In response to a number of requests I’ve been receiving from people I personally know, I’m writing this essay to share how it is like to be a freelance, work-from-home individual and the gains and challenges that come with it.
The rise of online jobs has been unstoppable; it has paved way for solopreneurs and independent marketers to establish their career without leaving the comfort of their home. From a freelancer’s perspective, it poses more good than harm, granting that you know the ins and outs of the said industry.
I started working as an ESL tutor back in 2009 – the time when online tutorial was still unfamiliar to many. It was a relatively small company built by a Japanese businessman, with his British partner who personally managed us in a small office in BF Homes, Parañaque. I worked there for 5 years before deciding to move to another company that offered me better rate and more flexible work schedule. By this time, though, my routine as a mom became more difficult so I decided to work from home (the companies I worked for always give teachers the option to either work in the office or from home).
I’ve been working home based for 4 years now, but having a full-time teaching job didn’t stop me from getting part-time gigs. I started academic writing in 2012. I honestly had no effin idea how citation styles work, but I was blessed with good friends who helped me learn the basics. From there, small projects started coming, and I couldn’t be any happier because it allows me to earn a bit more for my family.
As of the moment, I conduct private Business English lessons (I’m currently not connected with any online schools) to a few Japanese clients, accept writing projects where I manage a small team of writers, and work as a full-time Virtual Assistant for a Filipino businesswoman.
So how do you start?
Create a comfortable work space
Being a mom of three made it almost impossible for me to have a chance to unwind or socialize, until spending an hour or two for travel eventually become impractical. I have set up a small work station in our old room – having your own room will allow you to focus more during your work hours. One misconception about being a homebased freelancer is that you can work in any part of the house whenever you want. Though it works when you don’t really have a choice, you are still going to be more productive if you can give yourself the privacy you needed in order to focus more on what you’re doing.
Choose a stable internet service provider and a backup connection to save you during downtime
The most reliable ISP in our location is PLDT, so I have been using DSL for almost a decade now. But let’s admit, PLDT can be a pain in the ass, so I make sure I have my pocket wifi or at least mobile data with me in case the connection becomes intermittent.
Choose a work schedule that is most convenient for you
I’m speaking on behalf of my fellow WAHMs; just because you don’t have to go to the office or follow strict corporate rules doesn’t mean there’s no need to set a particular time to get your tasks done. I have two gradeschoolers and a 16-month old baby, which means I am usually tied up with school activities, household chores and other mommah duties. The most convenient time for me is always at past bed time until the wee hours in the morning. Sometimes, when the kids are at school and the baby is taking his afternoon nap, I get the chance to work but it is not always effective that way. To be honest, however, this routine has deprived me of getting enough rest, but there is no other way for me to work but to adjust to my children’s needs. In my case, I always pretend to be working in the office – associating my work with this kind of mindset always helps me become more productive. Sometimes, I get too laid-back knowing that I actually manage my own schedule, and this ruins my motivation to be efficient. So my advise is try to structure your entire day the same way you would when you’re in the office.
Have you experienced cramming amidst your deadlines? The urge to watch your favorite series, or even just a random funny video online causes us to be unproductive. Whenever I feel that I am not in the mood to work yet, I spend at least an hour doing random things that will help me relax or be more creative, like reading, watching or talking to a friend. You’ll never know when ideas are going to pop up.
Prepare yourself physically and mentally
One mistake I used to do when I was just starting out as a freelancer: I work immediately after putting the kids to bed. What I learned is that your mental and physical state contribute a lot to your ability to accomplish things. After settling the kids to bed, I spend some time taking a shower and having a cup of coffee because these two are always effective in revitalizing my mind and body, especially after losing a lot of energy the whole day. Even if you choose to work in the morning, I advise you to do just the same.
The gains and challenges
Don’t get me wrong, I am still struggling to manage my time effectively because it’s not easy to organize your schedule when you’ve got three kids whose needs change from time to time. I’ve learned that being a WAHM also has its merits. When our nanny left, I literally had no idea how to manage the household on my own, but this gave me a chance to be a better mother by being more hands-on with my children’s needs. My biggest accomplishment so far: I learned how to cook. My eldest son who used to be very picky became healthier when I started to personally cook for them and monitor the food they eat when they’re at school. I get to take a break from work to send or pick them up. I also do not feel guilty about spending an hour or two playing with them outdoors. Imagine the difference when I spend the same time traveling to and from the office.
The biggest challenge, however, comes when you are just starting in the freelance industry. Scams are everywhere, and seeking for legit clients will probably make you lose hope during the process. When I decided to leave my company and look for private clients, I already accepted the fact that there will be a lot of swindlers to take advantage of you being a newb. I even encountered some clients who would either offer your really low rates or ask for free work (yes, it does happen) – but that didn’t weaken my spirit. To avoid these instances, I am leaving you some tips on how to market yourself and make sure you come across legit prospects.
Word-of-mouth recommendation has worked best for me. I share my blog posts on Facebook and invite people to read them. Most of my friends know I am into writing, so when they need the same service, or know someone who might need my writing skill, they recommend me every time.
You may join several Facebook groups/forums that help connect clients and freelancers. I am a member of Hiring Virtual Assistants PH and this is how I found my employer for the VA job. However, be open with the possibility that scammers still managed to get their way through any online group, so be very vigilant.
If you have found a post with an offer that suits your rate and skills, make sure the person who posted it is legit. There is no specific way to be sure of this, but going through their Facebook account helps a lot. It may sound funny but you have to stalk these people a bit in order to get some necessary information to determine whether they’re serious with the business or not. This is the riskiest part of being a freelancer, so when I received some offers, I posted about it on the group and asked my fellow freelancers to legit check some people for me. I am lucky because I never encountered a scammer up to this day.
Create a presentable CV and a LinkedIn account, if possible. LinkedIn is an employment-oriented service that you can access both via website and mobile, which helps connecting its users to the right career and employers.
Just like any other type of job, you should be committed to growth. Take your job seriously and do not be overwhelmed by the perks that come with it. Give yourself an honest performance review. Are you able to manage your time well? Are you able to submit quality work every time? If the answer is no, then consider the reasons why and try to work on your shortcomings. Freelancing is very promising. It is a sustainable career path that may help you maximize your potential and ability to earn.
I hope this post helps you with your queries. If you have some other questions that I failed to address on this essay, feel free to leave a comment! 🙂