The Pains and Gains of Freelancing

I signed up for a freelancing website in 2017, hoping to get a gig. I got the idea from a high school classmate who, until now, is doing well as a freelancer. Almost four years ago, the demand for freelancers was not that high. The clients’ requirements did not fit into my qualifications as a manufacturing engineer. Hence, I had a very slim chance then to land a job.

Pre-covid, I wanted to spend more time with my young children, and what a better way to do that than to find a source of income in the comforts of our home. Four years ago, most Pinoy freelancers had little idea of what a Virtual Assistant is. Perhaps, some would even get confused about the roles of a Social Media Marketer. I’m pretty sure that only a few could answer about the difference between Amazon’s FBA versus FBS. Time is continuously changing and upgrading, especially in 2020, when the pandemic hit us. Today, E-Commerce becomes one of the most promising careers, and the influx of professionals wanting to become Virtual Assistants rocked the freelancing industry. On top of this, it looks like the Work From Home set-up made the companies realize that it is possible to have a productive and efficient remote workforce. (A reliable internet connection is another story.)

Of course, being a freelancer means knowing what you can bring to the client’s table. Just like working in a traditional workplace, a freelancer ought to have the right skills for the right job. Otherwise, you will start at the bottom. No worries, that’s fine as long as you are flexible and hardworking. Learn as many tools as possible because freelancers are working on their own. Most of the clients have limited time to even talk with you regularly. So don’t be surprised, too, if they ask you to install apps to monitor your daily tasks. Sample of these time and productivity tracking apps are Timeproof and Hubstaff. Some clients are very particular about the confidentiality of their data. Instead of these tracking apps, they would require you to connect to their company laptop or server and do the job from there. (Again, a reliable internet connection is another story.) If being “monitored” bothers you, you can accept jobs per project. Projects do not pay by the hour and do not require these time and productivity tracking apps. These jobs pay by the quality and delivery of your output, like logo design, video editing, and IT-related jobs like web design and development.

Those who think that being a freelancer means “owning” your time, I hope that you find a client that has a similar mindset. Some clients do not care about time and productivity as long as you do your job well. On the other hand, some jobs require your time and full attention to the whole shift, so babysitting while working may not work out. There is also the issue of getting multiple clients on the same work shift. If it’s okay with your client, then go for it. Otherwise, pick the best client and drop the rest. Make it a goal to produce only the best output for your clients because they hired us to do the job.

Cultural and language differences can be tricky and challenging at the beginning of your client-contractor relationship. To establish a good rapport with your client, do a little research about their culture and work ethics. Maintain a professional but friendly working relationship. Clients from the US generally prefer to be called by their first names and avoid the formality that “Ma’am” or “Sir” brings in. If they insist to be called Mr. or Miss or Mrs. plus their last name, it is okay, too.

Forget about the Philippine holidays once you become a freelancer. If you are used to spending your local holidays, get used to working during most Philippine holidays. Overtime pay for a holiday does not apply to freelancers. Well, some generous clients give holiday pay, though. If you are excited about the 13th- month pay, remember that freelancers do not have it. Freelancers pay their SSS, Philhealth, and PAGIBIG contributions out of their own pocket. So the goal here is to increase your hourly $ rate so that you can afford to go on a holiday and pay your SSS, Philhealth, and PAGIBIG contributions. Don’t forget to get a life or health insurance, too. If you are earning more than PhP30,000 a month, you need to pay your taxes.

Most contractors run after Australian clients because of the narrow difference between our time zones. Most clients come from the US so ready yourself to work on a graveyard shift. Graveyard shift takes a lot of effort and determination to embrace and love. The advantage of a graveyard shift is a quieter environment and a faster internet connection. If background noise is an issue for your client, there are noise-cancellation headsets available in the market.

In summary, being a freelancer is a choice as much as working on a traditional work set-up is an option. If you are tired of things like long transportation to work, dressing up, leaving your young kids to the yaya alone, then freelancing might be the right job for you. Just remember that it is not all pain (lifestyle adjustment, lack of clients, low hourly rate), there are also gains in the end.