Tag Archives: Learning

How I Got My First Online Clients [Transparency Report #1]

Last June, I asked you guys what you want me to reveal about my own freelancing practice - all for the sake of transparency. I got a lot of insight via the comments to the post, a surprising amount of emails, and some Facebook messages in response.

After going over your messages and comments, as well as thinking this thoroughly, I thought that the best way to start kicking off my monthly transparency reports is to start with the past.

Kung mag-simula kasi ako sa pagkekwento ko tungkol sa career ko ngayon, walang context. It wouldn’t be meaningful or helpful to tell you about my clients, my rates, or my daily schedule right now without first exploring my roots. This is because what I do now is so radically different from what I was doing when I was starting out.

So what I’ll be showing you this month is The Transparency Report: Backtrack Edition. I’ll dig deep into the early beginnings of my freelance career, as well as deconstruct them into useful tactics. This is so that those beginning freelancers here can pick up a thing or two from my stories.

Early Attempts at Freelancing [or “Mga Raket”]

Before I started my freelance writing career in late 2003 I had some earlier starts:

Continue reading

How to Avoid Freelancing Problems Before They Arrive

Four years ago, I had an idea that most freelancers get when they’re a few years into their career:

“Maybe I should have a team.”

It sounds great, di ba? My job will be finding and getting clients (which is one of my strengths), making sure that all the tasks are organized (which I do for my own work anyway), and hiring skilled workers (I’d love to give work to other Filipino freelancers). I’ll pay the skilled workers above average rates ($15 to $50 per article, depending on skill), while I’ll charge the client what I normally charge and call it “profit”. What a great idea, win-win, I thought.

It was a great idea - in theory. In just 3 months, I encountered a lot of problems I didn’t expect:

Problem #1 - It’s hard to find good workers who could fit me into their sked! Sa dinami-dami ng Filipino freelancers, I had to find people who were skilled, understood and agreed with my vision, self-directed, and reliable. But most of the people I wanted to hire were too busy already! In all my searching I found exactly 3 people to work with, and one of them had to return to a full-time job.

I wasn’t even looking for “rockstars”, yet I found it very difficult to look for skilled workers who were self-starters (meaning: they are competent and confident enough to decide things on their own and not ask me permission for everything). I even hired a couple of other people who didn’t exactly meet my criteria pero pwede na - but this became problematic later on.

Problem #2 - I ran into the “hamster wheel problem”, where I had to keep looking for clients to keep the business profitable, but adding new clients often meant hiring additional people (who would be more familiar with their topics/industry), and hiring additional people meant I had to look for more clients to keep the business even profitable and cover all the time and energy I spent looking for clients and managing people.

Problem #3 - It turns out I spent most of my time being a middle-manager - something I did NOT want. What I really wanted to do was create quality content, take care of clients or do marketing. I did not want to spend too much time holding the hands of professionals like me, or training them, or reading 11-paragraph explanations of why they couldn’t submit their work on time. While I did end up with 3 good colleagues I respected, I needed more than them to service all our clients and the hiring process became unbearable after a while.

So eventually, I shut that down and just worked with the clients privately on my own.

Pero ito yung masakit - I could have easily avoided those problems! A year after I shut it down, I talked to an entrepreneur who ran a similar business model, and he said something like:

“The agency model is tough. You have to look for new clients to make money, but when you get new clients, you have to pay for more workers to service them, then look for new clients to make even more money! It’s a vicious cycle. You’ll spend the entire time being a manager!”

If I just talked to people who had been there, I would have known early on that the agency model was not for me. I did not want to be a middle-manager. I wanted to create things. I wanted to collaborate with talented Filipino freelancers, not manage them. All I had to do to avoid that super stressful experience was to ask.

Imagine that, 3 minutes spent posting a question in a forum full of entrepreneurs could have saved me a year and a half of stress.

