and workers. The company can access talent from other geographic locations because candidates don’t have to be in their metro area or willing to relocate. This also allows businesses to tap into talent with different skills or experiences, maybe ones that are not easily found in their own market. Having the option to work remotely may also help attract or retain a valued employee who needs flexibility in their schedule or is not able to commute.

For employees, there can be advantages to Remote Work as well. They can take a job or work with a company that is not in their area. If they have a high-level of expertise or a specialized skill set, the number and variety of companies they can work with greatly expands when working remotely. And the ability to work remotely also may make it possible to juggle work and family responsibilities or provide the ability to work for someone who has physical limitations.

In the creative industry, we’ve always had the concept of Remote Work with freelancers building their own book of work, managing several projects or clients, and doing all the work from their own home or studio. They’re not hermits...they often meet with the client or collaborate with other creatives through in-person or video meetings. But the majority of their actual work is done remotely.

However, even with all of these potential advantages, we don’t see a lot of companies taking advantage of, or even considering, this option. Why? We think it’s a matter of trust, and will dig into that more in Flexible vs Remote Work Part 3.  

Flexible vs Remote Work Part 1 (p.s. it’s not the same thing)

By Kristen Harris

Flexible Work and Remote Work are two key workforce trends that keep gaining steam. They’re often lumped together but, while they CAN be related, these two things are not the same.

Flexible Work simply means there is some measure of flexibility in the job. This may be how, when or where the work is done. Having a 10-hours/4 days-a-week schedule, working from 7-4 instead of 9-6, or working 30 hours a week at a prorated salary are all examples of flexibility. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and being given the choice of a laptop or desktop computer are also flexibility. And the option to occasionally go offsite to work from home or a coffee shop is flexibility as well.

But, this is where it gets tricky. Flexible Work (even with the option to go offsite) is not the same as Remote Work. When someone has a Remote Work job they are inherently not in the company’s offices. They may work in another city, like a sales manager with the Western territory for a New York-based company, or they may be located in a client’s office instead of the company headquarters. Their job may be one where it really doesn’t matter whether they’re in the office or not; many call centers are going to this model and setting their employees up to work from home.

The difference is, with Remote Work there is an expectation that you will be working from home or another location. The job may also be Flexible, but that’s not always the case. A job may be Flexible, Remote, or both.

For example:

  • a call center job done from home with a strict 12-8 schedule, five days per week is Remote Work but not Flexible Work because it’s a set schedule.
  • a marketing job that only requires 25 hours per week, onsite in the company’s headquarters, is Flexible Work but not Remote Work because the person is required to be in the office.

  • a sales role that has no set schedule, working wherever and whenever is needed from home, a coffee shop or the airport, is both Flexible and Remote Work.

Companies are becoming more open to Flexible Work options, offering different schedules and occasional “work from home” days. Or they might realize their need is not a full-time role, and perhaps better suited to a part-time employee or contractor. Businesses that can offer this type of flexibility are able to tap into a broader pool of candidates and retain valuable team members as life needs change.

There are different considerations with Remote Work, we’ll explore that in Flexible vs Remote Work Part 2.

Hiring and Employment: Change is Here

By Kristen Harris

Growth is one of our company values at Portfolio Creative – we are always learning, improving, and adapting. In the spirit of growth, I recently attended the American Staffing Association’s Staffing World Conference. It’s important for us to stay on top of employment and hiring trends so we can provide the best possible service to our clients and talent.

Here are the highlights of what we heard at this year’s conference.

Top Five Trends:

  1. Gig Economy and Free Agency. Depending on which report you read, something like 30-40% of the workforce today is “independent” or part of the “gig economy.” While there is not a clear definition of these terms, we can all agree that the era of having a job at the same company for thirty years is long gone. Most people in the workforce today think like free agents, choosing their work opportunities based on what interests them and where they can best deploy their skills. Technology is enabling a sea change in how and where people work. More than ever people are able, interested, and willing to work independently. This may mean finding work through an app or platform, having multiple less-than-full-time jobs that feed different interests or taking on contract roles and projects that leverage their skills.

  2. The Robots are Coming. There is some fear around robots “replacing” humans in jobs, but the reality is probably less dystopian. Yes, robots and artificial intelligence will become part of the workplace. Actually, it’s already here–you’ve probably used a self-checkout station at the grocery, ordered lunch at a kiosk, or know about driverless cars currently doing test runs. What they can’t and won’t replace are the types of work that require what truly makes us human. Work that is creative, innovative, emotional, or requires decision making and problem-solving. Some of us remember when graphic design required hand-drawing graphics and rubbing down perfectly space type; now we have computers to help us execute our creative ideas, but they can’t create the idea for us.

  3. The Millennials Are Here. Honestly, I don’t like categorizing people solely by their birth year, and Millennials are pretty much tired of everyone talking about them like they are alien beings; but the reality is that the balance of our workforce has shifted. There are more Millennials entering the workforce and more Boomers retiring daily. The Millennials, being such a large generation, are literally changing the workforce and society. We are in one of those rare eras where older people are becoming more like younger people, instead of the other way around.

  4. Google and Amazon – Part 1. We live in an Amazon and Google-driven world where there is quick access to products, services, and information 24/7. Quick access used to be novel and exciting; now it’s becoming the norm and soon will be an expectation. Amazon’s ability to provide near-immediate access to products and Google’s dominance in gathering and utilizing data will drive how business is done across most industries. To a large extent, life is happening on a smartphone. These two behemoths are re-shaping expectations of how services are delivered, how work gets done, how jobs are found, and how people are hired. Not to mention the impact they have on the communities where they are located (238 cities put in a proposal to woo Google’s HQ2 to their city), and it’s clear the impact Amazon’s facilities have had on hiring in Central Ohio.

