Let's play a compare and contrast game – a contract vs. a letter of consent. Are they the same?
If you’re new to the world of freelancing, you might come across the term “letter of consent” while negotiating an agreement. A letter of consent is one way for freelancers to document an agreement with a new client, but is it the best one? How does it measure up to a legal contract?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is a letter of consent?
A letter of consent is an informal agreement between two parties. Where contracts are legally binding, letters of consent, or agreement, are not.
Letters of consent are common in situations where there needs to be only a casual acknowledgment of agreement that something is taking place, usually when the stakes are low.
For example, a letter of consent for a freelance writer might contain the names of both parties, the nature of the tasks assigned, and the method of compensation.
Usually, letters of consent are not used in a setting where money is changing hands. While it helps to have an agreement in writing, the client is not legally obligated to follow through on the terms, so you could very easily end up not getting paid for your hard work.
If you’re a freelancer and a potential client wants you to agree to a letter of consent rather than a contract, think twice. The terms of a letter are not enough to protect you if the working relationship goes south or your client refuses to pay. If you intend to get paid for your work, you should consider a contract instead.
What is a contract?
A contract, on the other hand, is a formal agreement between two parties that lays out the terms and conditions of an agreement. Legally, a contract must contain several elements: A purpose or offer, mutual acceptance of the agreement, the promises each party is offering, and the material terms and conditions, such as payment and deadlines.
The contract must also be signed by freely consenting adults in their right minds. While a contract must follow a much more specific format than a letter of consent, it’s also legally binding, meaning it offers you recourse if your client does not fulfill their end of the bargain.
There are many templates online to help you draw up a contract if needed. Contrary to popular belief, a contract doesn’t need to be written or approved by a lawyer to be valid. Of course, if you can have one look it over before you sign, that’s awesome! If not, just be sure to read through anything a client sends you carefully to make sure you agree to the terms.
A Contract vs. Letter of Consent
Letters of consent are okay when you’re doing pro-bono work where no money is being exchanged. As long as there are specific parameters in place to determine the amount of work, type of work expected, and what is being offered in exchange, a short letter between the two parties should be fine.
For example, if you agree to do some work for a client in exchange for promotion or a good reference, a letter of consent is likely all that’s needed. There is still a possibility that one party will not follow through with the agreement, but there is much less at stake than there would be with a paying job.
When we're talking about actual work for money, however, the safest bet is to go with an ironclad contract that explicitly lays out the work being done, the timeframe it will be done in, whether or not there will be edits made, and how those edits can be requested and returned. You should also cover consequences for nonpayment, such as a late fee for missing an invoice.
If a client doesn’t pay, you’ll have wasted valuable time that could have been spent on other, more lucrative projects. Even worse, one missed payment can be the difference between paying bills or struggling to get by for some freelancers.
At the end of the day, contracts offer much more protection for freelancers than letters of consent. As much as we all want to trust our clients, nonpayment is unfortunately a very real issue for freelancers across a variety of industries. Always insist on a contract when completing client work. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Remote jobs are the way of the future, and there are currently more opportunities to work from home than ever before. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom looking for a reliable side hustle or a digital nomad who dreams of world travel, there are plenty of reasons to give remote work a try.
One of the most visible remote jobs on the market right now is that of the social media manager. This job is ideal for anyone with a finger on the pulse of online trends.
What is a social media manager?
I talked a very little bit about this in my article about virtual assistants, but let’s dive a little deeper.
The title “social media manager” gets thrown out all over the web – both by people who truly understand social media and casual feed-scrollers alike. Because of this, it can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask.
For the most part, though, we can agree that a social media manager is the voice of a brand. This person is in charge of growing a business through social media by directing strategy, often writing content and engaging with followers along the way.
In many businesses, especially smaller ones, one person is responsible for managing all of the brand’s social media platforms, from Facebook to Twitter and everything in between. Larger brands might have specialized social media managers to focus on one platform at a time.
What does a social media manager do?
A social media manager’s duties will fluctuate depending on what the brand needs. In general, you can expect to do the following in your day-to-day work:
- Research your competitors
- Brainstorm content ideas
- Determine a posting strategy
- Plan out a social media calendar
- Write and schedule posts
- Engage with your audience
- Provide customer support
- Track analytics and regularly report on growth
- Manage a team, depending on the size of the company
- Collaborate with other departments on promotions and initiatives
- Build relationships with other influencers and brands
- Keep a consistent brand voice across all channels
If this all sounds too good to be true, know that it’s not an easy job.
