A Wife, A Stepmother, An Entrepreneur.

I’m sure I didn’t think this through; my path towards building a sustainable and mobile career. It was great to be able to realize this dream of being able to work anywhere that I could reliably connect and decide what my time was worth. Sounds fantastic, right?

Sure, I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually work from home and earn a livable wage. I eliminated the need to commute, which is both cost-effective and environmentally savvy. I get more time with my partner, I don’t have to feel pressured to wear anything business casual and there’s always bottomless coffee in my kitchen.

But what I didn’t plan for was life.

I’ve recently become a wife and stepmother and found myself facing the need to get my health back on track. I wasn’t thinking about how much of an impact maintaining a 70  hour a week schedule would have on my body, let alone my home. I wasn’t making enough time for myself to actually recover from the level of stress I was putting myself under, although I hadn’t realized how stressed out I actually was until I took two weeks off for the wedding and family trip afterwards.

Not only was I working a ridiculous amount of hours, I had the added pressure of being the one to keep some stability in the home. If I didn’t clean, it didn’t get done. If I didn’t cook, there was chaos in the kitchen as my husband and step kids tried to figure it out. Those overflowing laundry baskets? I better get to it. Grocery shopping? Well, we need to eat, don’t we? Those pets don’t look after themselves, either.

Because I was working a ton of hours, I was tired. Because those hours were often when everyone else wasn’t home or were sleeping, no one could understand why. To them I had this totally casual workstyle that sometimes involved effort. To them, I was the woman of the house and needed to fit into that traditional mold.

It was after the wedding that I had to sit down with my husband and explain to him that we couldn’t continue on that path. While he understood, there were a few bumps before we had smoother sailing but it was pretty much an example of not setting expectations early on leading to damage control far down the line.

I also had a heart-to-heart with the teenage stepkids and let them in on what I was trying to accomplish from a list of home renovations to enabling the funding for a startup that will benefit the household many times over. I also gave them some insight into the cost of running the household because they are at an age where they should have an idea of the value of money and what it takes to….well….adult. My stepdaughter even voluntarily sat with me for a few hours while I worked a busy shift and I could see her eyes grow wide as she saw how crazy busy I was getting with customer phone calls. From there, I noticed a big shift in how she regarded me and my work as she often asked if I needed anything from food to help around the house.

So it’s not impossible to turn things around when the home seems a bit callous when it comes to your workstyle, but communication is important. Learn from my mistake and have that conversation in your household as soon as you start to venture into home-based work. Forge a routine that works for everyone, and start holding household members accountable for their own needs and wants within reason.

While I may be the woman of the house, I’m also the entrepreneur. Balance and my ability to focus on that role is key…..and making time to get away from my desk and outside is paramount. As fun as the chase can be, if you’re not 100%, you can’t give 100%,

 

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Fraud and Freelance

So, today I experienced something that is not at all uncommon for those of us who are looking for legitimate long-term remote jobs: a fraudulent job listing.

Even on revered platforms like Upwork, us remote professionals come across “companies” that pose as bigger companies in order to look like a legitimate opportunity. Today, I had someone claiming to be an HR representative from a Fortune 500 company.

Now I know I’ve  been at it too long when I pick up immediately that the job listing is pure bullshit. But, as an experiment, I went ahead and played along as if I didn’t know.

Why? Because I was well aware that their pitch would fool someone new to freelance. The person I was chatting with even pulled up the LinkedIn page for the person they were impersonating, which I reported to the company  and person they were pretending to be. What it led to was a two hour chat-based interview where it ended in them insisting I send a copy of my ID to an email address made to look legit. I promptly reported it.

So here are the steps I take to sussing out the validity of the clients that may approach you on a freelance site like Upwork (or avoid applying to them entirely):

 

1: Track Record On The Platform

This is my first go-to on Upwork and a reason I stick with them. Do they even have a confirmed payment method on file? If not, don’t proceed.

How much have they spent? If it’s less than $100, move on to someone else. Some companies will fake a contract to look like they’ve hired before.

Do they have reviews from past employees?

2: Can you validate them?

Legitimate companies usually at least provide a company name or real professional website……enough info that you can verify them yourself.

3: Keep the convo safe

What I mean by this is that if they urge you to email or contact them outside of the freelance platform, proceed with caution. Skype is a practical go-to but Upwork does feature the ability to do have text, voice and video conversations right from their interface. This is important because you can keep a record of all of your interactions there and ensure you’re safely speaking to someone. Be cautious if someone is insisting on speaking externally. Not practicing this is also how I unknowingly ended up being sexually harassed in the past via a “video interview”, which then became hard to report to Upwork to ensure no one else would be subjected to that.

4: No Voice, No Interview

While it seems incredibly appealing to only interview via chat when it’s offered, don’t. If a prospective client will not do a voice or video interview, that is one big red flag. It’s also indicative of a lack of standards, especially if you are being considered for a customer-based role.

5: External Pay?

If the potential client is asking to pay outside of the freelance platform, you also lose any security that comes with…..never mind the fact that it’s likely a violation of TOS for both parties. Upwork, for example, ensures that each hour worked is an hour paid and also has protections for the client/company. It otherwise puts your finances at risk. You could sink in a ton of hours and never get paid. Laws don’t fully protect the self-employed quite yet.

 

Yes, you can find wholly legitimate work from great companies, but unless you apply directly to the company itself you need to protect yourself and your information while playing in the freelance arena. And, as they always say….if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.