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The following post, written by Karwanna Dyson (a freelancer and alumni of SamaUSA), is part of an ongoing series to provide additional perspectives into the virtual workforce. We have partnered with SamaUSA, a California-based nonprofit, focused on reducing poverty through online work.
I was 17 years old and on winter break from my freshman year in college when I faced a reality that changed my view on life. I’ll never forget coming home on the bus, excited about sharing my first experience with college. As soon as the bus pulled up in my neighborhood, I saw blood running down the sidewalk. There were police and yellow tape everywhere, and it was like being in a movie – only it was real. A young man had been shot in the head, and he was still lying there on the street corner where everyone could see. It was a life-defining moment for me. Where I was from, we lost friends every day due to violence. However, I had never witnessed anything like this before. From that moment I was determined to not become a statistic of growing up in the inner city.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. I was the fourth of seven children, born to a single mom who worked her fingers to the bone to provide for her family, but yet struggled. The only father figure I had was my oldest brother who took care of all six of us when mom had to work. While other kids got to shop for name brand clothing, we shopped at Payless and K Mart and use foodstamps for lunch money. Walking out of the house was always an uncertainty because you never knew what was going to happen. It was a scary life that I didn’t want to pass on to my children when I grew up. I was determined to be different. To me, being different meant having enough money to live in a better environment.
I have always felt a desire to do better than find a job that barely meets expenses. I knew I had to obtain a college degree and dreamed of one day owning a successful business. Over the years I had achieved a couple college degrees, but yet I still struggled to make ends meet. I had to change something because I didn’t want my children to live in the shadows of my past.
I was recently introduced to an organization called SamaUSA, which provides courses to help freelancers find work in the online marketplace. They taught me how to market my skills and professional services (such as video production, business administration, and customer service). A linear income may pay bills, but when you can generate multiple income streams in your free time doing what you love, it can make the difference between eating hot dogs and steak. Online work is something I’m using to change my life.
I’ve been able to generate additional income online from the comfort of my own home. I don’t have to stress about things like not being able to attend field trips with my kids because of my work schedule. I’ve become my own boss. My experience with online work has helped me to understand who I am as an individual, what I’m great at, and how to leverage my skills as a pathway out of poverty. I’ve also discovered that this type of work has no ceiling, which means I can make as much as I want and provide a better lifestyle for my family. Just imagine having an unlimited income potential by providing business services online. This opens up a global market where you can work from anywhere in the world and for as many clients as you can manage.
This journey (I call it a journey out of poverty) has shown me new possibilities. Along this journey, I’ve provided professional services to clients through marketplaces such as TaskRabbit, oDesk, and Elance. I’ve even learned how to market my own brand. For example, I’ve created a webpage that links to my website and social networks (AskKarwanna.com) and continue to build my presence in the online marketplace. Branding is important, as the online workspace is a growing industry. More companies are hiring freelancers now than ever before, and it’s predicted that the online marketplace will only continue to grow. With this knowledge, my dream of owning a successful business and changing my family ‘s history is now attainable. With commitment and dedication to my purpose, it will become a reality.
You’re probably waiting for the part where I tell you that I was able to purchase a big house with a picket fence in a better neighborhood for my children. Reality check – this is not a “get rich quick” program. Working online is making a difference in my financial situation, and I’m steadily building something that I never thought was possible. It’s going to take time and commitment (just like anything else in life), and this is the vehicle I’m using to drive out of Bayview Hunters Point forever.
Karwanna Dyson is a self-motivated entrepreneur, based in the San Francisco Bay area. She provides clients with best-in-class writing, design, and other professional business services. Learn more about Karwanna by visiting her website.