Depending on your level of involvement with the brand, it might be hard to maintain a work-life balance. Some social media managers report feeling like they need to be plugged in 24/7 in order to respond to comments and keep up with the latest trends.
Regardless, if you’re passionate about social media, this career promises a fulfilling way to help a brand grow, all from the comfort of your own home.
How do you become a social media manager?
Social media is a competitive landscape. After all, who doesn’t want to get paid to scroll through Instagram all day? Fortunately for you, though, there’s so much more to being a social media manager than just that. If you can demonstrate that knowledge, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
First of all, you’ll have a better chance of landing a social media manager position if you can show that you have actual experience with growing or maintaining a social media channel. Your personal accounts aren’t enough unless you have thousands of followers.
Instead, start small. Do you have a friend or colleague who’s struggling to grow their small business? Offer to take over their social media duties free of charge while you learn the ropes.
Keep track of the numbers: Follower count, conversions, engagement levels – you name it. If you can show that you’ve grown a channel over time, it’ll give you a leg up when applying to social media manager positions. Put together a portfolio of your most successful posts to show off when the time comes.
Another way to get ahead is to specialize in one or two social media platforms rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. Every website has its own rules and requirements about content, not to mention different audiences. What works on Pinterest won’t necessarily work on LinkedIn, and vice versa.
If you become an expert in seeing success on one platform, you’ll be a much more valuable asset than someone who only has a general idea of how to work the different websites. Focus on becoming the best at what you do, even if what you do is only a small piece of the social media pie.
While becoming a social media manager isn’t for everyone, it’s a lucrative career path that will help you develop widely applicable skills for remote work as a whole. By delving deep into the world of social media, you can build a successful career, wherever you are!
As an expat English teacher or military spouse, your options for making a little extra money on the side can be limited due to your visa agreement. That being said, it’s not impossible to start a successful side hustle while living abroad.
One of the easiest ways to get started with your own online business is to become a virtual assistant. There are myriad ways you can help other entrepreneurs handle tasks for their businesses without taking on a full-time job or even leaving the comfort of your own home. It’s all completely remote and completely up to you on what kind of specialties or services you provide.
What is a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant (also called a “VA”) is a person who remotely provides specific services to other businesses without being an actual employee of that business.
These services can range from creative help – like making images to writing content – to technical assistance – like writing special code for websites or troubleshooting issues with online store software – to administrative and/or management roles.
There are literally dozens of ways VAs help business owners. There are general VAs, specialist VAs, and VAs that fall somewhere in the middle of those two groups.
Where you fall on the virtual assistant spectrum is totally up to you! Below, I’ve listed several things VAs are known to do but this is by no means an exhaustive list. The possibilities are practically endless!
Here are 11 things you can do to get started as a virtual assistant.
The term “social media manager” gets thrown around a lot in the online entrepreneurial world and, understandably, it can mean a few different things to different people.
Basically, though, it means an individual (the “manager”) handles a company’s or brand’s entire presence on social media. According to Sprout Social, one of the best social media management platforms on the web, “[S]ocial media managers grow [a] business through social networks.”
Often, a social media manager handles all the social profiles for a single entity across multiple platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and possibly others.
While you might take on the title “social media manager,” you could decide to specialize in something specific (which is a great idea for a number of reasons), such as Facebook group management, Instagram management, or Pinterest management (more on this below).
Making yourself super-well informed and an expert on one or two platforms is the best way to separate yourself from other general social media managers and ultimately make more money. 😉
2. Email Marketing
You know when you sign up to receive emails from a blogger you like, a company you enjoy buying from, or to receive updates from a brand you follow? Somebody has to put together all those emails that drop into your inbox.
Yes, I’m telling you that one person is responsible for all of those annoying Bath & Body Works emails you get 80 times a week! 😆
You could be the person to actually write the copy (the words) that goes into those emails or you simply set up and execute the design – sourcing and placing images, deciding where the copy should go in conjunction to those images, and choosing the size of the text and possibly which fonts to use.
Then, those emails have to be scheduled to go out via an email management platform like MailChimp, Mailerlite, ConvertKit, or others.
Designing these email campaigns, deciding on special emails that should go out to subscribers, and sending them out can be super bankable, even if you’re not the one writing the content in the emails.
3. Customer Service
Smaller companies that offer products or services to their customers often don’t have the resources to hire a staff of customer service reps to work for their business full-time. Instead, they outsource to VAs who handle answering customer questions, emails, and even phone calls.