The Matrix. Dir. The Wachowski Brothers. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999

The Matrix. Dir. The Wachowski Brothers. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999

Look Into the Future, See Problems Before They Arrive

Are there any upcoming obstacles to your freelancing career? The best way to know for sure is to look up people who have already made the mistakes you’ll be making and successfully overcame the obstacles you’re about to face.

In other words, here’s what you can do today:

Step #1 - Look for 5 people online who have done the work you want to do. If you already have specific people in mind, that’s great. If not, you can look for online forums or FB groups where people like this hang out.

Step #2 - Ask them about their major challenges. If you’re new to freelancing, you can ask: “What challenges did you face in your first 2 years of freelancing that you didn’t expect? How did you overcome those challenges?”

Or if you’re looking to try a new field or new approach, you can tailor that question accordingly. For example:

  • “For those VAs here who now manage their own team, what unexpected major challenges have you faced so far? How did you overcome those challenges?”
  • “For those freelance writers here who have shifted from doing rewritten articles or SEO articles and are now doing higher value work (writing sales copy, writing blog posts, etc.), what difficulties did you experience with the transition? How did you face those difficulties?”
  • “For the freelancers here who have been working with clients outside job bidding sites, what unexpected problems did you encounter?”

Step #3 - Then, wait for the answers. Your internal response to these challenges will tell you kung gusto mo talaga yung path na ipu-pursue mo. Every choice we make has challenges or obstacles attached to them - that’s just the cost of pursuing anything in life. Are you ready and willing to face those costs? If the costs are more painful for you than the potential gains, then maybe it’s not the right path to take.

Step #4 - Don’t forget to thank the people who answer your question. It goes a long way, especially if you offer to help them or provide value in any way.

Help out other Filipino freelancers like you?

Now to the important part: let’s help each other out. Remember, this is a COMMUNITY. I’d appreciate it if you guys help each other out. So here’s what we’re going to do in the comments:

For Experienced Freelancers (freelancing for more than a year): Leave a comment about

  1. the type of work you do and
  2. Your answer to today’s general question: “What challenges did you face in your first 2 years of freelancing that you didn’t expect? How did you overcome those challenges?”

For New or Starting Freelancers: Leave a comment about

  1. What type of work you want to do
  2. Any questions you might have for those other Filipino freelancers who are more experienced
  3. Also, don’t forget to keep checking the comments within the next few days - someone might have already answered your question!

Writing Well: What “Serious” Freelancers Do

Good English writing skills is key to having a successful and thriving freelance career. And even if you don’t have any intention of being a freelance writer, you’ll still need to be good at this.

To illustrate my point, take a look at what you often do as a freelancer.

  • You market your services. You put up a website, email prospect clients, and set up Twitter or LinkedIn profiles.
  • You network with clients. You post in online groups and your own social media accounts.
  • You talk with other online professionals. You chat with teammates, voice your concerns on freelance forums, and offer your own insights via blog comments.

And what do you do to express yourself in all these outlets? You write. And yes, in English, because it’s the language used and understood on the web in general.

It’s simply necessary for you to know how to write sensibly and clearly.

But the best reason I got for this was mentioned in a fellow freelancer’s email to me last April. He said, “I want to know more on how to write effectively so that I can level up.”

This freelancer understood exactly what good English writing skills will do for his career. And with that attitude, he has taken the first step to becoming better.

You might want to do the same. And it’s okay if you want to get results fast. So here are some easy actions you can take to write better in English as quickly as possible:

[Celine’s note: To learn more about the importance of good writing when applying for any position, check out this piece from 37Signals, and this piece on the high demand for English majors.You don’t have to be an English major - I’m not one myself - but a good command of the language will give you an edge.]

Read at least 2 pages a day

You’ve probably heard the advice “read a lot” very often and know what the benefits of reading are, especially in writing improvement.

But forming the habit is not easy as it sounds. This is why you can start with something simple, such as reading 2 pages a day. You can read any book you like but try to read fiction sometimes.

