Following our Podcast Series on Freelancing, I collected the best tips from there and put it into this freelancing guide for the Pinoy Yuppie. This is pretty long guide, clocking in at more than 2,500 words. Read it. Listen to the podcast episodes mentioned, and more importantly, DO SOMETHING! If you like this guide, then please share it to your friends who would like to learn more about freelancing.
* * * * * * * * * *
Do you remember your teachers in Elementary or High School who sold Tocino, Ice Candy, or vinegar? They were trying to make ends meet and found their own “raket” to supplement their income.
Thankfully, in the 21st century, you don’t need to sell tocino or ice candy to earn extra income. All you need is a functioning computer, decent connection to the Internet and a set of good, marketable skills in this knowledge economy.
Based on estimates made by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Information and Communication Technology Office, the number of online freelancers in the Philippines is close to a million! That’s a lot of online freelancers who are trying to find a living online.
Elance.com and oDesk.com, which merged in 2013 to become the world’s largest freelance marketplace affirm the DOST estimate. The two websites have over 8 million users all over the world and a full 1/8 of this number hail from the Philippines. SOURCE: TechinAsia.com
The level of income is also huge! It’s significantly huge! Here’s the report from Elance-oDesk, presented at the TechinAsia article:
Elance-oDesk freelancers generated more than US$750 million worldwide in 2013, of which US$76 million (3.3 billion PhP) was produced in the Philippines. From January 2010 to April 2014, the country’s freelancers have earned more than US$207 million (9 billion PhP).
In 2013, Elance-oDesk’s top performing city was Metro Manila, which is the country’s financial capital and most populous region. Freelancers in Metro Manila earned US$29.9 million (1.3 billion Php) for the year. The next top earning cities were Illigan at US$7.8 million (342 million PhP), Bacolod at US$5 million (221 million PhP), and Davao at US$4 million (174 million PhP).
The potential to earn a LOT is there. The market is here. The world recognizes the power of the Filipino freelancer.
Are you excited? Pressured?
Okay, before you hyperventilate and go crazy in looking for online jobs, take a deep breath and read this article. It will show you how to get started in your freelance career. If you’re doing great in your 8-5 job, fine, you can stop reading now and listen to our podcast for employees instead.
But if you want to try this path for yourself, read on. I can’t possibly cover every single thing that needs to be covered. But I will point you in the right direction.
My Own Freelancing Story
Back in 2006, I decided to resign from a budding career at a BPO company in Eastwood City, Libis. I decided instead to go full time with a non-profit religious youth organization. At a glance, it was a crazy decision–the post didn’t have a salary. I did have some stipend for food and transportation for official organization business, but it wasn’t a salary. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I was passionate. And clueless. Three months after resignation, I needed to look for ways to sustain my life.
Then I discovered online freelancing. I looked for jobs online and got several writing gigs from various places. On one particularly good month, I earned $1,000. On lean months, I earned around $200.
Not bad. Considering that I only worked about 20-30 hours per week, given the demands of my non-profit, volunteer job.
Freelancing sustained me for more than two years. I didn’t get rich out of that experience, but if I had more time in my hands, I would have earned more. I no longer do online freelancing (apart from my blogs), but those years showed me that online freelancing is a valid career path to take.
First Things First: What’s Your Motivation
I love this TV commercial from Nescafe. It asks “Para kanino ka bumabangon?” “Why do you get up each morning?”
Do you just want to have extra income?
Are you a breadwinner?
Saving up for marriage or a big move?
An extra $100 (or at least PhP 4,300) per month can make a big difference for a Filipino professional. Imagine if you can increase that to $500 or even $1000 per month? It can help you pay for some family expenses, help you save money, or at least give you a source of money for your gadgets or any other personal project.
Listen to this Podcast Episode for the Introduction to Freelancing: #028 – Introduction to Freelancing
What Can You Offer?
Don’t make the mistake of highlighting your educational attainment. Yes, it’s important, but in the world of online freelancing, your track record, your portfolio, and samples of your work are more important than educational attainment.
So, to get started with online freelancing, list down the skills that you can offer to potential clients. Assess your competency level in these skills. That way, you’ll know your strengths and the areas that you need to improve on.
You can use our FREE Personal Skills Inventory by going to this link: http://amightylife.me/skills-inventory/
What Does the Market Need?