Customer service is a big task for any business and as a customer service VA, you’re helping solve a major need. This often doesn’t take a lot of training other than learning the ropes of how your new client runs their customer service process. In special cases, you may even be hired on in the beginning stages of a client’s development and play a role in helping them create a system.
Either way, it’s an easy gateway to get started as a virtual assistant and possibly even learn a few things on how to handle clients as your VA business grows.
Copywriting is often not thought of as a virtual assistant-specific job, but if you’re a strong writer, this is a great VA service to offer.
There’s a lot of opportunities out there for freelance copywriters! Blogging consistently for businesses is highly lucrative, especially because it typically means recurring work. Copywriting, though typically a one-off opportunity, is still a great way to build your portfolio and work your way up to higher- and higher-paying jobs.
5. Online Store Management
From shops on Etsy to actual shop setups on individual websites, online store management is a big job. Whether you’re listing new products, helping with customer service (see above!), or handling returns and refunds, there’s a lot that goes into managing an online store.
If you’re close to a “brick and mortar” business location and they sell actual products, and if you can help physically with shipping or returns, this could be an even bigger opportunity for you (that is, should you want to be involved at that level).
Additionally, virtual stores may use a number of different systems to operate their enterprises, including WooCommerce, Shopify, or other platforms. Knowing the ins and outs of these systems and how to keep them running smoothly is a big job and always in high demand.
6. Email Management
This is different than the email marketing we talked about above because it doesn’t involve designing email campaigns but instead, it means helping a business owner manage an email inbox.
Business owners and entrepreneurs get dozens of emails every day, potentially hundreds every week. Some people hate keeping tabs on their inboxes (understandably, right?!) and want someone to handle weeding through all the stuff that gets sent their way.
As an email manager, you might handle a business owner’s main inbox or a special inbox set up for specific email campaigns. For example, every email management system, like MailChimp, Mailerlite, and others, requires the sender to provide an email address to serve as the “from” email. Often, businesses set up separate accounts and invite subscribers to reply to or send emails to that special “from” email address. Therefore, someone has to open, read, and reply to or pass on the important messages.
Believe it or not, depending on the size of the business, a VA could devote a few hours a week solely to email management.
7. Online Advertisements
This should come as a no-brainer: Creating, setting up, and running online ad campaigns is a great way to make money.
Whether you specialize in Facebook or Instagram advertising, Google Ad Words, Pinterest ads, or other online ad campaigns, there’s a lot of money to be made – both for your client and for yourself.
The more practice you get and the more you learn about the different types of ad campaigns and what works and what doesn’t work, the more money you can charge clients to help them advertise their products or services.
I separated Pinterest from the social media management section because it’s a horse of a different color. Pinterest is, first and foremost, a search engine. While it does have some social media-like qualities, including “likes” and messaging, its main function is to help people searching for specific information find what they’re looking for via keywords and images.
At its core, Pinterest helps online bloggers and businesses direct more traffic to their websites, build brand awareness, and gain additional fans and followers.
Like specializing in advertising, specializing in Pinterest management is a great way to separate yourself from other “manager” VAs who may not be as well-versed in running Pinterest campaigns.
“SEO” – also known by its full name, “search engine optimization” – is a big online buzzword. It’s an important part of running a website and a successful blog: If a site is properly optimized, it increases the site’s visibility and ranking on search engines like Google.
Think about when you go to Google and search for something. You might type in a few words or even a full sentence into the search box. Once you hit “submit,” the search engine presents you with a page of results. Usually, the ones at the top of the page will be your best bet. It’s probably rare that you look past the first page of results, but there are actually hundreds of pages of results you could weed through if you really wanted to.
So how do websites end up on that first page of search results? By using SEO best practices.
SEO specifically deals with using keywords in the content on a webpage – in the copy itself, in image alt text, in a page’s meta description, and in article sections, called headings. SEO beginners and experts alike start by making lists of main keywords that their ideal audience might be searching for or find interesting. The trick is to use those keywords to develop blog posts and/or informational pages that will ultimately get picked up by Google and, hopefully, pushed to the first page of search results. The closer to the top of the page, the better.
Business owners are always looking for help with SEO and if you’re a freelance writer, this is another great way to increase your perceived value to your prospective clients.
10. Business Organization / Online Business Manager (OBM)
Plenty of business owners need help keeping their business organized – it’s not everyone’s strong suit! Some biz owners may also want to hand off management roles to someone else so they can focus their efforts on other things. As a business organizer or online business manager (OBM), you can help do either or both.