Aside from boosting the brain’s connectivity, fiction helps you capture the everyday English words the characters use, which you can adapt in your online conversations.

Immerse yourself in English

If reading is not attractive enough for you, then watching English shows and movies might be more inviting. But again, like in reading, when you watch American, British, or Australian shows, keep your ears alert to seize the common expressions used in the language. You might want to jot those new words down ASAP too.

Another way to build your English writing muscle is to talk to yourself in English. Just use English when you think about anything like when you contemplate on how your day was or what’s happening in your life. When you catch yourself thinking in Filipino or other native dialects, shut that voice down, and think, how will you say what you were saying in English?

Use those words

Now that you have some words to work with and your mind is more inclined to using the language, it’s time to try out your writing muscles. Journaling or keeping a personal blog can help with this. [Celine’s note: You can keep your writing exercise blog private, many writers both new and established, have private blogs just to get them in the habit of writing.]

To make sure you get your grammar right, you can use resources like Grammarly.com or LanguageTool.Org. To give more color to what you’re writing, rely on your thesaurus or handy dictionary.

Personally, I have 2 paperback thesauruses and 2 dictionaries + 1 in my Kindle which I got here, (thanks to Celine), and I still refer to ones online. But that’s just me. 1 of each could be okay for you.

You can also find writing templates and use those as guides or triggers for inspiration. Like this simple template for writing your “About Me” page or LinkedIn summary:

  • Hello, I’m (Who are you?).
  • I’m a (What do you do?)
  • I help (Who do you help and add the benefits of what you do for others.)
  • Because (Why do you do it? You could also add another benefit here.)
  • If you need a (insert your offer/title here), (insert your call to action here e.g. email me, contact me, get in touch.)

When you look at the work of most successful freelancers, you’ll notice they do all the things you do too. But they stand out because they have a good way with their words. It may not be perfect but it’s good enough to show their professionalism and dexterity.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Which ones of these actions will you do today? Or if you’re already working on your English language and writing skills, what has helped you become better? I can’t wait to read your insightful comments.

Author bio:jovell

Jovell Alingod is a freelance writer helping businesses create helpful content since 2010. Grab the free resources she created to help you improve your web writing skills.

Fast-Track Freelancing: How to Go From “Newbie” to “Experienced” in Just 6 Steps

Last week, you read Aimee’s strategic approach for picking skills and services to sell as a new freelancer. This week, she’s taking it up a notch by talking about how she went from a freelancing newbie who suddenly found herself without projects, to quickly becoming someone who:

  • offered services her target clients really wanted to pay for,
  • and started charging premium rates.

It’s an awesome story and I suggest you read every word.

Here’s Aimee:


Networking is scary.

The first time I spoke to an expert was via Skype. I was so nervous. My voice was shaking throughout the interview. My best responses were “Uhh…”, “Y-yes” and – my favorite – “He, he.”

Kabado na nga, kailangan ko pang mag-English! Nosebleed.

Embarrassing as it is, I shared this to tell you it’s possible. You can connect to the people whom you admire – even if:

  • You are completely new to online freelancing
  • Kahit wala kang kakilala in the industry
  • You are a shy person.

But before you learn the steps, I will show you how networking with experts helped me.

The fast track to better rates

When meeting successful freelancers, I love asking their opinion on different topics. One of them is how to increase one’s rates. 😛

I mistakenly thought that my rate would increase if I had better skills - but I was surprised to learn that it’s not necessarily the case.

Highly-paid freelancers said that skill isn’t the only one that determines your rate.

Yes, skill affects your income. But it is only one of the many factors. You should also consider:

  • Your mindset about rates – I had initial doubts about how much I could charge, asking the experts “Can Filipinos really earn that much?” or “$100 per article? Hindi ako ambisyosa. Haha.”
  • Your soft skills – This includes negotiation and networking skills.
  • Your chosen industry or niche – Are you in lucrative industries like finance or business? Or are you serving an NGO with limited funding?
  • Your clients – Are they bootstrapping startups or big companies?

