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Interview with Natalia Zielinska: features of freelancing and useful tips for self-employed professionals

Freelancing is becoming more and more popular in the world. Someone always dreamed about it, and someone switched to this type of work due to quarantine or emigration. Natalia Zielinska, marketing manager at Useme, talked to us about the features of freelancing and useful tips for self-employed people.

Tell our readers about yourself and what you do.

— I’m marketing manager at Useme – a Polish payment platform for freelancers and their clients. Apart from taking care of Useme’s external communication I also teach students. My course is Creativity in advertising. I tell young marketers how to create interesting ATL and BTL campaigns, based on the most interesting examples. Previousely I worked for 4 years at creative agency MIND as Creative Strategist. I cooperated with brands from many sectors, such as banking, cosmetics, FMCG, motoring, and more. Besides work my biggest love is music. I collect vinyls and make my own electronic music productions. So far only my closest friends and my dog could hear it 🙂

— How does Useme work? And why are companies like yours important for freelancers and businesses now?

— We help freelancers and their clients to make cooperations easier. Useme is a tool that provide a solution to get paid without worrying about administration, documents, labour law and registration. As an employer of the record we take responsibility for correct billing, and a freelancer doesn’t have to register since they are our employees on paper.

Nowadays we can see more freelancers looking for services like ours. During uncertain times runing a company can cost too much — mostly because of high taxes — or may be too risky. In addition they can find a new job or a client on our marketplace. We focus on educating freelancers and people thinking to become one. Useme with 8 years of expirence can tell a lot about becoming an independent contractor, and what’s more we keep ourselves updated and share tips & hints to our audience. In example for polish freelancers we run two portals. Projektfreelancer.pl is a better fit for beginner talents, and opracyzdalnej.pl helps grow their knowledge with guides.

Interview with Natalia Zielinska, Useme

— Among your clients are McDonald’s, and Samsung, and Zhabka. What makes such big brands turn to you for services? What services did they order through Useme?

— Big brands, like many others, like to cooperate with freelancers mostly to optimize their work and cost of employment. Outsourcing projects to independent cotractors is much cheaper then creation of a new workplace. Not to mention long time of onboarding. Company can also use help of a very talented individuals, that they wouldn’t effort to hire for a position. Sometime the scope of work is not enought to creatre a dedicated workstation.

Another factor, which can be valuable especially for big brands are faster deliverables. Sometimes performing one task in-house may take weeks, when it needs to go through multiple hands, and „fight” with other planned tasks. Commission it to a freelancer can shorten the time, since they usually focus on one project at a time or work within shorter timeframes.

Big companies often outsource recurring and less important tasks, like copywriting — also SEO copywriting, graphic content for social media, or other day-to-day brand activities, social media channels management, video content creators, and so on. Pretty often clients look for extra support for additional marketing measures like one-off promotional campaign, events, or creative campaigns. Then they need talents to take care of big idea, slogans, key visual, wedevelopment and many others, depending on oneself needs. A freelancer has a fresh perspective on a brand, and can come up with things, that people who work in-house for couple of years don’t have.

What’s more big brands use influencer marketing and part of the influencers aren’t registered as a company, so they like to use our service to do all the paperwork and receive money.

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— How has the role of freelancing changed, first because of the pandemic, and then because of the unstable situation in the world?

— Before pandemic the growing role of freelancing was a fact. But covid outbreak was a decisive factor in the even faster development of that form of working. Companies started to find savings, and natural way for them was to cut spending on marketing and advertaising – so the most popular freelancers areas. Many people lose their work but, like I like to say, universe abhors a vacuum, so at the same time the demand for freelance services has increased. So it’s a double-edged sword.

More and more workers become freelancers, and more companies use their services. Some can say that freelancing is ustable and risky because you can never be sure of you income. Pandemic showed us, that nothing is stable right now, so why not to have more to say about your job.

— Is it possible to say that in today’s world, borders are no longer an obstacle to business?