You might excel in helping businesses organize files or systems; you could create systems for them, such as standard operating procedures (SOPs) on how to handle tasks in their business; or you might help manage other assistants that work in various areas of the business.
These kinds of opportunities often require more experience. However, depending on what kind of professional work experience you have before starting your virtual assistance business, you might fit the bill even without extensive VA experience.
11. Content Editor
There are plenty of folks who want to handle the bulk of a writing project on their own but loathe the idea of running back through the work and looking for mistakes. If they’re wise, they’ll seek out an editor before publishing or printing any materials.
If you’re a strong writer, you’re probably also a strong editor. Other writers and professionals of various industries seek out freelance editors for publications like white papers, professional articles, professional journal publications, ebooks, and more. These jobs tend to be one-off opportunities or, for those that are ongoing, there may be significant amounts of time between editing projects.
Editing is a great addition to offer clients if you’re marketing yourself as a freelance writer or any kind of content management VA.
There are so many ways to get started as a virtual assistant – these are just a few ideas. While it may be tempting to try and offer as many services as you can, you’ll be more valuable to business owners and have the ability to make more money by narrowing down your offerings.
Look at the list above and consider what things interest you most. Start by researching those services to see what skills you already have and what you need to learn to jump-start a VA business.
If you’re living abroad as an English teacher or military spouse and currently making little or no money, there’s a good chance you fall into one of two categories: You’re teaching English or you’re affiliated with your country’s military.
As an expat English teacher, you have a job. You also have pretty good job security, at least for the length of your contract. For many people, that’s enough.
They’re not making a lot of money, but they’re making enough – enough to send home and make payments on their student loans, pay down credit card debt, or maybe even save some.
If you’re affiliated with the military in some way, maybe you’re the spouse of a service member and are here for a temporary stay. You may have looked for jobs on post which are already few and far between – which also makes even the most entry-level, mundane jobs highly competitive.
If you’re like me, maybe you make enough money (or your spouse does), technically, to live on or pay down debt, but you’re wishing there was a way you could bring in more cash.
Maybe you also have expensive tastes…
Or you like to travel a lot and traveling can get expensive…
Or you’d like to pay down your debts even faster…
Or you’d simply like to be able to make more money.
The secret is that you can!
Just because you’re working on a restrictive teaching visa or living within the confines of a strict life-work government agreement abroad doesn’t mean you can’t bring in money other ways. You can absolutely pull income from other sources without breaking your teaching or work visa agreements.
How is this possible?
Here’s what you probably do know: If you’re an English teacher, your contract and visa agreement states (most likely) that you cannot hold a job in the country where you’re residing outside of the job provided by your visa sponsor (your current employer). In some countries, you may be able to get a second job with explicit written permission from your boss, but those permission slips are often hard to come by.
If you’re a military spouse, you can’t get a job making money “on the local economy,” or anywhere off post where you’d be liable for paying local taxes on earnings and get paid in local currency.
Based on that knowledge alone, you’ve probably been thinking you’re stuck with your one job or, like many teachers and military spouses do across the globe – tutoring or teaching secretly and getting paid “under the table” in cash to avoid being caught by immigration or the education officials.
(While teaching or tutoring “under the table” is certainly an option for you, I don’t recommend it in most countries. South Korea, in particular, tends to be pretty lax on private tutoring as of the time of this writing, but technically it’s against the law. I’m not sure of how seriously other countries treat these rules.)
Here’s the big “secret”: No matter where you live and work – South Korea (where I have worked for over 5 years!), China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Hungary, Costa Rica… Teachers and military dependent spouses like us with specialized visas are scattered all across the globe – you can make money in your home country.
Your contract and subsequent visa agreement stipulate that you cannot make more money than what your visa sponsor is paying you that is taxable in that country. It says nothing (and legally can’t) about your taxable income in your home country.
In plain English, this means you can have a remote, internet-based job or work for yourself and funnel your earnings through your home country without ever overstepping or endangering your work or visa.
Pretty exciting, isn’t it?!
If you’re interested in finding ways to make money while keeping your day job abroad, this list is for you. While it isn’t completely exhaustive, it’s a good place to start.
Here are 5 ways you can find work and legally bring in more money every month without jeopardizing your visa.
1. Teach (more) English online.
As native English speakers, we have a lot of doors open to us that simply aren’t available to much of the rest of the world. Not only can you teach at your day job, but you may be able to also juggle teaching online.
