Skills to Get Equipped Career-wise amid COVID-19

Recently, I received an email invitation about writing an article on working from home (WFH) amid coronavirus outbreak. As an IT professional who still does much work in a traditional face-to-face way, that led to my interest in the topic, resulting in a presentation I have done privately and finally this post – this article discusses a way the pandemic has changed our lives and how I personally cope with it career-wise by getting equipped with desired skills on remote-work marketplaces.

Problem – Coping with Remote Work, the New Normal

A wise person once said the only constant is change – have you noticed what has changed during the pandemic?

Lately, people in certain parts of the world are joking weather and safety leave* will no longer be a thing due to the boom of communication technologies such as Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which turned remote work (telecommuting) into the new normal – you and I may still need to work like usual as long as the Internet is not broken.

*While natural disaster can be devastating and affect safety of people, there are also people who are less affected and they may still be entitled to weather and safety leave where they can take a rest.
Remote-work communication tools

Coincidentally, before the pandemic, Satya Nadella, the current CEO of Microsoft, had a news article of him discussing about an alternative view on work-life balance – work and life should be harmonized, coining the phrase "work-life harmony", where work and life are more like a mesh instead of balance. Interestingly, this will likely turn out to be true too in the post-pandemic era, as the pandemic has opened people's eyes to what is possible with remote work even after the pandemic passes.

However, people may not be familiar with remote work – not many industries or companies adopted the remote-work model before the pandemic. As remote work gets more and more popular, in the post-coronavirus era, people will be able to obtain remote jobs more easily than before, only if they are equipped with remote-work skills. So how should one cope with that? Here is a way I recently experienced due to my desire to explore and improve my remote-working skills.

Solution – Remote Work Marketplaces

Have you heard of remote work marketplaces like Fiverr, Upwork,, etc.? These are online freelancing platforms which provide the service of matching freelancers with businesses. They became popular amid COVID-19 due to the lockdown and some companies laying off employees for cost-cutting outsourcing options. Many of these platforms saw a surge in traffic during the pandemic, as reflected in their stock price.
Remote-work marketplaces

(Personally, I tried all three platforms and had more success with Upwork than the other ones, so Upwork is the one I mainly talk about in this article. Your mileage may vary and other platforms may be more suitable to you or your industry.)

Take Upwork as an example. Founded in 1999, Upwork is one of the top marketplaces for remote work. It matches businesses and talents from 180 countries. Clients include Microsoft and more than 30% of Fortune 500 companies. Freelancers using these platforms for freelancing usually get to enjoy payment protection via their escrow service. In turn, companies using them to hire freelancers can also more easily look for the right candidate by filtering or preferring freelancers that meet their specific criteria. In the case of Upwork, it could be meeting location and language requirements, or different verification options specific to Upwork, e.g. Top-Rated and Rising Talent. As a middle entity, these platforms can settle dispute or provide assistance in case either side is in trouble, letting both sides focus on what matters to them – the business itself.

Upwork has awarded me with Rising Talent status thanks to having a good start and meeting several other criteria. (Tips on how to achieve a great start will be provided in the Tips section futher down below.)

Benefits – How Remote Work Marketplaces Improve One’s Skills

1. Opportunities to experience unfamiliar territories

(As a person who loves to explore, the first two points are the most important factors for me!)

While earning to make a living is important, being a technology enthusiast myself, having a platform where I can learn or practice desired skills in a real work environment with tech companies is also a huge motivator for me personally – there aren't really that many opportunities in real life as compared to remote work marketplaces with a large number of clients. In the case of Upwork, some of their high-profile clients are Airbnb and Microsoft.

2. Engage in tasks that prepare one for a target career

Extending the above point, with the large variety of opportunities available on remote work marketplaces, people can sharpen their desired skills with an aim of getting equipped with skills related to their dream jobs by first acquiring virtual work experience related to their jobs, even before they are hired in real life.

Once in a while, there are also clients that are job interview exam providers. They may offer special tasks which involve creating, reviewing or test-driving job interview questions (e.g. PowerShell coding test in the case of an Microsoft DevOps job interview). In case that meets one's dream job criteria, he/she would be able to experience a similar job interview process even before being admitted to the actual job interview.

Client looking for freelancers to test drive screening exercises used in hiring processes, e.g. software engineering

3. Get good with proposal writing, contract bidding

Through a platform like Upwork (Fiverr works differently though), freelancers get to sharpen their proposal-writing and contract-bidding skills through negotiation with a large varieties of clients. (These are soft skills that are invaluable in real life too!) Once we master the art of them, we can more easily attract clients, win contracts and shine on the platforms.

4. Familiarize with a pure remote work environment

Finally, this point brings the focus back to the main theme of this post - due to COVID-19, remote work has become a norm during and even after the pandemic, with which employees from traditional industries may not yet be familiar. In order to survive and thrive, one has to get familiar with the tools involved in a usual remote work setup, such as Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, as well as the soft skills involved. On remote work marketplaces, one gets to experience a pure remote work environment to get prepared for the WFH future.

Tips – Shine on Remote Work Marketplaces

1. First few contracts are key

In order to have a good career on the platforms, it is important to pick clients who give 5-star ratings and pick jobs with which we are confident to overdeliver. Great ratings and comments from the first few jobs make future ones easier. For example, there are clients on Upwork who would prefer freelancers with at least 90% of success rate.

Having a good work history of successful jobs, five stars and good comments unlock future opportunities for new freelancers

2. Craft client-attracting profile and contract-winning proposals

Take time to research on how to write a client-attracting profile and contract-winning proposals for your specific industry, in order to truly shine on the platforms. I found the YouTube videos from Josh Burn Tech to be a big help to get me started. (Thanks!) I believe writing a good profile also helped me pass the newcomer screening of Upwork and reduced the number of Upwork credits I wasted during proposal submission.

3. Empower your screen-sharing demo on Zoom with AeroZoom

There are many times where I would have to remote-control a computer or perform a live demo on Zoom (or Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Teams, etc.) during remote work. I found my free Windows wheel-zooming application, AeroZoom magnifier 🔎 (which you may have been on Lifehacker and other media), helpful in enlarging small texts and elements on my computer screen conveniently with just a single mouse using Left mouse button + Wheel-up/down (or a Mac-like hotkey e.g. Alt key + Wheel-up/down), so that viewers and I can view more clearly and focus on specific area of screen zoomed in.

Zoom in and out one-handedly with AeroZoom screen magnifier
Zoom in and out one-handedly with AeroZoom screen magnifier

Conclusion – 3 Takeaways

  1. Although country borders are closing and traditional opportunities are shrinking, we can still leverage opportunities on remote work marketplaces.
  2. Owing to the shift from face-to-face work to remote work, we have to invest in skills and learn about tools that enable or supplement the new way of work. We can practice the use of them on remote work marketplaces.
  3. If we lack opportunities to get good with desired skills required by our next stage of career in real life, we can get good at them first on remote work marketplaces, due to the large variety of jobs available on those platforms.
I hope you find this article helpful regarding my recent experience. I would be delighted if it gives you some new ideas on how to cope with the current lockdown or even the remote-work future. Finally, I hope we can be better together. ❤️️ 

Stay safe!

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