What happened when I stopped looking for a job and started looking for work?

It was November 2013. I was distraught.

Even with over 25 years of strategic marketing and communications experience gained on two continents, here I was at the end of my job-hunting tether.

I was unemployed, but far from unemployable.

I had applied to dozens of jobs. I had met with a few recruiters and I had initiated a fair number job prospecting calls and emails to companies in the hopes that I would uncover a need for someone with my skill set before they began actively recruiting. I attended a series of interviews, would make it to the top 2-3 candidates for some roles and hear nothing back on others.

Money was getting tighter and tighter. My self-esteem was fading. My usual optimism was waning and I was beginning to seriously question the previous decision I had made to embrace my inner writer and take a year off to finish writing, publish and market my first novel. In fact, I was questioning many career decisions and becoming increasingly alarmed by my lack of job prospects.

The two things I would do almost every day (in addition to look for work) were walk the dog and listen to podcasts.  It was this combo that served up the fate-changing idea that would ultimately alter my circumstance, and lead me down a whole new path.

I’m not ever sure which podcast it was, but I remember the host discussing the growing, but not necessarily new, trend of web-based global outsourcing of talent. They mentioned oDesk and Elance and stated some stats on just how many people had joined this growing movement to embrace the freelance lifestyle on a global scale.

For those of you not familiar with either community, you may be asking, “What the heck is Elance?”

Wikipedia explains it this way,

“Elance was first launched in 1999, its name inspired by a 1998 Harvard Business Review article titled “The Dawn of the E-Lance Economy”.[2] It was initially developed as a technology for supporting virtual work. Two years later Elance introduced a vendor management system (VMS) for contractors and third-party services used by large enterprises.[3] In 2006 Elance sold its enterprise software division and developed instead its current web-based platform for online, contingent work.

As of February 2013, Elance is used by approximately 500,000 businesses and 2 million registered freelance professionals, who have collectively earned nearly $850 million to date.

A merger with oDesk, another online staffing platform, was confirmed in December 2013. The deal is expected to be finalized in April 2014 and the two companies will create a resource that consists of 8 million freelancers and 2 million businesses.

I thought to myself… hmm… here’s a growing trend, a virtual approach to work, it leverages technology and the internet, there’s an ample availability of great writing, marketing, content creation and public relations projects AND you get to work independently as a freelancer, deciding which projects you take on, what rates you charge, where you work, with who and how far across the globe you want to reach… My next thought was, ‘Where do I sign up?’

And, sign up I did. I created my Elance profile and began looking for work.

I completed my inaugural project for a travel agency called Mason Horvath, located in Vancouver, Canada on November 28, 2013.

Since then I’ve never looked back.

After just over a year, I am now an active Elancer who maintains a 4.9 out of 5.0 client satisfaction rating.

Since November 2013 I have:

  • Completed 33 freelance projects
  • Serviced 27 clients
  • Conducted business in 17 different cities
  • Worked in 7 countries
  • Received client feedback from 81% of my clients (many were glowing endorsements)
  • Realised a 15% repeat business rate
  • Expanded my global portfolio
  • Established client relationships in 5 of Australia’s capital cities
  • Gained experience in 4 new industries
  • Earned a decent income
  • Seen my freelance work outside of Elance increase as well.

The variety of work I’ve completed over the past year has been incredible. These projects have ranged in scope from brand conceptualisation and implementation, to the development of marketing and communication strategies, campaign and collateral creation, to writing various forms of web content, crafting professional bios, developing social media profiles, to writing blog posts, feature articles and various other digital content components.

It is never the same day twice. And, it’s certainly never boring. Sometimes it’s just plain hard work. Like any job, it has its challenges and its rewards.

Being a successful Elancer takes determination, dedication, assertiveness, sound business development skills, flexibility, sound project management skills and yes, you need to actually possess the skills you profess to have or you’ll soon be found out and blacklisted.

What Elance has given me beyond the variety of work and global earnings potential is a liberating career freedom I’ve not before experienced.

As long as I have my laptop and a Wifi connection, I can virtually work from anywhere. I can work the hours that work for me. I can take on more or less work as it suits my schedule. I can start my workday in my pajamas and end it in cocktail dress should I so choose. I can take a break at midday to walk the dog, do some shopping or go to the gym. I can take a vacation without needing to first get my manager’s approval.

Most importantly, Elance has given me back my career optimism. I am excited about the prospects that lay ahead. I’m energised by the clients that I serve and the work that I do. I am inspired by the growth of the virtual workforce and I’m proud of myself for bravely embracing this alternative work and life style.

And while the remuneration has yet to rival what I have earned in my corporate roles, the other benefits of being an Elancer are pretty substantial.

Since you’ve read this far, I’ll let you in on the biggest Elance secret. You know that whole work/life balance concept we’ve all been searching our whole careers for? With Elance, I’ve finally found it!

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