— Of course! I see it as a nautral process. First, it impacted our personal lifes – we have friends from many countries, eat foods, use cosmetics, or buy any other goods from other side of the globe. It was only a matter of time when it enters business world. The only barrier is communication. But in so many cases we can overcome it simply with Google Translate or DeepL. The number of companies looking for people around the world is increasing rapidly. With remote work your IT guy can be from Spain, sales manager from Brasil, and graphic designer from South Africa. And it works perfectly fine. What’s more if a brand operates worldwide it may needs native specialists from those markets.

Interview with Natalia Zielinska 2

How developed is such a scheme of cooperation between a freelancer and a customer in Poland? Why do some companies prefer not to hire a specialist, but to outsource? And why do some Poles prefer freelancing to office work? How many of them work for Polish companies from abroad?

— Polish freelancing market is not so unusual. It’s still developing but the speed of increasing interest in outsorcing is kind of extraordinary. I think it’s strongly connected with the specifics of Polish labour law and high costs of employment. It’s way better than to buy work of a freelancer, than to hire a specialist.
From freelancers perspective, I think poles really value indepencency that freelancing gives.

Useme conduct anual freelancer market research, dedicated to find out who polish freelancer is, how they work looks like, with who they work, and many others. Around 1/3 of Polish independent contractors has also full-time job, which shows that they build client base before going to a full-freelance. What is also specific for them is that not so many works for foreign companies. In this year survey less than 40% said that they work internationally.

— The Useme website has a lot of offers for IT professionals. Why is a business looking for such contractors on freelance?

— The Information Technology industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors worldwide. And it’s not an isolated industry. It overlaps with every other sector. What’s more, due to the ever-evolving and rapidly growing world of technology and plenty of other factors, it makes it an area with high demand for professionals. More and more parts of our lives go online. With that, many businesses need to adjust to new reality.

Due to pandemic companies expanded the digital measures even more. Since rates of IT specialist are pretty high, and their work often ends with a project, many managers decide to outsource IT jobs to freelancers to cut costs or cooperate with more skilled individuals. I think freelancer market reflects the whole labour market. So everywhere we can see demand of IT talents that is higher than number of specialists on the markets.

— One of the powerful advantages of freelancing is the ability to work from anywhere in the world where there is an Internet connection. In Ringostat, just one of the products is designed for this purpose — a virtual PBX. With its help, you can equip a call center in any country and call customers living on any continent. This will display the local number to the user. How important do you think this opportunity is for freelancers?

— I think it’s really important, since it helps freelancers to stay independent. Not every type of job allows you to work from anywhere you want. One of them used to be sales or client service. With a virtual PBX that’s no longer a problem. For a half year you can live in Thailand, and another half in Mexico, and no one will tell a difference. The only thing you may worry about then is time zone.

Interview with Natalia Zielinska, virtual PBX
Tasks that solve virtual PBX

— Among freelancers in which area is there the most competition? How has the situation changed since you’ve been in this niche?

— In Useme vast majority are content creators – copywriters and graphic designers, and I would also put there translators and web developers. With numbers often comes high competition. In Useme we try to avoid so called price wars by not showing proposed rates for a job but still we’re not able to lower the competition in a different way than increase number of jobs posts.

The least competition is with projects related to some specific coding skills. With a high demand of IT talents that cannot be fullfiled it’s a constant. In general it’s hard to point specific areas that have lower or higher possibility to get a job. It depends on a market, a client, a type of job, and more. We have observed the change in the way how both parties choose each other. The importance of expirience in the sector is growing. Clients more often choose a freelancer who has already worked for a particular industry. It saves time on onboard a contractor to specific task, and it can be done faster since a talent doesn’t need to educate themselves in the topic. The other party reacted almost immediately. Freelancers are finding their specialities and industries that they want to work with.

— What advice would you give to digital professionals to make it easier to find clients and establish long-term cooperation with them? Especially those who focus on foreign customers.

