An Exclusive Interview With Tejaswi Bitra - The Founder of Freelancing Mindset
I was working as a Software Developer. I always wanted to be a freelancer. One day, I just quit my job to pursue freelancing. I struggled a bit in the beginning. Slowly I got some clients and got started as a freelancer. This was in mid-2014.
At the same time, I was seeking a community for freelancers, where my queries could be answered. I did not find any. So, I started one. I organized a freelancers meetup in my city (Bangalore, India). I have been organizing these meetups with the help of friends until early 2019. We took a break from these meetups and probably will restart some time in this year 2020. Now I am working as a Front End Developer in our startup.
Meanwhile, I felt a kind of lull. Felt like I had no venue to contribute to this community. My other option was starting a Facebook group. Frankly, all Facebook Groups about Freelancing were just completely filled with spam content or are usually attractive to that kind of audience. Just in time, Quora started Quora Spaces. The timing was just right.
goLance: How did you come up with an idea to launch one of the most popular and fastest-growing Quora Spaces - Freelancing Mindset?
Tejaswi: It never was an intention to become the most popular or the fastest-growing at anything.
I was granted the ability to create Quora Space in the first week of February 2019. The first thought that came to my mind was the name of the Space, which is "Freelancing Mindset."
In my offline meetups, I frequently had to explain the average person about the Freelancing Mindset and how it is different from a regular job mindset. Hence the choice of this name. Quora's audience was the right kind of audience where content plays a big part. Being an admin of this space, I had complete control. I felt I could easily avoid spammy content. Quora also pushed Spaces a lot in the initial days. I got more than two thousand followers in the first week. I think being the first mover and especially in this space of Freelancing, helped the search algorithms to find this space easily.
goLance: Has ever crossed your mind that you will administer one of the most active Quora Spaces with more than 52K followers and still counting? Just to give an idea to our readers Upwork topic on Quora has 68K followers, Fiverr 63K, and Freelancer dot com 33K. How do you handle the pressure and responsibility of influencing so many freelancers' mindsets?
Tejaswi: Yeah, it feels good to have so many followers to my space. It may look good on my CV. I am not particularly proud of the fact that we have so many followers of this community. If you have read in the "Details" section in Freelancing Mindset space, the first point I have mentioned that "Use this space to share your story, be it a success or a struggle story." So, unless real people do not come out and talk about their real stories and others have a discussion about their stories, freelancing will be seen either as an elitist practice or a hobbyist practice. I would happily trade away some followers for some raw stories.
The other big 3 Spaces you have mentioned; frankly, I never knew about their numbers till I got it from you.
I feel some responsibility. I judiciously filter out submissions. I have internal criteria based on which I accept or reject submissions. And, since I am not answerable to any, I am not under any pressure. Anybody can go through the feed and see that I have not encouraged spammy content.
goLance: What do you consider to be the most important moment for the success and development of your Quora Space? Has anyone helped you or contributed significantly?
Tejaswi: As I said earlier that I would happily trade away some followers for some real stories, I would consider this space a success if only the answers have brought about a positive impact in somebody's life.
Initially, when the number of followers was low, I made sure that I searched and posted at least one good answer per day in the feed. In the coming months, Mr. Barun Mohanty, who is a successful freelancer himself, has volunteered to help me with this space. I made him the moderator. He helped me a lot for a few months. He removed submissions that were low on quality or not related to freelancing. He posted his own content, which drew a lot of attention since he is pretty famous in Quora.
After a couple of months, he started his own Quora Space (entrepreneurship related). I do not know exactly when he started them. But it was clear that he got busier. Gradually his submissions in this space decreased.
I am thankful to him for his contributions.
goLance: Is Freelancing Mindset a one-man-team operation, or you require an additional pair of eyes to go through all those questions and submissions you have to process on a daily basis?
Tejaswi: As of now, it is a one-man-team. I had the help of Mr. Barun for a while.
I keep my process of choosing submissions very simple, and that helps with my decision making. Usually, I would know at a glance if the submission is the right one. If it is more complicated, I let it pile up in the submission queue, and I read them in leisure to decide to submit.
My process is like:
- I usually allow all questions, but they have to be about Freelancing.
- For every submission, if the answer is not at all about Freelancing or a related topic, they do not get approved.
- I allow textual posts and posts with links as long as the content of the post is solid and real. I admit some content may have slipped through, but I do not encourage content like, "Make x dollars doing this simple work online" or "Most easy way to make money," which are definitely not sincere or even worse if they are copied from a website.
goLance: Can you say for yourself that you are unbiased when it comes to freelance websites that have their own topics on Quora, such as Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer dot com, Toptal, and goLance? How do you ensure a balanced and fair treatment for all of these online marketplaces in your Quora Space?
Tejaswi: I am not being paid by any of the freelancing websites, nor have I ever posted any affiliate links of any. I do not think I owe my loyalty toward any particular website. Hence I think there is no bias.
When I read an answer, sometimes I see the author mention a link or plug to their website as a footnote. Some authors blatantly sell their services/products by filling all the SEO keywords. I do not like that.
Some authors write good, meaningful content and then leave a link. I like these posts.
An example I would give is of Danny Marguiles. He is an Upwork freelancer and writes about Upwork related stuff. Through the value he gives, I believe he earned his space of plug in the answer.