I used to just spend time and effort learning this on my own. I read blog after blog, trying to find ways to get paid higher. I also applied for projects with slightly higher rates - but I must have been doing something wrong because I either got rejected or ignored. It was like that for almost two years.

By just talking to expert freelancers, I was able to increase my rate within a month, as shown in the graph below.

That’s the magic of asking an expert.

So you’ve seen how it helped me. Now, it’s your turn.

You are going to learn the step-by-step process of how I network with experts. Hopefully, you’ll benefit from it as well.

Step One – Start with a relationship-building mindset.

You are going to reach out to an expert. That person has more influence, connections, income, and privileges than you. It wouldn’t hurt to ask for one tiny tiny tiny little favor, right?

Wrong. It’s actually a sure-fire way to be ignored – for good.

Unfortunately for me, I’m saying it from experience. (He, he).

Instead, see this as an opportunity to learn and discover new things. Your focus is to establish an on-going relationship with them.

If you begin with that mindset, you’ll gain not only a mentor but also a new friend. 🙂

Step Two – Ask permission first.

Assume that all people are busy (and can never be proven otherwise!) Still, most online entrepreneurs and freelancers are kind. They will be happy to help you out.

If you are a seasoned freelancer, you might already be in contact with other professionals. That’s good. You can skip this part if you want.

If you don’t know anyone, you can find them via their blogs, forums, Quora, FB groups, LinkedIn, Twitter. You can also google your field.

In reaching out to top dogs of your industry, however, try establishing a relationship first. Do something for them. Help them out. Otherwise, you’ll get this:

(Note: This is an email from a famous blogger.)

Since you will have to talk to people directly, it is best to begin with by asking their permission:

AppSumo founder, Noah Kagan, advised: Read your email aloud. If it goes beyond 60 seconds, shorten it.

Step Three – Prepare good interview questions.

(If you had no replies, don’t worry. It’s very common. Out of the 30+ emails I sent, I only talked to five experts on Skype. But as I said before, it was worth it.)

Once you receive a “yes”, settle the time and date of the meeting immediately.

Then, prepare your questions.

First, research as much as you can about the person. If your chosen expert has a blog, read as many entries as possible. You will begin to notice subtle patterns in beliefs and personality.

This will give you an idea how you can establish rapport during your meeting and what kind of questions to ask.

Second, make a list of everything you want to find out from the expert. Ask yourself: “If he/she can only answer one question, what would I ask?”

This will lead you to your first question. In case there will be a connection failure or any unforeseen interruption, you still get the answer you are dying to know.

Get four more questions. You are prepared for a 45-minute interview.

If you have no idea what to ask, here are some suggestions:

  • starting rates (for newbies)
  • where to find clients
  • industries that are hiring [job title]
  • courses to take to improve your skills
  • how to earn a living as a freelancer
  • better solution to your current problem

[Celine’s Note: I’ve created a thorough primer on how to ask good questions in a previous post here.]

Lastly, say your questions in a conversational tone. From my experience, straight-up questions startle people.

For example, you want to find out about the ‘starting rates’ for a web designer. (Note: I just threw random numbers)

  • Straight-up: What’s the starting rate for a web designer?
  • Better: I was researching about rates for web designers. [Site 1] says $100 per project while [Site 2] says $600. The gap seems too wide. What do you think about this?

This will also tell the expert that you did your homework – meaning you’re not looking to be spoonfed and they are not wasting their time on you.

Step Four – Zip up your lips and pay attention.

Best-selling author, Ramit Sethi, suggests that you allow the experts to “speak 90% of the time”. during your interview, encourage them to hog the conversation and speak about themselves. If they are excited about the topic, they will ramble on. That’s even better. You will learn more.

I say this from experience: a 5-minute chat with an expert beats 10 hours of Googling. No exaggeration.