  5. Google and Amazon – Part 2. In this Amazon and Google-driven world everything (and to some extent, everyone) is being rated. How many stars do you have? How many reviews? How many Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, or Instagram followers? When you’re doing a good job and creating quality, take the effort to get credit for it. People pay attention to both the quality and quantity of online ratings, crowdsource information and referrals, and judge others by their online presence. Creepy? Maybe. Unfair? Perhaps. But this is the world we live in, so learn how to participate in a way true to you and your values.

The biggest threat to any industry, business or career is inaction. If you are not creating, innovating, and developing new ideas, rest assured someone is. Don’t fear being disrupted, be part of the disruption.

Side Hustles: It's Not Just About the Money

By Kristen Harris

Nearly a third of workers have a side gig, according to recent research conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder(1). This statistic caught my eye because I know a lot of people who do extra work on the side in addition to their regular day job. It’s pretty common in the creative industry.

The research had other interesting findings, like more women than men have side hustles (35 percent vs. 28 percent), and those under 35 are more likely to have a side hustle than those over 35.

I don’t agree with the headline framing the motivation for this side work as purely economic. “Helping Bridge the Pay Gap, More Women Are Taking on Side Hustles Than Men”, they say.

That may be the case for some workers, especially at the lower end of the pay scale, but the study also found that 25 percent of workers making more than $75K and 19 percent of those making more than $100K currently have a gig outside of their full-time job. I don’t buy the premise that these people are doing side jobs purely for the money. Especially when other research has shown that about $75K is the “happiness plateau” where a higher household income doesn’t have much of an impact on emotional well-being(2). Interesting, huh?

Consider common roles cited as side gigs – babysitter, chef/baker, dog walker, blogger, DJ – along with less-common roles like face painter, soap maker, and rapper. Yes, some people may do these side jobs purely for the money, but these also sound the type of side work that people may choose to do because they like it. Side gigs can be a creative outlet, utilize a skill or fulfill an interest that isn’t used in the day job, or a hobby that starts earning money.

Creative people like what they do, and often do even more of it in their off hours. They may do freelance projects in the same field as their day job, or something totally different. Maybe a graphic designer also really likes photography does it as a side hustle, or an attorney is also a skilled writer who works on freelance articles and editing in her free time.

Creative people like variety and opportunities to flex their creative muscle or learn new skills, all of which they can gain with side gigs. Top that with the fact the 35-and-under generations also are quite entrepreneurial. They don’t believe that just one type of work, one occupation, or one field defines them. In general, they want the stability of a day job, but also find ways to weave other types of work into their life.

The statistics in this research are interesting, but I think they missed the boat with an overall conclusion that the only motivation for side gigs is to “close the pay gap.” That may be true for some, but people also have other motivations to take on side gigs or build their own side hustle.

What do you think? Are economic factors the reason so many people have side gigs? What motivated you to start a side hustle of your own?

  1. Helping Bridge the Pay Gap, More Women Are Taking on Side Hustles Than Men;          Aug. 10, 2017

  2. Do We Need $75,000 a Year to Be Happy?; September 6, 2010 



 

Freelance Prediction: The Future is Now

By Kristen Harris

Freelancing is the future, and it’s here now. Looking at both the current state and future predictions in the American workforce, freelancing is going to continue to grow.

First, a definition: Whether they’re called freelancer, independent contractor, contingent worker, self-employed, free agent, gig worker, or something else, there are a lot of people working outside of a traditional full time employee/employer arrangement. Although the work arrangements may vary, for simplicity, these people are often lumped together under the category “freelancer.”

Depending on which report you read, somewhere between 34-40% of the American workforce today is freelance. That number keeps growing year after year, and is predicted to reach somewhere in the vicinity of 50% by 2020.

Whether you think this is a good thing or not totally depends on your perspective. There are a lot of advantages to freelancing, including schedule flexibility, variety in the work, and a feeling of independence. There are also advantages for companies hiring these freelancers, including the flexibility to scale up or down based on company needs, and the ability to hire for a specific skill set short-term.

There are also some negatives. Freelance work is less predictable, may not be considered a traditionally secure job, and often includes limited or no benefits. This is especially true for certain groups of people included in this total freelancer group, such as on-call workers, independent contractors who basically are running their own small business and need to find their own customers, and part-time workers.

For the companies hiring freelancers, workers may not be as committed to the company’s cause, there is still a talent shortage for certain roles, and often, premium rates are charged to offset the short-term nature of projects. From a legal and HR perspective, it’s also difficult to track and manage all of these different work arrangements.

Recently, this legal area has been particularly concerning. Rulings against large companies like FedEx and Uber regarding their use of independent contractors have caused them to re-look at their work arrangements. Also, over the past several years, more resources have been dedicated to investigating employee misclassification (non-qualified 1099s) at both the state and national levels.

There seems to be a disconnect between predictions for the future of the American workforce (more freelancers) and current government regulations (more employees). Whether you think the growth of freelance work is the wave of the future or the scourge of the universe probably depends on where you sit. But these arrangements will continue to flourish as long as companies and individuals feel the benefits outweigh the negatives. The challenge will be in finding a way to reconcile company and freelancer needs with government rules. Welcome to the future!