— Take care of your clients. That’s the must. Your relations with them is not only good for your cooperation. People talk and often exchange contacts. In Useme’s anual research recommendations and referrals year-on-year are pointed as the most frequent source of new orders. Less general advice I can give now is to know your market well. And I mean mostly which industry is your focus, what kind of company is the most likely to commission you, and what type of tasks you want to perform. Then you can tailor your offer to the specific customer group and send them cold mailing. But remember to send those email to a person that will be directly interested in your services, e.g. a marketing manager, a content manager, and so on. There are many online tools that can help you to get a contact, or you can just use LinkedIn.

— What are the advantages of freelancing for IT and digital specialists? After all, he has to look for clients on his own, and there is no monthly salary.

— As everything also the freelancing has its flaws and loads. IT and other digital specialist value high its freedom and independency that comes with it. Being a freelancer gives you a lot of oppourtunities and what’s the most important — you are the boss here! You can work form wherever, with whoever, and whatever tasks you want to. Of course with the freedom comes more responsibilities.

A freelancer is like a whole company — they have to be their own marketer, sales person, office manager, accountant, and client service. But it’s hard only at the beginning. With the time and expirience it is becoming easier, cause some things are reapatable. On the other hand there’s also some risk mentioned in the question – non recurring income. It can be the biggest challenge when you start freelancing, but I’m not sure if it only occures to an independent contractors. In the current reality I think we can be concerned about it as a regular employees too.

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— What advice would you give to aspiring freelancers who don’t have a portfolio yet? How to attract the attention of a customer, including those from foreign companies?

— I would say make a portfolio 🙂 And what’s the most important, maybe a bit obvious, if you want to find foreign clients make it in English. The fundamental task of portfolio is to show your skills, style and preferable jobs. So you don’t have to put there only works that have been implemented. Pick brands that you would like to work with and think what you would do for them if it actually happened. You can post it on your social media channels and tag a brand profile. It’s possible that they will find you!

Most of the freelancers find new clients through recommendations and networks. If you don’t have any, a good idea might be to make an online portfolio – it could be your own, simple website, or you can use many portals that are made for that. You can also look for new projects on marketplaces, but pretty often it’s a hard task without any expirience there. I would say – try your lack and don’t give up. You’ll never know how things may end.

— What are the trends related to freelance work in 2022? Which specialties are now the most in demand, and which, on the contrary, are losing their relevance?

— In Useme we observe growing popularity of marketpace advertising and positioning. Pandemic accelerated the process of moving some business online, and many have chosen not to build their own e-commerce but use marketplaces to grow online sales. It seems like the easiest or least demanding option but it also requires some help.

Another field that is rapidly growing is SEO and more specifically SEO writing, UX and UI design, and the cause of that is pretty similar as mentioned.
I wouldn’t say that there are some professions that looses their relevance. I can say that many of it needs to tranform, and more specifically, find their niche, area of expertise. Clients are getting more and more aware of the importance of finding right contractor, because they don’t want to spend too much time onboarding and correcting them. That’s why freelancers should therefore adapt their offers to the new requirements. In freelancing the rule of the market applies too: if something is for everyone, it’s for no one.

— How can a freelancer effectively organize a workplace and a working day? Including in the case when he works in different time zones with customers.

— The most important thing is your well-being of ones. If you’re tired an overworked your work performance cannot be good. Your needs should be on the first place.
And about organizing a workplace.The worst enemy of working from home — big majoroty of freelancers do work from home — is distraction. When in one space you sleep, eat and work, your mind sometimes goes places. So crutial thing is to find a place where you only work. On the second position I would place social media. Of course it not only applies to freelancers, but still it’s a big factor that doesn’t help us to do work on time and not to spend to much time “working”.

I would also recomend to use some tool, that tracks your working time. I myself use Pomodoro, where it devide my working time into 30 minutes parts – 25 minutes of working and 5 minutes break. I think it’s impossible to be always focused, and we need those distractions moments. Od course not to much 🙂

About author

Editor of the Ringostat blog. Author of articles for the media about digital and big portals about business. Studied journalism at the Odessa National University named after I. I. Mechnikov.

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