26 October 2009

The new way to work: my new way to live

(Note to Sihikahi regulars: You're already familiar with most of the stuff of this post. This is my entry to Elance's 'The New Way to Work' contest, so you guys can skip it.)

I chose to work on my own from the comfort and distractions of my home a little less than two years ago.

This new way to work, for me, is an affirmation of faith in me, as a writer and editor who can make it on her own. My husband, Lincoln, propelled me towards this way of working. If not for his conviction in my abilities, I’d still be slogging it out for someone else.

I call it an affirmation of faith in myself because when I took the leap, and I must term it so, I had no definite plan, no potential jobs on the horizon… nothing.

Instead, what I did have for certain was a number of EMIs knocking at my door every month, and the reality of living in a city which didn’t have and doesn’t have too many good opportunities for a writer and editor.

I began bidding on Elance last June. I had almost run out of my connects quota and hope, when I got my first break. I actually ran around the house, called my mother, and was pretty much delirious with joy.

Later, I worked as a content manager for a Texas-based medical tourism company and cloud commuted for nearly a year. I am now active on Elance and in the process of setting up my firm. More about that here.

This post is about the way ahead: the new way. And I love it. But as with things/persons you love in life, there is a bit of a compromise, a bit of putting up with things you don’t like, and a lot of struggle. Some of the tough things about working on my own are:

No chatter at the water cooler: I work alone, so I have no colleagues to catch up with on office gossip. So, it gets boring sometimes, but, heck, there is no office politics to put up with either.

No paychecks: Freelancing , especially in India, is not for the weak-hearted. A few friends have told me they envy the fact that I can choose the day and time to go out and do my thing. I don’t have to look over my shoulder in fear of the boss. I can crank up the volume when they play my song on the radio, and so on. But, it’s not all milk and honey. Nothing is. I am working harder now than ever before. Of course, I am also enjoying my work than ever before. But I ask my friends who envy me, if they will venture out into the world of no paychecks. I have, so I get my privileges.

Discrimination, or the other end of being lowballed: On Elance discussion forums, I have come across many providers cribbing about how Indian providers’ lowballing affects their chances. The cost of living is comparatively low in India, hence our bids are going to be lower than, say, that of our American counterparts. You have to accept that. But there are all kinds of Indian providers, just as there are, I am sure, good, bad, and ugly from the First World. So, while there are Indian providers who will work at $2/per article or whatever, I don’t belong to that category. Yet, I regularly get invites for projects with ridiculous budgets and I regularly turn them down. Just because I am an Indian provider, I find it absurd that people accept me to work for a pittance. Obviously, they are not after quality, so, no thanks, I’d rather do without your business.

Back in India, working from home was not a lucrative position till recently. But I think that’s changing slowly. My Indian clients, though I don’t have too many of them, pay me, more or less, on par with my clients from abroad, and are quite easy to work with. I wouldn’t yet say the market for independent providers of content is mature in India. I think that’ll take some time.

And some of the challenges are:

Organizing yourself: This is the biggest challenge for anyone setting out independently. You are your own boss, your time is yours, and your time is your money. So, unless you plan well, stay organized and focused, the day will be gone before you know and you won’t have much done. Which means, a corresponding decrease in revenue. Ouch. The first couple of months, I used to do a little of this and a little of that. I ended up tired, out of breath. Now, if it’s two hours for a certain project, it’s two hours of focused work on that project and not a minute more. This has helped me stay in control.

Staying positive: That’s the second biggest challenge. Jobs pour in sometimes, and at other times there is a pause. Some clients are absolute dears, others are, well, let’s say they come in all shapes. And you’ve got to stay positive amidst everything. Initially, this was difficult. If a week went past without anything working out, I would start fretting. But with time and my pile-up of experience, I am more patient now and confident that it will work out.

Elance has a huge role to play in shaping up my new way to work, and live. I love its transparency and range of jobs to choose from. Tough as it is to survive on your own, it would be hundred times more difficult without an enabling platform such as Elance.

Till now, I have worked on content writing, editing, page layout, and SEO assignments via Elance. What I am now eager to explore is the fiction and travel domains, be it writing/ghostwriting or editing it.

A world of possibilities has opened up to me, thanks to the new way to work. And I am thankful to my family and Elance for being a part of this in such a positive way.

My Elance profile
Name: Vijayalaxmi Hegde
Mail: vijayalaxmi dot hegde at gmail dot com


Freelance Lens said...

I think discrimination happens in almost every online marketplace that I visited. So, it's not new, at least to me. Hope you'd stick with Elance as it works as a great platform to connect with employers on the other side of the globe.

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...

Of course, I'll stick to Elance. It's some people, and not the platform that's the problem.

Thanks for visiting.

Swaroop said...

Hey Viju,

It reminded me of a quote someone told me long ago: "I thought I was lazy, until I quit my job" :-)

All the best!


Julius said...

Hi! It's me, Julius, remember? I'm interested in this elance thing, so I'm going to call you about it sometime soon. :D

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...

Swaroop: Yeah, so true :)

Julius: Of course, I remember you. And phone wont do, you have to meet up. :) Just kidding, though it would be a pleasure to meet up, too. Currently out of Kol. WIll call you once am back.