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Freelancing: IT Industry’s powerful trend

Freelancing, Freelance, Freelance tester

Normally we hear the word freelancing or freelancer in the non-IT field but in the recent past (precisely from 2014) we could see a lot of freelancers emerged in the IT industry, especially in testing/ QA, serving clients globally, connecting from one end of the world to the other. You might think this work style is a world away from your current 9-5 office job; however, it’s actually a lot closer than you might think. Here it is to understand what freelancing is all about.

  • Have you ever felt bored of your daily 9-6 office routine?
  • Need a break from waking up early in the morning and starting your day with onsite/offshore calls, missing your coffee, stuck up in traffic, getting squeezed in public transport to attend the morning stand-up meeting, skipping breakfast, lunch/coffee at your desk?
  • Don’t want to be blamed for missing the anniversary dinner, the latecomer in birthday parties and family functions and the list go on.

Here is an option for you to see a work-life beyond MNCs – Freelancing

Freelancing, especially in tech (QA); you can work from anywhere as long as you are connected to the internet, having the few devices for testing and can define your flexible working hours which will make your life easier.

You May be wondering: How?

Let me tell you about my experience. I am a testing professional and my journey of freelancing started in the recent past (2016) and at that time, I delivered my baby girl and, like almost all mothers, my priorities kept changing. I couldn’t opt for the 9-6 job, so I started searching for opportunities to work online. After several unsuccessful attempts, I ended up getting a very short-term project (just for 2 hours and 2 days) via Ubertesters community.

Then gradually I got few projects through references in Start-up companies and I understood that there are more demands for freelance QA /remote testing professionals in IT industries. Many start-ups are now opening hands in welcoming freelance techies.

Why are Freelancers hired instead of full-time techies?

Good question…, at present, there are numerous upcoming startups in the market disrupting the technology space which has paved way for the release of mobile apps, the dynamic launch of e-commerce websites, and so on

The most startup doesn’t generate revenue within a short stint, so they don’t invest so much in hiring a permanent developer or QA (Testers) for their organization. Also, the option of outsourcing to a service provider organization is also ruled out since the cost involved with them is again high.

Hence startup companies are more inclined towards freelancers, who can work on their own machines, limited timelines and paid only for the hours they work and not for the entire month. Also, with respect to testing, it is always an advantage to have freelancing because, a product developed by a person from one end of the world and is tested by a person from another end of the world, completely helps in strengthening the product’s user experience (UX) and approach across the globe.

How to start Freelancing?

I remember many of my friends were asking me the same question, is this freelancing thing is easy to start? How are you managing to get projects?

The answer is, yes, it is easy to start but to get successful projects your networking is more important because here you are the CEO, you are the marketing team, you are the HR, you are the whole testing team for your project and hence always an extra mile should be taken. There are many professional networking sites and being on top of them is highly required to strengthen your networks and contacts.

For example, every day till now, I used to spend at least an hour in viewing so many HR profiles in LinkedIn, read so many articles on testing techniques, test automation technologies, read a lot of QA blogs, get connected to start-up companies and will go through their products and websites. And I would never be hesitant in reaching out for opportunities or requesting them to view my profiles.

If you are ready to become a freelancer tester or freelance QA professional, patience is what is needed more. Some might reply, some might not, so you shouldn’t give up with one or two trials.

There are few successful freelancing websites who provide technical and skill-based opportunities for both IT and Non-IT professionals. By registering with them you will be connected to both employers and freelancers (peers) across the globe. You can communicate with your peers (other testing professionals), few who were already successful in this freelance industry, get to know things regarding the job market, latest technologies, their experience, and can learn from each other.

Reference for freelancing portals– Upwork.com, contractiq, freelancer.in, hired, angelList, UberTesters, felxjobs, tap chief, etc.…

I know you are impressed and ready for freelancing work style, but I can hear the deeper voice, “how will I pay my bills if there are no projects for few months?”

This is a massive difference when you switch your career from routine 9-5 job to freelancing. When you were working on strict 9-to-5 day in a cubicle, basking in the glow of ever-flickering fluorescent lights you need not worry about the current project end date or what is our next project, how will the client be, what kind of testing we do, what automation we need to know for future projects, etc.?

Because you will know, you will be paid your monthly salary even when you are in bench.

 When it comes to freelance testing, you will be hired on an hourly basis (For e.g. – Hourly 15$) which will eventually increase your monthly income. Being a freelance tester you should have confidence in the quality of work you do and to set the right fee for you. If your fee and your quality in delivering projects are right you can earn your 4 months’ salary in one single month. Until you get an excellent long-term client to work with, keep saving your income for the months where you don’t have projects.

I have just started Freelancing, should I fix my rate really low?

There is always a myth if you quote lower rate you will earn projects. In the real world that is not true.

Will you purchase an umbrella worth 5$ or 15$? Naturally, we will go for 15$ because we presume if the price is high the quality is high. So, quoting the right rate is essential to get projects. Also, you should always be open to negotiating if the clients felt your rate is little high.

Initially, I made this mistake of quoting the cheaper cost to earn more projects and ended up with zero. If you are the cheapest deal around, you also look like the least valuable deal around. Show confidence in the quality of your work.

Similarly, if you really have the experience to charge that much, but are not being snatched up online, you’re probably shooting too high. Lower your rates for the clients who approach you for a negotiation, which means they like your skill and so you have a chance to show them you’re worth it. Always compare the market rate and seek advice from successful freelance testing professionals in quoting the price.