There are some well-respected companies including VIPKid and DadaABC that hire English teachers (at the time of this writing, only from the U.S. and Canada – sorry everyone else!) to teach one-on-one classes online with Chinese children.
Depending on where you are in the world, this could work really well with your schedule or it could be tough. But if you can hack the hours, it’s a great option because you’re paid through your home country bank account.
As an English teacher outside of China, you’re not competing directly with your current employer which is the key point here. Yes, you’re teaching English BUT you’re teaching English to children your employer would never be able to market to or attract anyway. There’s no real conflict of interest.
However, if you’re currently teaching in China, this would be a major conflict of interest for rather obvious reasons. I wouldn’t advise going this route… But, if you dare, it’s an option.
BONUS: If you’re interested in teaching for VIPKid, send me an email and I’ll put you in touch with my friend, Gwendolyn, who’s been teaching for VIPKid for more than 2 years. She will gladly coach you through the hiring process and help you get a job with the company. 🙂
2. Find a remote job.
I got my start as a content marketer in 2015 by working 15 hours a week as a paid intern for a completely remote boutique content marketing company. In the two years I ultimately held that position (and moved from intern to actual employee), I never once met with any of my co-workers in person. It was awesome and so much fun.
There are plenty of businesses that follow this kind of model and have no interest in hiring and forcing their team to work in a physical building together. You might be shocked at how available some of these jobs are.
If you’re not keen to teach more English (which I totally don’t blame you for) or if you’re not really interested in being your own boss and starting a business, finding a job is your next best option.
Dynamite Jobs is a place for location independent biz owners to post open positions at their company. Some are full-time but many are part-time. If you’re just getting your feet wet, there are also occasional positions for internships like the opportunity I had. Keep an eye out and don’t be afraid to reach out to the hiring team if you’re interested.
We Work Remotely touts itself as being the “largest remote work community in the world.”
3. Start your own business.
There are so many ways you can go about starting your own gig online. You can:
- Start an online store and dropship products.
- Get crafty and create things, then turn around and sell them online via your own store or via sites like Etsy.
- Become a virtual assistant and help other business owners manage their email inbox, WordPress sites, and so much more.
- Start a freelance writing business and write articles, blog posts, newsletters, white papers, and beyond for clients across the globe.
- Learn to become a web designer and create amazing websites for other entrepreneurs or companies.
- Become a coach of some kind. There are tons of things that people are willing to pay money for to be coached. (Depending on what area you decide to coach in, you could do it locally or do it online via Skype or other digital phone call.)
- Create an online course and teach people how to do something you know how to do.
- Become an expert in Facebook ads, Pinterest management, or Instagram everything and charge a boatload of money to do it for other businesses.
I mean, it’s the internet. The possibilities are practically endless.
4. Monetize your thoughts.
You probably know some stuff and/or you have some opinions about things. Thanks to outlets like YouTube, podcasts, and blogs, you can monetize your own thoughts and words by simply putting your ideas out into the world.
If you're interested in getting into blogging, you can add some affiliate marketing and make money by helping direct buyers to other brands you trust and approve of. Ever heard of “passive income”? Affiliate marketing is a great way to achieve passive income.
There is someone out there who needs and/or wants to hear what you have to say. Let your voice and your perspective be heard.
5. Create something new.
This goes hand-in-hand, in some ways, with starting your own business. Depending on what you’re creating, you could potentially sell your brainchild to someone else someday or market and sell it yourself.
I’m talking legit inventions, new business ideas based on existing business models, apps… you name it.
We all have great ideas – maybe even those million-dollar ideas just like Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, had. It’s all in how you think about things. Have a problem? You’re probably not the only one. Find a way to fix it and it could be your best idea ever.
No matter your current situation, there are loopholes and there are ways for you to create your own work opportunities. Whether you’re looking to temporarily make money on your own terms or you want to transition out of a traditional job and do your own thing, I want to give you the tools that will help you get there.
With a little self-study, elbow grease, and consistency, you can create the job of your dreams and bring in as little or as much money as your heart desires. Believe it.
This is something I’m incredibly passionate about – helping other expats realize their potential to make more money and forge their own “work destinies.” My story may have started very much like yours, but in just a few short years, I’ve managed to grow an incredible business to supplement my teaching income.
If you’re ready to start learning more about what you can do to change your own life and work on your terms – build your “work destiny” – subscribe to my newsletter! I’m working on new courses and so excited to connect with you and learn more about your story.