You have skills? Great! But are people looking for your particular skill set?
Do your research to be sure. Here’s a quick exercise for you.
1. Go to https://www.odesk.com/o/job-categories/ and pick a particular job category you’re interested in (for example Graphic Design).
2. Look at some of the job posts and the requirements of each job. Look at the required skills and also the nature of the project.
3. Compare the level of skills needed and what you currently possess.
4. Check the potential level of income you could get from these kinds of projects.
Here are the most common jobs in freelance markets today:
- Writer / Blogger
- App Developer
- Virtual Assistant
- Web Designer
- Graphic Artist
- Customer Service Agent
- WordPress Developer
Each of these jobs require a different skill set. While you may not have the skills you need right now, you can still upgrade your skills and work at continuous improvement to get premium clients and higher rates.
If you want to be an online freelance writer, listen to the following podcast episodes to learn how Stef Gonzaga and Celine Roque got started in their paths and found ways to thrive as online freelancers:
#030 – The Beginners Guide to Online Freelance Writing with Stef Gonzaga
#035 – The Guerilla Approach to Freelancing with Celine Roque of Pinoy500.com
If you want to start a thriving, earning blog, you can check out our podcast episode with Flowell Galindez of AngSaWariKo.com.
#029 – Blogging as a Freelancing Opportunity with Flow Galindez of AngSaWariKo.com
This episode with Sonnie Santos also contains important advice if you want to blog consistently:
Want to become a Virtual Assistant? Listen to this interview with Jay Pasana:
#031 – Exploring the Job of a Virtual Assistant with Jay Pasana
For graphic designers, listen to the story of Eli Avellanoza:
#032 – Freelance Graphic Design with Eli Avellanoza
And if you want to find a way to showcase your skills online, you might want to consider Raket.ph. Lyle Jover explains the features of the site:
#034 – Showcasing Pinoy Freelancers’ Skills with Lyle Jover of Raket.ph
How Many Hours Can You Dedicate Each Day
In episode 35, Celine Roque shared that she sometimes had to wake up at 3:00 in the wee hours of the morning just to get her projects done. You may not need to do that, of course, but having a set number of hours per day or per week is important. If you are a full-time employee and you just want to earn extra income, you have to make sure that you can still perform in tip-top condition at work even if you’re freelancing on the side.
If you commit to 2 hours per day, stick to it! Make those two hours really count.
Mindset and conditions
A lot of the freelancers I interviewed at the podcast echoed this sentiment: “Freelancing is not for everyone!” You need to look at the requirements of freelancing and check if you can thrive, given these situations.
1. Can you work at home for long periods?
Yes, working at home in your pajamas (or birthday suit, if you prefer), sounds really enticing. But can you endure the tedious work of starting at your computer for hours on end? Can you resist the call of your bed when you have a deadline a few hours from now? Are there special circumstances at home that would make working there extremely difficult for you?
2. Are you a self-starter and a self-learner?
Can you kick yourself in the butt if you need to? As a freelancer, you are the boss, the employee, the marketing officer, the bookkeeper, and the HR officer all at the same time. Can you set goals for yourself and achieve them? Do you have the resources to research and learn? While everything may be found on Google, you will also need a great system to search for and organize information.
3. How will you take care of your social life?
The freelancer’s life can become intensely lonely at times. If you’re an extrovert that craves the company of friends and colleagues, lonely freelancing may be a difficult path for you. Thankfully, there are co-working spaces in Metro Manila now, so you can work with other freelancers nearby. Or, you can go to a cafe and be surrounded by people while working.
4. Can you deliver good, quality work within the deadline?
Both Stef Gonzaga and Celine Roque shared that a lot of business owners who get the services of Filipino freelancers often complain of the latter’s disappearing act. Don’t be the disappearing Filipino freelancer. It’s bad for your career. It’s bad for the reputation of Filipino freelancers worldwide.
If there’s one habit you should develop on top of everything else, that is RELIABILITY. Always deliver good, quality work, on time!
Prepare Your Online Profile and Portfolio
Work samples can show the client what you’re capable of. It’s one thing to say you’re good. It’s an entirely different matter if the client sees your work and get impressed by the quality of your work.
But what if you’re just starting out in this freelancing space and you haven’t completed any project yet?
