The following article is by Filipina freelance writer Aimee Espiritu. She called me out of the blue a few months ago and convinced me to spend 30 minutes on Skype to let her pick my brain. That’s right, she “convinced me”. See, I get A LOT of requests to go on Skype or meet face-to-face from freelancers who want 1-on-1 help. The problem is that sometimes I decline because 1) the requests are very vague 2) it’s clear that the other person isn’t really sure what he or she wants to get out of the conversation.
But Aimee was very clear and very specific. She set a clear time and date for the meeting and told me exactly what the agenda was (to learn what I do as a freelancer, where I got my clients, what a typical working day is like for me). That’s why I didn’t hesitate to get on a call with her. That’s also why I didn’t hesitate to invite her to share her insights with you today and next week.
Today she’s going to share with you the exact process she went through for picking skills and services she can sell as a freelancer. Her process is so specific that she’s laid them out for you in steps - all you have to do is try it.
Take it away, Aimee.
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I have a confession to make.
When I started looking for freelance opportunities, I had all sorts of insecurities:
- Newbie lang ako! Wala akong skills!
- My degrees are not applicable sa ganitong work.
- SPED teacher dapat ako. Paano ‘yun online?
- Wala akong alam sa office or corporate world. Di ako pwedeng mag-VA.
- Wala akong professional license!
- Hindi kasi ako web developer at wala akong alam sa IT or software development.
But the fears are not true. If you dig deeper:
In short, the problem is not having skills but finding out how you can earn money from them through online freelancing.
(Note: my stick masterpiece 😉 )
If you are a newbie, I’m going to suggest ways on how you can choose skills that are relevant to your strengths and interests.
If you are a seasoned freelancer, you can still make this a guide to specialize further.
Here’s how you do it:
I got the idea from a program by NYT best-selling author Ramit Sethi – “ Find Your First Profitable Idea”. In a nutshell, you look for services to offer and check if someone’s paying for it.
But in this post, I’m going to address specific issues – particularly how can a Filipino freelancer transition from offline to online. I will also add insights from other experts and courses. Above all, I will share my experience and mistakes; and recommend ways on how you can do better and score projects faster.
Step One – Brainstorm
In this step, you have to quickly list down all possible freelance skills you can think of. Personal development author and speaker, Brian Tracy, recommends jotting down at least 20.
If you are a beginner, try to recall your:
- specialization / educational background
– ex. “I specialize in PR/events.” [Organizer of online product launches]
- responsibilities in your previous company
– ex. “I use Excel to encode receipts and billing statements” [Data entry or Bookkeeping]
- workshops / seminars attended
– ex. “I enrolled in a paid online course on becoming a VA” [General VA]
- computer tasks at home
– ex. “I design invitations for my inaanak’s 1st birthday.” [Print design]
- other roles outside home/office
– ex. “I’m the official photographer of my Church. I adjust lighting to make pictures more beautiful.” [Image editing or photographer]
- leisure activities
– ex. “I use FB a lot.” or “I surf the internet.” [FB posting/management or Web research]
Look at the example:
Bakit di na lang mag-apply ng work agad?
Why do we have to brainstorm?
In brainstorming, you examine all possible options. Sometimes it is easy go ahead with the first few services that come to mind. After all, who knows your skills and strengths better than you do?
But in this context, it can work against you.
What if your “obvious” skills don’t involve computers? Should you stop trying? For example, I saw a newbie who was a chef. On the surface, cooking is really not an online skill. You can’t cook using a computer. So he followed the popular advice for beginners – go to data entry.
Truth is, a simple search reveals this:
He can write food reviews and original recipes because some online food magazines are paying for that.
Plus, he uses Facebook. So he can also start learning Facebook management – specializing in catering/kitchen equipment businesses.
That’s why it’s important to brainstorm. You rediscover skills that you never considered initially. It becomes an “Ay, oo nga pala!” moment for you.
Plus if you don’t this, you might second-guess your decision later on. When that happens, you will be constantly shifting from one field to another.
It wastes a lot of time and effort. From my experience, it is also very tiring.
Your turn (Action step #1):
- Get a pencil and sheet of paper or open your notepad/Word.
- Write down your question at the header – What skills should I sell? / What skills should I specialize in?
- List down at least 20 skills.
1. Have fun. Just write them down no matter how simple, obvious or impossible.
2. Don’t worry if the skill doesn’t require a computer. You’ll get to that later.
Step Two – Create your core skills inventory
Now that you have listed down at least 20 skills, you are going to classify them into three groups – A, B and C.
- Group A – you can offer the skill immediately and execute it well enough
- Group B – you like it but you don’t know how / you plan to study it in the future.
- Group C – you’re not interested and you have no plans of doing it.
Your list now should look like this:
According to Jay McLean and Kathy Lacuna, Group A becomes your list of possible services. You can also write them in your resume or online profile under “Core Services” (if you want to apply for work immediately).
Please note that the list is not set in stone. You may change this as you gain more experience. What’s important is that you have an idea where to start.
Your turn (Action step #2):
- Get another paper and divide it into three.
