How Freelancing Can Help Boomerang Millennials

My generation has been called the Boomerang Generation. People from the ages of 22-33 who went to college, graduated, and moved back in with their parents indefinitely.

There are people who enjoy their families so much that they don’t want to leave. There are also cultures that expect children to live at home until they are married. Then there’s another sector of Millennials who are too intimidated, scared, unsure or apathetic to strike out in the world.

The Boomerang generation has a negative connotation of not wanting to leave home and grow up. It’s been suggested that the idea of committing to a full-time job scares this generation. This is where freelancing can help.

Freelancing gives the Boomerang generation the freedom to move around and be a bit unstable while still earning an income and supporting themselves.

If you’re a Boomerang Millennial by choice or circumstance, here’s how freelancing can help you launch from the nest.

Freelancing doesn’t have to be a 9-5 job

If you’re hesitant to commit to a traditional 9-5 job then freelancing is a great alternative. Put together a budget of how much money you need to live on. You may be able to find decent housing and pay all your bills for less than $2000 per month depending on where you live. With some effort, you could make $2000 per month freelancing without working the traditional 40+ hour workweeks.

For example, if you’re a website designer, you could make $2000 per month from 1-2 clients. As a writer, it may take several clients or jobs to make that amount. A virtual assistant could reach that goal with 2-6 virtual assistant clients.

Figure out how much you need to make by using this cost of living calculator then use this rate calculator to figure out how much you should be charging.

Freelancing keeps you location independent

If settling down in one place freaks you out then freelancing could solve that problem too. As a freelancer, you can do your work anywhere. The term digital nomad refers to freelancers/entrepreneurs that have embraced a lifestyle of traveling while working. There are many successful freelancers who are traveling all over the world while freelancing. They support their lifestyle through their work.

Freelancing can get your foot in the door

If you having a hard time finding a traditional job with benefits, freelancing could bring you closer to that goal. You can gain experience doing freelancing work that would boost your resume while you try to find a full-time job. Sometimes freelancing opportunities turn into bigger jobs. Numerous freelancers have been asked to take on full-time roles within the company they are freelancing with.

Freelancing can build your confidence

Freelancing can build your confidence. If you didn’t have much work experience prior to college than freelancing can help build your confidence. You got a degree in something. Besides the skills related to your major, you learned valuable skills like project management, organization, and self-sufficiency. You wouldn’t have graduated from college without being able to get your work done. You are already qualified to freelance in your field. Start with small projects and work your way up. Set a goal of sending out proposals and applying for 2-5 jobs per week.

Freelancing doesn’t have to be forever

Freelancing has a less “sign an agreement and sell your soul” feel than the traditional 9-5 job. Yes, you can quit a full-time job, preferably with at least two weeks notice, but the stigma is greater. Freelancing jobs end for a variety of reasons, often not related to the freelancer at all. The project can have a natural ending point, the department could cut the budget, the company could decide to hire someone full-time, or they could give the responsibilities to someone already on staff. Quitting can be your decision too. You could finish up a project and let your client know that you don’t want any future work. The beauty of freelancing is that it is inherently temporary. As a freelancer, it’s easier to change your mind and pivot course, whether that change is going to a traditional job or continuing on with another client.

Freelancing can keep your life (relatively) the same

If what’s turning you off about the working world is getting up early, wearing business casual clothing, commuting, and spending all your time in a cube farm then freelancing is a great alternative. You can keep whatever hours you want, dress however you like, and work from home or anywhere else you want. Your life could look a lot like college, if you want it to. You’ll have the same freedom as you had when you were going to classes for a portion of the day and spending the rest of the day doing what you wanted.

Freelancing could be just what Boomerang generation needs to get on their own two feet and gain the confidence to participate in the working world.

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What I’ve Learned from Two Years of Working at Home

This August was my second anniversary of working from home. I left my job as an Information Specialist in a biotechnology company’s corporate library in 2014 after the birth of my daughter and began working at Zirtual as a virtual assistant. After six months there, I left to start my own marketing company. Now I mostly work as a marketing specialist, but I also do some virtual assistant work and contract work with my former biotechnology employer.

I’ve learned a lot while working from home. Some days are great and others are not, but I could say the same thing about a traditional job. Here are the most important things I’ve learned from working from home for the past two years.

  • Organization is king

In my previous job, I was used to having systems in place. We had a metric board where we kept track of weekly projects and a daily stand-up meeting to discuss outstanding work. I took those skills to my own business and set up schedules and an organization system.