Do ‘free’ jobs to build up first few samples. Do it for yourself. Do it for potential clients. Do it for your career. If you are an aspiring freelance writer, start writing a blog on the topic you love, like food or cars, or work-related stuff. If you’re a graphic artist, go look at previous work you’ve done, polish it and upload it to your blog.
How many sample works should you post? As many as you need. It’s probably good to have at least 5 sample works in your online profile. This would be enough to provide an overview of the quality of your work.
If you have your basic information and your sample works ready, where should you put your online profile?
For newbie freelancers, you can use free blogging platforms such as WordPress.com, Blogspot.com and Tumblr.com. Other blogging platforms are on the rise like Svbtle and Medium, but the WordPress, Blogspot, and Tumblr remain to be the most popular blogging platforms.
Why these three? Because they are easy to use, you can use many free themes and layouts, and more importantly, you can create your blog within 30 minutes and you’re set. Of course, you can keep spend more time tweaking the layout and design, but as soon as you have your basic info, you can just put it out there and start promoting your online profile.
But if you have around $150 (PhP 6,600) per year, I strongly suggest getting your own domain name and hosting account. That way, you can market your services and build your online brand under YourName.com.
If you want to do this, please read the following guides I’ve written:
- What are blogs and websites: http://www.hrblawggers.asia/what-are-blogs-and-websites/
- How to buy your own domain name: http://mightyrasing.com/buy-a-domain-name/
- How to buy your hosting account (http://mightyrasing.com/how-to-buy-your-own-web-hosting-account/
- How to setup WordPress in your hosting account: Okay, I haven’t finished writing this yet. So you’ll have to wait for it.:)
If you feel stuck and unable to proceed, always remember, Google is your friend.
What should you include in your online profile?
- Short intro about you, your skills, abilities, and services you offer.
- Brief educational background. Yes, you can still include your Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree. But keep in mind that your portfolio is a better way to sell your services.
- Work samples. You can provide links to work you’ve done in the past: articles, graphics, web design, or software you’ve created.
- Call to Action. Don’t ever forget the call to action. It could be as simple as a “Contact Me to avail of these services”. The important thing is that you provide your email or a contact form within your online profile.
- To see a good freelancer profile, check out the following online profiles:
Stef Gonzaga: stefgonzaga.com
Celine Roque: celineroque.com
If you’re into speaking or consultancy, try looking at my own online profile: mightyrasing.com
Getting your first client
After listing your skills and preparing your online profile, it’s time to start. I don’t have any profound advice but to simply take the plunge and follow the advice of Nike: “Just DO it!” How do you exactly “just do it”? Here are some ways to get your first clients.
Ask for referrals.
If you have friends who are into the same freelancing category you want to enter, ask them for ‘overflow projects.’ At first, you may have to render your services for free. That should be fine. Usually though, friends will stick their necks for you and will also compensate you for the work you’ll do for them.
Job boards & Bidding Sites.
There are a lot of freelance job boards and bidding sites. It can be challenging, but you will need to have a good portfolio, provide a few samples, and craft a nice pitch to your target clients. Here are several bidding sites you can start at:
- Fiverr.com – Just a warning. You upload your service here and the clients will contact you if they are convinced by the profile you present. Each project is only $5, but you can provide add-on services for extra fee.
- 199Jobs.com – This is the Filipino version of Fiverr.com
You can search directly for the websites and organizations that are looking for freelancers. You will need good Google ninja skills. This is what Celine Roque actually recommends. The main benefit of this approach is you cut the middleman and work directly with the organization or business that needs your services. You can even command higher fees if you have good negotiation skills. If you want to follow this approach, I suggest following Celine Roque’s blog http://Pinoy500.com.
For more tips on freelancing, I also suggest you listen to FreelanceBlend.com. Marv De Leon has interviewed a lot of top notch freelancers to help you build your online freelance career.
A Final Word
Becoming a freelancer is a good career choice now for young professionals. In fact, this is the best time to be an online freelancer. But it’s not an easy road. Through this blog post, I have provided some tips on how you can get started. My final advice is this: Try it out. Stick to it. If within two years, you have not achieved a good level of income, then it’s probably not for you. Or maybe two years is too long. That depends on your present situation. But keep in mind that online freelancing is not a quick rich scheme. As with other pursuits in life, it requires hard and smart work to get it right.