What would you sacrifice in order to land a telecommuting job? This is a question I had to ask myself recently when a major client and I recently parted company.
To tell you the truth, losing this particular client had me a little concerned. In the past year and a half, I lost three major clients. With the exception of a deadbeat client, all contracts ended on good terms because the jobs had run their course. But, still, I’m old school and where I come from it doesn’t look good to job hop so often – even as a freelancer.
I felt like I had three strikes against me:
- The appearance of not being able to hold down a client: Sure, the beauty of being an independent contractor is having the freedom to move on, but it was instilled in me that it doesn’t look good on a resume to move to so many different jobs in a short period of time. I felt as if it made me look like a failure.
- My age: Without divulging how old I am, I can tell you I’m no Spring chicken. I’ve experienced ageism in my industry and know it will only get worse. When you work in marketing and social media, people think only young people have fresh ideas.
- The competitiveness of jobs for freelancers and telecommuters: With so many people vying for jobs where they can work from home, the competition for each available job is fierce. I’ve interviewed for jobs where HR has to weed through hundreds of qualified applicants.
So when I found myself looking for work again, I made the decision that I wouldn’t only look for freelancing and telecommuting jobs. If there was a job I was qualified for, and it was close to home, I would consider an office job. After all, when I first began working from home it was because I had a baby. My baby is a teenager now and doesn’t need me around as he used to. As much as I prefer to still work at home, it’s not a necessity.
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.
Negotiating for a Telecommuting Job
While I was hunting for a new full-time permanent job, I accepted a one-off gig from a new client. Though this was a quickie project, I gave it 100% of my effort as I always do. My client was so pleased she offered me a permanent role heading up marketing and communications for her accessories brand. Only problem? I’d have to commute two hours each way into the city for this job. Instead of turning her down, I negotiated a mutually-beneficial agreement.
Here is how I turned a two-hour commute into a telecommuting job:
1. I (slightly) lowered my rate
Taking a train every day isn’t cheap. Nor are the expenses that come with an office job. For example, there’s a professional wardrobe; I can’t wear shorts or yoga pants to work, even if my new company is a casual one. Also, even if I bring my lunch every day, there are always occasional lunches out. With high school sports and my son not returning home from school, I would also have to pay someone to let our dog out during the day. Finally, there’s gas to drive 30 minutes to and from the nearest train station, and I would have to pay a daily or monthly parking fee. During inclement weather, I might even have to take a cab or subway once I arrived in the city.
With these expenses in mind, I offered to slightly lower my rate if I didn’t have to commute every day. My client and I already communicate via Skype or Facebook messaging, and most of the work I do isn’t the kind requiring me to be in an office. I offered to come in once or twice a month for meetings and work from home all other days. In addition to banking more money than I would have if I commuted, I’m also earning more because I have an almost full-time client, rather than a few clients at a couple of hours each.
2. I agreed to travel
I traveled often for my last few clients, and this wasn’t always convenient for my family. When I lost my last contract I made the decision not to travel anymore. However, my new client needs me to travel with her to attend trade shows now and then.
In negotiations, I agreed to some travel. As I wouldn’t be gone all day to work in an office, the amount of time I’ll be away from home won’t be a hardship for me or my family.
3. I’m still an independent contractor
Though I was looking for a full-time permanent job with perks and benefits, the “benefits” part wasn’t a huge big deal. My husband has a very good job with excellent benefits. So healthcare is covered anyway. The biggest headache is quarterly taxes, but that’s why I married an accountant. So I don’t mind working as an independent contractor if it means I have a long term, almost full-time client who allows me to work from home.
My new client agreed to my terms and I start my new job today. In addition to allowing me to telecommute, she offered flexibility in that I didn’t have to work the traditional 9 to 5, as long as the job gets done and we have good communication during the day. Moreover, they don’t mind my taking on other freelance projects – for example, I start a new book project soon – or work on my blogs. Again, as long as I do the job well, come in for meetings, and have good communication, I don’t have to work set hours. If I want to spend my day at the beach and my night working, that’s fine by them.
The last thing I wanted was to leave my house for an office job every day. The idea of having to put on pants and get on a train at the crack of dawn and arrive home in the dark didn’t appeal to me – even though it would be a very small office with really nice people. Fortunately, I was able to work out a situation that worked for everyone. I’m still available for meetings, but I am working in my own comfortable space with hours that work best for me. I was fortunate to find a permanent client who understands that some people work better on their own.
I’m still telecommuting and I’m ever so grateful.