For example, I asked them: “how do you get your clients?” Their answers surprised me:

  • “I’ve not really done any active marketing for a few years now. I mostly go on referral.” - K. L.
  • “I usually reached out to them by joining entrepreneur groups online. LinkedIn is a great place for this…” - A. M.
  • “I never had a job from bidding sites since I started working online. I have an account but I never used it.” - C.R. (Guess who? =D)

Notice their answers all have to do with referrals and building their network. These are alternatives to popular advice like:

  • “Go to oDesk, Elance, Guru, etc.”
  • Ayusin mo ang profile mo para maka-attract ka ng maraming clients.”
  • “Create your own FB page.”
  • “Start a blog right away.”

Does the popular advice work? Sure, sometimes. Some of it I experienced firsthand. However, not all of them can help you land a high-paying project.

For example, I quickly learned that job bidding sites are usually for clients on a tight budget or those who want to maximize profit. So, it is rare to find someone who is willing to pay $50 or even $100 per article in those places.

Here’s another crucial way that talking to experts has helped me: I was able to change my service offering from something they didn’t need or want to pay for, into something they desperately needed for their business.

See, I didn’t plan to become a writer at first. My aim was to be a social media manager for online coaches. But after talking to them, I learned that they were not hiring SMM. They didn’t want to pay for one right now. In their words, they “don’t need one at the moment”.

(Note: The actual list of target clients I interviewed was much longer.)

Because I wanted to earn money, I had to let the idea go (for now).

Instead of SMM, I discovered they need help in writing blog entries, “copywriting”, “formatting posts” and “managing guest posts”. One even paid writers!

I was a research assistant before so I thought MAYBE I can try writing web articles. So I made the switch from pursuing social media management to writing.

If I never asked, I would’ve continued on with a bad business idea. Asking their advice had saved me a lot of time, frustration, and possible heartaches.

Step Five – Say “Thank you” and follow-up.

In saying your thanks, include your intention to follow-up.

(Note: Maybe not as chummy.)

Read the underlined words again: “Balitaan kita.” and “follow your recommendation”. You have to mean it though. If you think their advice is not applicable to you, then just say: thank you and that you will update them with your progress.

Derek Halpern, founder of Social Triggers, says 5–10 days is a good interval for the first follow-up.

These are some examples of follow-up email:

Remember to always include “No need to respond” if you are only updating them. The busiest VIPs would love you for it.

Step Six – Return the favor.

Over time, I realized that receiving an answer is actually a privilege. It is only right that you try to help them out as well.

You may share their posts on your page. You can ask your friends to subscribe to their list. Feature them in your blog. Send students to their affiliate links.

The key here is to help them with what they need. From experience, if you continue communicating with them, opportunities to help will surface eventually.

If it did, you can use this script:

If you still doubt your ability to help a VIP, think of it this way:

They maybe great in business or your chosen field, but they are not masters in everything else. There is always a gap somewhere.

You could be the one to fill that gap. Or, if they’re all set, you can always pay it forward and tell them about it! 🙂

Leveraging Other People’s Expertise: The Fast Track to Success

It is possible to learn all of these through many years of experience. You can spend many hours reading blogs, listening to podcasts and studying further. That’s valuable too, but it’s not the most efficient use of your time and energy - especially if you’re in a hurry to make freelancing work for you.

You could cut the years into weeks or days by simply asking someone who has been there.


Author Bio: 
Aimee Espiritu writes about freelancing, psychology and technology. You can connect with her on Twitter or Google+.

Which skills will help you find online freelancing projects?

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.

- - - - -

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:

The Process

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.

(Note: Don’t.)

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.

Quick reminders:

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:
    • Google
    • Quora
    • 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:

For newbies:


General VA

Social Media Manager

Possible rates 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
homepage copy
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.

For pros:


Technical Writer

Marketing Professional (Content Marketer or Social Media Marketer)

Possible rates 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+.