- From your list of 20+ skills, classify them into Groups A, B, and C.
- Use these dialogues as guide in categorizing your skills:
- Group A – “Kaya naman at pwede i-offer ngayon.”
- Group B – “Next time. Pag-aaralan ko pa.”
- Group C – “Ayoko.” Or “Wag na lang.”
Optional step – Translating skills online (for newbies)
What if after going through the exercise, your best skills (Group A) are still not applicable online This is where you need to flex those “Google muscles”.
There are many ways to achieve this. You can be very creative in your approach. But here are some suggestions:
1. Google with the keywords: “[field] related to online” or “paid online jobs for [field]” or “online jobs using [tool/website]” – e.g. online jobs using Facebook. If you want to be more specific, add “Philippines”.
2. Check job bidding sites, online classifieds, and craigslist too.
3. Visit groups in FB, LinkedIn and forums.
If it appears in the search engine results, there’s a good chance someone’s getting paid for it – which means you can earn from it too!
For example, let’s try: Engineering.
First of all, I don’t have a background in this area. My initial thought is that the related projects are confined in the office or project site. I *think*
this is not something you can freelance. But let’s see what happens after using the keywords above.
After searching the web, I realized I was wrong:
(Screenshot from flexjobs.com)
Based on the picture, BS Engineering graduates can be researchers or assistant researchers. The job post requires commute so it’s impossible if you live in
the Philippines. But what if there are opportunities similar to this one back home?
Using the keywords “online jobs related to engineering Philippines”:
(Screenshot from jobisjob.com.ph)
(Screenshot from odesk.com)
The job posts say engineering graduates can also act as consultants and report to the office twice a week. Or if you really prefer to work online, you can design for clients abroad.
As pros might have observed, this is common sense. Unfortunately, I’m one of the sad few who forgot about it. (He, he)
Instead of starting with my interests and skills, I went out of my way to follow the popular advice such as “become a blogger” or “be a General VA”. And I paid for those courses.
There’s nothing wrong with learning. But I could’ve begun freelancing without spending a cent. This is also why I included this step. So other newbies can start with effort as their sole investment.
Once you are sure that the skill can earn you a living, that’s the time you start paying for classes or workshops.
Your turn (Optional action step):
- If your skills in Group A are not applicable online, you can search the web for possible opportunities. Some places to search are:
- Social networking sites – FB, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Job ads
· Use the keywords:
- “[field] related to online”
- “paid online jobs for [field]”
- “online jobs using [tool/website]”
Step Three – Research and Specialize
From your Group A list, you are now going to pick one to specialize in.
But this time, you are going to explore more about each service/skill through research. You can either google about each skill or interview other freelancers in the same field.
Since your goal is to earn money, find out what you can on the:
- potential rates
- possible “level up” options
Here are some examples:
Social Media Manager
||Usual starting rate in online job post ads is $10 for 500-word
|Monthly fees around $450 to $750 based on salary guide by Chris Ducker as of 2013
||Ex. Retainer fee of an SMVA, Kimberly LeRiche, is $50 per hour
|Possible next step
||Copywriter –Ex. Natalia Sylvester charges $300 for
|Multi-VA setup – create your own team of VAs either by hiring or subcontracting them.Ex. Ella Pelayo’s The Office Escape
||When you get more experience, create a social media course or ebook for sale. Lewis Howes created LinkedInfluence, selling at $97.
Marketing Professional (Content Marketer or Social Media Marketer)
||In a post by, Joshua Black: initial rates
may range from $200 to $500 for 350-word web copy
|Range from $20 to $70 per hour. May increase depending on contract. Based on sales page by Susan Bilheimer.
||Starting rates for marketing professionals can range anywhere between $20 to $69 per hour.
|Possible next step
||Specialize in direct mail copywriting at $50 to $150 per hour.
||Technical writers are highly specialized in a particular industry.You can switch industries or add other writing services, like proposal and/or grant writing – around $40 to $80 per hour.
||Online Marketing Strategist –If your client’s business expands, you may oversee the company’s overall web strategy.
The point is NOT to copy my examples. As I pointed out earlier, you don’t have to become a writer, general VA or social media manager when starting out.
The crucial takeaway here is there are MANY ways you can start and grow your career/business. Later down the road, you can:
- be a remote consultant for foreign small to medium sized businesses
- create a remote/outsourcing agency
- sell info products online
- manage projects for big corporations
It’s your call.
Your turn (Action step #3):
- Research about the skills in your Group A through:
- web research
- interview with other professionals in your field. (Note: I’ll go into detail about how you can reach them later on.)
- Choose one and check if it can earn you a living.
- If yes, specialize in your chosen skill.
It’s a Compass, Not a Map
When you go over the process, don’t think of it as the “ultimate strategy/path” or a map to success. It’s not exact, and no one will tell you what the next concrete step is - because it depends on you and your unique combination of skills. Imagine instead that this is your compass. It points you to where you can start your new adventure or a new chapter in your freelancing journey.
Author Bio: Aimee Espiritu writes about freelancing, psychology and technology. You can connect with her on Twitter or Google+.