Apart from that, the Quora moderation bot does a decent job of cutting down the spam.
goLance: To which extent you're open to allowing controversial topics and questions? Have you ever been criticized by freelancers for rejecting their submissions?
Tejaswi: I do not mind controversial topics. As I mentioned before, I approve almost all questions as long as they are related to Freelancing. I enjoy a discussion with people who have strong opinions. Like once, I shared one of your posts you did in HackerNoon were you compared different freelancing marketplaces. That was cool.
So far, I haven't been criticized on my face. The policy of Quora also helps a little. Call it a feature, maybe. In Quora spaces, the author of the submission is notified only if it is accepted. In some way, I have been protected by Quora, against the wrath of the rejected. There were only a couple of times when some author has personally requested me to approve their answer.
goLance: Correct us if we're wrong, but you launched Freelancing Mindset in February 2019. So, we guess it's time for your first birthday wish. What's it that you wish for your Quora Space to achieve in 2020?
Tejaswi: I wish more people may share more real stories. Be it success stories or failure stories, of any magnitude. The average people need to see and believe these stories. Only then will they think of taking action. I think I can only be a catalyst in the change. The individual must do what is necessary.
goLance: In less than a year, you have been able to accomplish two amazing achievements: more than 50K followers and 1.3M views. You were also the top Quora writer in 2018. Do you feel like a "freelance influencer," or are you still standing with both feet on the ground?
Tejaswi: "Freelance Influencer," when you say it like that, it feels good. I do not think I need to feel this important. The stats do not mean much if they do not have an impact. Honestly, I do not know how to make meaning of this. I have no idea if this space actually encourages people. One this is for sure, I will keep at it.
goLance: What's your opinion about the CEO and founder of goLance - Michael Brooks?
Tejaswi: Firstly, I do not know him personally. So, I do not know how he is as a person. :)
But in the initial days of Freelancing Mindset, I have shared many answers of Michael Brooks in this space. One had to read his answers, especially answers written in 2018. I personally liked his answers. His answers were real, talked about real issues, and real possible solutions. No show-off stuff. I do not know why he stopped answering on Quora. Probably got busy.
I have heard good things about goLance. I also liked that golance is not particularly focusing on some fortune 500 companies. They are focusing on small and medium scale businesses(correct me if I am wrong). That is awesome. My best wishes to Michael with goLance.
goLance: What's the "future of work" for you, just a widely used phrase or a serious question we took for granted? How do you see the future of the freelance and gig industry?
Tejaswi: "Future of Work" is a widely used phrase, especially among businesses. It helps them in their branding. I do not know how it affects a regular person.
The gig industry has its potential. It can become huge. As Seth Godin predicted in 2013 (probably earlier, too) that the industrial age is ending (https://seths.blog/2013/03/toward-zero-unemployment/), fewer and fewer people will be employed doing regular jobs in coming times.
As in any business, the key factor is "trust." If buyers trust the work of an individual, they will be willing to pay, and the same goes the other way too. Today the "trust" is owned by the rating system of certain freelancing marketplaces. Tomorrow, a better metric may be defined to measure the skill level. More people are becoming more aware of opportunities. With the shrinking digital world, we can hope the size of the gig economy would only increase.
My friend and I once were just thinking out aloud, as what may happen if everybody is a freelancer. Imagine this. Big companies do not necessarily have to employ people. They could prebook their availability or could continuously pay a stipend to keep them available when needed. Observing their work ethic and behavior, companies may pay freelancers to get them more skilled on the promise of giving more work. And the freelancer could have all the benefits of being a freelancer. Oh! What a utopia that would be.
goLance: What's the future of Freelancing Mindset? What would you do when you reach 100K followers? Is it realistic to expect that some of the big players in the freelance industry would approach you with an offer that's too good and lucrative you won't be able to refuse?
Tejaswi: Honestly, I haven't given much thought about the future of Freelancing Mindset. I assure you that this will space will continue.
About Freelancing Mindset, if I try to put it metaphorically, consider it as a baby. It was born, then it crawled, now it started walking. Even the logo is a child wearing a cape wishing to fly.
At some point in time, either it may become bigger than what I could handle, or it could die like a passing thing. I know I have to let go at some point.
I do not need any incentive to keep this initiative going. Also, I do not like selling other people's stuff. So, it may take a really lucrative offer to lure me to part ways with Freelancing Mindset.
goLance: For the conclusion of this interview, can you surprise us with some interesting facts from your professional or private life that we have missed while conducting our research?
One interesting fact about Freelancing Mindset I would like to share. The pinned post in the feed is a question. It says, "Are you a Freelancer? If yes, introduce yourself..." It is really interesting to see that there are 47 followers to this question but only 24 answers. This seems interesting to me because, usually in any market, the sellers are more in number than the buyers. Here is quite the opposite.
I am 33 years old, and I have been referred/called many times as "Bro." It feels a little awkward. It would have been cool if I was 23. :)
During freelancing, all my past gigs were local gigs from local clients except one client from the USA. The USA client became a good friend. We are still in touch. The interesting fact here is, I never used a freelancing marketplace for any of these gigs. Many people think just signing up on a platform is the only way to do freelancing. The local market has a lot of potentials.