Now, how will I understand their requirements, build the relationship with someone whom I haven’t met so far and without Face to Face meetings? Is it possible? 

I understand your concern! Initially, working remotely, with a set of brand new people, understanding their expectations was not so easy, but I’m so glad it’s the path I took. When it comes to product developments, designing and QA, it is little tricky to handle without physical meetings because we will never know the client’s market and set of people who are going to be the end users of the product, but, with little effort and consistent performance, it is definitely possible.

When it comes to communication, there are a few things you have to keep in mind. Communication plays a vital role in Freelancers life because this strengthens the relationship and covers the distance between you and your Client. Speaking to clients who are located miles apart and convincing them could be little tricky but it’s still achievable. 

How will I establish the healthy relationship with my Clients?

I would say it is more important to establish the trust in you and the quality of the work done which will eventually make your relationship healthier.

Here are a few general tips from my experience to maintain healthy communication and client relationship management.

  • Supporting and making yourselves available in their (Client) time zone.
  • Participating in Quick calls or Scrum meetings
  • Available and prompt responses to mail or pings immediately
  • Clear Communication on your offline or other away statuses
  • Meeting your SLA’s and deliverables on time.
  • Timely escalations on issues
  • Prioritization of work (e.g. – if there is a heat fix on the live platform, retest, and roll out of that patch has to be prioritized)
  • Daily status reporting on the tasks to keep your correspondence transparent and consistent to keep clients happy and in the loop
  • Staying on top of product enrichments

Are freelancer techies paid crazy?

Yes, freelancers are paid with a very good number because of few important reasons

  • There are no perks or benefits (like PF, medical insurance, leave claims, etc.…) included in freelancer’s pay structures and hence the amount they earn will be comparatively high
  • The work they do is completely independent (In terms of software installation, device readiness, etc.…) everything will be done by themselves and there will be no support provided from the client end.
  • Especially when it comes to testing professionals, day zero checks, environment readiness, test case creations, smoke test everything has to be performed by themselves independently with zero supervision or support.

When we grow as a successful freelance tester in the market with a nice range of top-profile end customers (direct brands/companies, as opposed to portals or agencies) in your portfolio and, most importantly, you really enjoy your work as a freelancer and it is just an added bonus that you get paid to do it.

However, there are few disadvantages of being a freelancer in terms of payments. Major ones are

  • Irregular payment schedule
  • No consistent salary amount (As we are paid hourly, if we don’t have billing or work for a couple of weeks your payment will be less compared to last month)
  • Always delayed first-time payments from global clients, due to cross-border banking transactions.

There will always be an irregular payment schedule, some Clients might pay on time as soon as you submit your billing sheet while few others prefer to delay payments based on their own accounting structure, making the worries about getting paid. 

When I was working for an international client (a very sweet CEO who gave me an excellent opportunity to explore product management), initially I was earning crazy as the product had just started and we were in progress of developing the product. Later when the product is developed, the company was focused much into revenue generation and hence there were no big changes in product iterations which eventually brought my billing down. I ended up working just for an hour a month and earned Rs.7000

Issues with traditional banking on receiving payments:

While banks continue to maintain a steady presence in the day-to-day operations of our lives, traditional banking can be a bit slow for a freelancer. The reason is, a client could be based anywhere in the world, as is the nature of freelance work, so depending on a bank to accept your international/cross-border payment can result in several days of waiting time, and expensive banking fees for the privilege of accepting such funds.

I personally experienced this with a reputed bank (ICICI) and ended up receiving my June month payment almost at the end of August.

Few Career changes are waiting for you if you decide to be a freelance tester

Your career will have a huge impact when you shift from your routine or traditional work style to freelancing.

Initially, there will be a lot more rejections, struggles but once you completed your first project successfully and created a portfolio then you will end up loving this freelancing work-style a lot.

If you are at the office, you will not explore or engage yourself in Anti-virus installation, the software upgrade for installation of the new application, tax filing, contract or legal document verification, etc.… because you will be having a dedicated tech or admin team to do the same. When it comes to freelancing, it will be very challenging because you will be responsible for everything (good/bad) and that will increase your self-confidence and also keep you motivated. Clients or recruiters outside the freelancer industry will scale your profile high because of the individuality and confidence; you have in your freelance career.

It is something similar to running an own organization with one employee

Important tips to get when seeking online opportunities (from my experience)

  • Build your Network via Professional networking sites and reach out to people directly and confidently
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date.
  • Register with different freelancer portal and try out with minimal subscriptions.
  • Check the reputation of the companies or web portals before getting into contracts or subscriptions.
  • Always ask for a detailed contract agreement with agreed pay, work schedules, minimal work hours if any, etc.… and check if all the board members or stakeholders are signed before commencing the project.
  • Always verify the tax filing and TDS while negotiating the pay. (E.g. – Pay inclusive of TDS or not)
  • Get recommendations from your previous Clients on your LinkedIn wall and also ask them to write a testimonial in freelance web portals
  • Don’t be afraid to increase your rate or to set a right rate for your efforts and skill set.

 All the best!!

Make your freelance dream a reality!

About the author

Harini Radhakrishnan author

Harini Radhakrishnan, a product of 90’s and a proud mom of a beautiful yet destructive toddler (Yazhini). Harini spends most of her time fantasizing about having a perfect work-life balance. She is a freelance QA professional and a product person who works with multiple clients across the globe.

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