I track all of my projects in Wunderlist and Asana. Most of my clients are in Wunderlist. When someone assigns me a task, I add it to their list with the agreed upon deadline. Personal work, like this blog and The Sturm Agency website, is in Asana. I like both platforms for different reasons. Wunderlist is perfect for client’s work because it’s simple and easy to use. However, I also love Asana’s interface and prefer to keep my personal work organized there.

I timeblock my Google calendar. My calendar is blocked off during my working hours (6-9 am, 12-2 pm, 7-9 pm, and some time on the weekends). Each day I check my client’s requests and work on them for roughly one hour per day except for a client who has a time-based agreement with me. Timeblocking allows me to check in with each client Monday through Friday. Having things set up this way ensures that I never neglect a client for a few days and come back to missed projects or admin tasks. Sometimes the client won’t have anything for me to to do so I’ll move on to the next person. I started this system when I was working full time at Zirtual and managing 8-10 clients. I don’t have that many clients anymore, but the system still works.

I write a daily to-do list in my notebook each day. Every morning I go into Wunderlist and Asana, check which tasks I need to get done that day, and write a to-do list in a paper notebook. I like doing this because crossing things off a list gives me a sense of satisfaction that clicking a button doesn’t. I only write down the five or six most important tasks for the day. I can’t get more than that done on a given day and seeing a 20+ item list stresses me out.

I check what I accomplished and what’s outstanding each evening. Before I go to bed, I check what needs to be done the next day and review the list of things I accomplished that day. Before doing this, I was having a hard time falling asleep because I was running through my to-do list over and over in my mind. Reading a list of my daily achievements makes me feel like I accomplished something even on my worst days. This five-minute routine has helped me fall asleep more quickly.

I track all of my time in 17hats and Toggl. For clients that I invoice, I use 17hats. For everyone else, I track in Toggl. I even track the time I spend writing this blog. It helps because I have a visual guide that I can review at the end of the week.

  • Take a day off

During my first year freelancing, I worked seven days a week. I still have not taken a proper vacation where I stop client work for a week.

That said, I need to have one day off per week that does not involve doing work for anyone else. That doesn’t mean I don’t work on my personal projects, set up my social media feeds or write blogs, it just means that I don’t work on anyone else’s stuff. Every night, it’s my goal to stop computer work an hour before I go to bed so I can read books and relax.

Typically, I don’t work on Saturdays at all. We spend time together as a family during the day. In the evening, my husband and I rent a movie or watch one of our shows.

  • Your word is gold

Some people have a negative perception of freelancers or those who work from home. They think that remote workers are spending their days watching TV and napping. There’s even a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial which mentions “working from home fakers.” Unfortunately, I’ve found that there are some freelancers who are flaky and unreachable. I’ve had to work with some web designers who took 3-4 emails about the same topic before they’d respond. I recently had another marketing specialist completely blow me off after hiring me to do some work.

I do what I say I’m going to do. I work hard to make sure that I meet all deadlines and deliver what I’ve promised. One of the biggest keys to doing that is setting realistic deadlines. I try not to let other people set deadlines for me.

I’m completely open about working at home with my daughter, but I want clients to forget that I’m also taking care of a child. I strive to be so responsive and consistent that it seems like freelancing is the only thing I’m doing.

  • Choose the right clients

One of the best things about being a freelancer is that I can choose my own clients. I try to find people that I believe I can help. I find people whose business sounds interesting to me or whose mission and vision I agree with. I like to work in areas where I already have some knowledge.

I like working with other small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.

That’s also why working with nonprofits is so important to me. I want to spread their message and make sure the community is aware of the good things they are doing. We need more positivity in our lives especially where I live in Rockford, Illinois which was ranked the 3rd most miserable place to live in the United States.

My ideal client is someone who is organized and realistic. I need someone who has a clear vision for what they want me to do. I also appreciate people who are quick to say thank you and slow to criticize.

  • Stay grateful

I have blessings on blessings; there is no hint of sarcasm when I say that. I think some of my success has to do with the fact that I am so grateful to be able to do this. I don’t personally know anyone else doing something like this. I know a few people with their own businesses, but they are brick and mortar operations or businesses selling actual goods (photos, invites, etc.) I live in a small town and the idea of “working on the internet” is not commonplace.

Many days I’m amazed that I’ve come this far and am so appreciative of my clients. I have the attitude of I get to do this instead of I have to do this.

