2018 Year-End Review

by Dee


The First Five Months

Five months ago, I dipped my toes into the strange world of online freelancing. It was scary, yes, but I think I’m beginning to find the niche and interest that I can focus on. I’m incredibly blessed that I got along with Upwork and its system these past five months. Reading what other people went through in some groups and forums, I’m thankful I didn’t have to go through all of those.

Clearly, I still have to figure out if this is the career path I’m going to pursue, considering the side-eyes people gave me when I mentioned that I have been freelancing. I’m not going to pretend that it’s not about the money, but in all honesty, I’ve found out that it’s more than simply about the money.

Fitting to the year-end momentum, I think it’s an excellent idea to evaluate myself. Keeping a logbook comes naturally to me, and you guessed it, I made one to record my journey as a freelancer in Upwork. Why don’t I just use the reports generated from Upwork, you ask? Well, it’s simple. I want to know every little detail of what I earn and spend to forecast if this is the correct career choice. Otherwise, I’m just going to go back to the ever-uncertain world of trowels, excavations, bones, and reports.


2018 Overview: The Shift from Translation Niche

Upwork wasn’t the only platform I tried in the past five months. I went on Freelancer.com, Guru.com, and Fastwork.id. But apparently, I’m hooked with Upwork. I find its system is easier to work with, and indeed I got quite some awesome first clients within the platform. Nevertheless, I know I haven’t got my foot set firmly in Upwork. I still need to up the ante on my JSS score and ratings. So far, so good, but I know I can be better.

Working in two niches of translation and transcription is pretty exhausting. I have a feeling that the translation niche is too saturated with other people who are better or already well-established in Upwork. It’s quite hard to compete with those. In the meantime, the transcription niche is showing me a promise, though still blurry. My gut feeling tells me that I need to pursue this even deeper to get to know it, be better at it, and make it a good source of income.

I can say that it’s a satisfying first five months. The surprise for me was the fact that I could actually start saving money, which was a non-occurrence in the past. Until December 2018, I finished 71 tasks, mainly in transcription (63%). The shift of interest revealed itself as I began to apply to more and more transcription projects.

Against all advice and suggestions from YouTube videos or Upwork groups, I started low. Not low-balling, but starting low. Mind the difference. I mean, it only made sense that I should start low because I’m a beginner in this field. I haven’t figured out what’s my strongest suit and what’s my Achilles heel yet. Most (already successful) freelancers told me to “appreciate my skills and set a suitable price”. Now, I’m building on a skill I don’t have yet. So, I’m sorry for starting low. Besides, nobody starts a career and immediately gets a director or manager seat. Gotta start low.

Starting to focus on transcription, I’ve worked on 90 hours of audio/video. Not bad, I think, for a starter. With a total of 547,863 words transcribed, I managed to keep a 99.48% accuracy rate. Also not bad for a starter who is an ESL speaker.

2019 Goals

I love it. I love freelancing. I’m beginning to find freelancing full-time interesting. I believe the proper move now is to make several bullet points to act as a goal tracker for 2019. First of all, I’m thinking about upgrading to Upwork Pro Membership to gain the most of what the platform offers. I’ve been tempted to spend $11.99 monthly to get complete control of my profile, access features unavailable for regular members. I think it’s a good investment to make while building a portfolio in Upwork.

Here’s the most important thing: I must learn how to compose better proposals that can land me a project or two or three. I’m not good at copywriting. I’m too blunt and sometimes I feel like my English skill is limited as an ESL speaker. So, I have to practice, read more examples, and send more proposals out to see if it works.

I liked my work ethic, always have. So, I’m keeping it. So far, my approach was not treating clients as just a client, but a person, someone that I form a professional relationship with. But a person, not a client. Do you know what I mean? In the groups and forums, I often read that the basic connection in a freelancing world is simply I work, you pay. I don’t believe it is as simple as that. Sprinkling a little personal touch here and there won’t hurt, I guess, as long as it doesn’t cross the professional line. Because, like it or not, those clients I’m dealing with are human beings too. 

On the financial side, I think I need to read and learn more about financial management, making sure that I’m hitting my goals and start saving for rainy days. Re-reading while writing this, I believe I have found the answer: yes, I want to continue freelancing as a transcriber. 

To all fellow freelancers out there, I hope you had a great 2018. May your 2019 be blessed by meeting exciting people, reaching your goals, and staying sane!

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