Heavy traffic, hordes of people elbowing each other to get on a bus, and the all-too-familiar MRT breakdowns. A supposed 30-minute commute turns into two hours of stress; and your day hasn’t even started! Such is the daily struggle of a typical Filipino who travels to and from work.
Fortunately, online freelancing offers greener pastures in the form of work-from-home setups, flexible hours, and potentially high income. Best of all, the industry has been on the rise. Online job platform Upwork had listed over 300,000 freelancers in 2016, while OnlineJobs.ph had 250,000 members in 2018.
But how do you become a successful freelancer in the Philippines? Well-paid online freelancer Charles Janoras, 25, shares tips that helped him on his own path to financial fulfillment (through online work that now pays him six times more than his previous salary in an office-based job).
FINDING AN ONLINE FREELANCE CAREER
Why did you decide to leave your office job and become an online freelancer?
I’m the type of person [who’s] always craving to learn new things . . . I wanted to land a sales position in the company I was working for, but I couldn’t secure the training. So I did the next best thing: I looked for a start-up company that was willing to train me in that field.
Charles started his online freelancing career as a sales associate. Eventually, he got promoted to business partner in the same company.
How long did it take for you to find an online job?
It was like fate [because] that was my first day to look for an online gig and it was his (the employer’s) first time as well. . . I got messaged on my first day, then I was officially on the team after two weeks . . .
Sabi nga ni Lady Gaga (as Lady Gaga would say), ‘There could be a hundred people in the room and 99 don’t believe in you,’ yada yada yada, you know the drill. Haha!
It has been 4 years and Charles still works for the same importation company, which has promoted him to business partner. He is now an all-around and well-valued employee who handles everything from operations management, staffing, analysis, and finance. And he learned all of these skills on the job, despite coming from a Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) background.
But there are thousands of hopeful freelancers in the Philippines. How did you stand out from the competition and get noticed by an employer?
I was a sardine in a sea of sharks . . . I had to prove myself that I wasn’t a small fry, that even if I was new in the market, I was competitive in terms of my skills, attitude towards work and value for my work.
Any tips on how to stand out amid the sea of applicants?
- Make your cover letter engaging and specific to what they [the potential employers] need.
- Highlight what they [the potential employers] need and correlate them to the skills and tools at your disposal.
- Also, don’t forget [to show] a sense of humor. You also need to connect to them on a human level. Think as if your cover letter is your actual face, you have one shot and you want to catch their attention.
SUCCEEDING AS A FREELANCER IN THE PHILIPPINES
What’s a misconception about working from home?
Working from home would lead you to think you are not bound by the restrictions of clocking in and out. On the contrary, Charles says, “People think you control your own time, but it’s the opposite. You don’t work on a fixed schedule, so it means that you can be out partying and your boss has something urgent, which in my own experience has ruined many occasions.”
What other challenges can I expect if I become a freelancer?
- On job hunting: You have moments of self-doubt. Especially if you’re naturally competitive. You always wonder why your application was rejected despite everything going so well.
- If you get sick, you don’t get paid.
- [It’s troublesome] to file your own taxes and benefits.
- You aren’t protected by anything. Any time, you can be replaced.
- The culture of the people (in the case of foreign employers) you work with are different from yours. Learn to take everything with a grain of salt and be polite, always.
- If you’re like me, you have to be eight different people at once because you’re balancing that many companies all at once.
How do you deal with a demanding client?
Take one thing at a time and don’t compromise on the quality of your work. Everything is always urgent. Keep calm. Lay out the things you have on your plate and prioritise what needs to be done first. If they can’t accept that it’ll take longer than when they want it, let them know that quality may be compromised. If they don’t accept that, move on. You deserve better.
How can I make sure to find a fulfilling freelance job?
Just two things:
- Know your worth. [You’re not] a slave; Never compromise if you know that you are being treated less than what you deserve. This goes for how you’re compensated as well.
- Know what you value the most. For me, I’ve realized that it’s not [about how] much money you have in your bank, but the amount of time you get to spend with the people you love and doing the things that let you discover yourself.
Today’s digital economy lets us go beyond the limits of office-based work setups (in the same way that technology has revolutionized education). Online jobs offer experiences that a traditional, corporate job may not always offer, such as the flexibility to explore different skills and interests.
According to Charles, “It feels like I have unlimited opportunities to pursue different roles. I’m not just stuck in a single role and every client and role I support is a new avenue for me to learn and develop myself.”