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Your Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant

If you are considering working from home, but don’t have a specific business idea in mind, being a virtual assistant is a great option. A virtual assistant handles many of the same duties that an in-person administrative assistant or receptionist does. Average pay for virtual assistants can range from $10-$40 per hour with the rate increasing depending on demand and experience. Virtual assistant may also choose to charge clients by hourly packages or work on a retainer.

I started off my remote working career as a virtual assistant. I didn’t have administrative assistant experience, but my previous position as an Information Specialist required me to be meticulous and organized. These traits came in handy when I applied for a virtual assistant position with Zirtual. After a short interview process, I was offered the job. It paid $12 per hour with optional healthcare and 401K. Other benefits were added a few months after I started.

I went through a two week training process which detailed all of Zirtual’s policies and procedures. The training process was very organized and helped clarify what would be expected of me as a virtual assistant. The company had created an organizational system through Google Apps that included documents and templates for most requests and a list of things that a ‘Zirtual Assistant’ could and couldn’t do. Anything “specialized” such as writing, photography, accounting, etc. was considered out of scope. Everyone who worked for Zirtual was college educated and many had advanced degrees.

Although I enjoyed working for Zirtual, I felt constrained by the set work hours and inability to do creative tasks. I’d been slowly picking up marketing clients throughout and I had enough business to strike out on my own. I left in February 2015 to pursue my marketing business. In August 2015, Zirtual imploded and 450 employees were instantly out of jobs with no warning. Many of these employees went on to create their own successful virtual assistant companies.

I currently maintain one virtual assistant client. My work with this client is a mix of administrative assistant, project manager, writer/editor, and social media management job duties.

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?

Some of the regular duties I perform as a virtual assistant include making and returning phone calls, digitally filing emails and documents, invoicing and creating expense reports, and inbox maintenance. Other responsibilities include booking flights, hotels, and restaurants, making appointments and scheduling meetings.

Many other virtual assistants offer some level of social media management, data entry, transcription or other tasks suited to their skillset.

If you work for yourself as a virtual assistant, you can set your own hours and decide which job duties you’d like to do and which ones you don’t.

Where to Find Virtual Assistant Jobs

Consider starting your own business

Most virtual assistant companies will have you work as a 1099 independent contractor. This means you’re a freelancer. You will not be provided healthcare or benefits. Some companies may offer to have you work as an remote employee which would give you whatever benefits that company offers to traditional employees.

If you’re going to work as an independent contractor, you may want to consider starting your own business to cut out the middle man and maximize your full earning potential. You can look into filing as an LLC, C Corp, or S Corp – each choice offers different tax benefits. My business, The Sturm Agency, is an S Corp.

How to get started

  • Build a website

You can hire someone to do this for you or you can use a premade template option like Squarespace. My professional website was created on Squarespace and I highly recommend the platform; my site was easy to make and looks beautiful. Squarespace offers easily to install ecommerce plugins that allow you to sell through your website. If you’d prefer to invoice and manage your business through another program, I’d suggest 17Hats. I use it for time-tracking, invoicing, and project management.

  • Create social media pages

At the very least, create a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page for your business. Consider each social channel a difference customer acquisition point. The same people on Facebook may not be on Twitter and vice versa. Your social media profiles should be updated with some frequency, but you can decide how often that should be. One to three times per week for a business page is good. You don’t want people to think you’re out of business, but you don’t need to fill people’s profiles with constant self promotion either.

  • Join some Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups

Search for freelancers or virtual assistants groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, join the groups and introduce yourself. One of the most active Facebook groups I belong to is the Freelance to Freedom Project Community. People regularly post business opportunities in groups that may not be listed anywhere else. You can also network with your fellow virtual assistants to share tips and tricks. If you have questions or encounter a situation you don’t know how to handle, you can ask for advice from other professionals who have been there.

  • Work with an established company

There are a number of established virtual assistant companies that you can work with (FancyHands, Zirtual, EAHelp). Most, if not all, will employ you as an independent contractor. If you’re concerned about how quickly you can get work, it may be a good idea to start with an established company because they will supply your clients. Keep in mind some companies will have you sign an agreement that you won’t create a competing business or poach clients.

Being a virtual assistant can be a very rewarding job. You will interact with people in many different roles in a variety of businesses. You will become knowledgeable in a multitude of fields, making you a Jack or Jill of all trades. You will be able to keep a flexible schedule and work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. You will be able to develop meaningful relationships with people that you may never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Whether you start you own business or work with an established company, being a virtual assistant is a fulfilling remote career option.