Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Survive As An Online Freelancer

It's been more than three years since I decided to leave the corporate world in exchange for a life (and work) at home. Did I make the right choice? Was I successful in the path I chose? I think I'd have to say yes on both counts - I'm still here, still surviving. That to me means I must be doing some things right. :)

A lot of people think working as an online freelancer is a bed of roses - you command your own rates, your own working hours, you can work in your pajamas, and you can work while watching TV. While all that is true, it doesn't have to translate to all these being 'easy'. In fact, I'd have to say being an online freelancer is a tad more difficult than being in the solid and structured corporate world.  But I've dwelt on that before in this post about why WAHMs get stressed.

Moving forward, I just want to share my two cents on how to actually make a 'career' out of working from home, and 'surviving' online freelancing to get you on the right track to success:

  • Do not work JUST for the money. Oh yes, I know, we all work for money - but, it doesn't have to be the only reason you do. Work becomes a burden when you no longer thinks it's worth the money you get paid. Money is quantifiable in terms of numbers, so it's pretty easy to deduce when the ratio of work to pay is 'unfair'.

    Find that 'bigger' reason why you want to do what you are doing. Like in my case, my writing work pays the bills (and sometimes a bit more. Hihi.), but I don't do it just because it serves that purpose but because this is something I love to do. It keeps my brain cells active and curious too. :) When you find that special reason in your heart, then doing your job becomes as natural as breathing, and as welcome as shopping.
  • Stop making excuses!  You are lucky enough to get a job online, value it. There are a lot of newbie online freelancers out there who are struggling to land their first gig, and with stiff competition, landing one is indeed like finding sought-after treasure. Don't waste it by slacking off. And do not make your home duties an 'excuse' either. I know, I know, family comes first - of course! But you and I know that with proper time management, you normally don't have to sacrifice anything. 
  •  Be consistent. You would know if an online freelancer is a true professional - he/she consistently get positive feedback from his/her clients. And it's not just about how many hours he/she had worked, but more of what good has come out of those hours that clients usually provide feedback on. Now that's the kind of thumbs up that your consistency brings to the table. 
  • Be human. Yes, my dear, YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT. You have to rest. I know just how incredibly tempting it is to fill your calendar with work, and each day with hours.  You would think "what else should I do? Sit down?" or "Sayang pera! Ang oras ay pera sa oDesk!". Of course we're all in this to earn an income - but you earn an income so you can live - so LIVE. I've experienced working with four clients, one full time, and the rest have very demanding deadlines. I earned a lot, but I also felt like a zombie walking around almost 95% of the time. I felt like I was even more tired than when I was working in a call center. Then one day, I woke up and remembered what the real purpose was of my resignation before --- to be with my daughter, and be 100% with her. With me working like a maniac here at home, I may be with her physically, but she's not enjoying my presence because I'm slaving away in front of the laptop.

    So YOU, be human. Rest. Go out and enjoy the world. YOU have that choice. Keep yourself alive. My mom has always told me, you may be young and strong now, healthy... but in the next years, once you get up there in age, you'd feel it - all the 'abuse' you've done to your young body will manifest. And the 'abuse' includes pushing yourself too hard in working. 
  •  Have a hunger for learning. An online freelancer who has a killer set of skills will go far in the online world. If you're good in writing, master it - but never have second thoughts of going out there and learning something new. If you can do a lot of things, but haven't mastered at least one skill - concentrate on being an expert in at least one. It will work to your advantage to broaden your horizons, and at the same time in enriching your core knowledge. If you're being asked to do something that you have no clue of, be honest to your client - you'd be surprised at how many are actually willing to teach you. 
  •  NEVER sell yourself short. When I was a newbie, I started with a job rate of $1.25 per hour proofreading product descriptions as a full-time job. At that time, it was quite a reasonable rate (or so I thought), and since they took me on sans oDesk experience and feedback, I was willing to give it a go. My rate later increased, and I learned a lot with my first job. That was more than three years ago. What would be the going rate now? I couldn't say, because that depends on what YOUR skill set is, and the kind of job you're applying for. There are still jobs out there at $1.25, some even less, but I think with electricity rates and internet costs higher than it was three years ago, I would say the lowest you can work with at a super easy data entry level kind of job is $2/hr.

    The idea in formulating your hourly rate is this, YOU know your skills, and you know your experience. Base your rate on that. And not what the lowest out there is. I know of some contractors who don't increase theirs to get more jobs, that's their call of course. But your rate speaks of your abilities too - so if you think you've become better in your field, then by all means, let the world know your worth. It may be more difficult to land more jobs in terms of quantity, but when you do, you're sure to get an offer from a client who's willing to pay for the kind of quality you offer.

Starting as an online freelancer is a challenge, surviving as one is yet another. But then again, it's not impossible! :) Just work hard, stay level-headed, and don't ever forget to be thankful.


  1. Sis, soul mate ba kita? Lahat ng sinabi mo sa blog mo, nasa isip ko rin, promise! I also came from a call center and gave it up for my daughter.

    Sana mabasa ng mga transcriptionist ko ang blog mo na to, especially the bullet number 2, lalo na yung pagka hire eh naglalahong parang bula after makuha ang first pay. Tsk tsk.

    Guilty ako sa pagiging robot. I really need to work on that. :)

    1. Sis, posible yan - kindred spirit! :)

      Naiisip ko sa mga ganyan sis yung mga nag-call center hopping din, magtraining, kukunin ang signing bonus and first pay, tapos ayun - lipat na ulit. It gets them the money sure, but it won't let them go anywhere else dahil magkakaron ng bad impression din naman sa HR yung super dami mo nang call center na pinagdaanan pero never ka tumagal. Same goes with working online I think, especially if a previous client leaves negative feedback. It would count against them, lalo na sa oDesk na clients are wary of hiring people with low rating.

      Naku sis, isa sa pinakamahirap i-resist sa online work ay ang magtrabaho ng bonggang-bongga kasi nga the more hours you work, the more you earn. It's actually addicting! :) I have to remind myself pa din every once in a while, lalo na pag weekend - na mag-weekend naman ako. :D Kaya mo yan sis, conscious effort lang din talaga. Mahirap maging robot, remember, health is wealth. :)

    2. True sis. Addicting talaga ang work from home. Haha. Ako naman, hindi paid per hour kasi transcriptionist ako pero the more project done, the merrier. Haha.

  2. Wah, natamaan ako sa mga tips mo. I slack sometimes. Well, I am not a full-fledged freelancer yet. I'm on my way pa lang as I still keep a day job. But, I'll keep your words in mind. :)

    1. sis Miss 'Chievous, ok lang yon, we are all guilty of slacking sometimes. :) Lalo na't may day job ka pa, I'm sure na-stress ka din doon, so it's understandable na maramdaman mo yung need na mag-relax relax naman. :)

      Thanks for dropping by to read my post. Balik ka ulit! :D