Have you ever daydreamed about being your own boss? Then becoming a freelancer might be a career path you can explore. Freelancing is a growing trend worldwide. Freelancers use specialized skills to do specific work for clients without committing to full-time employment. If you're a freelancer, you can work on multiple projects for different clients at the same time.
The disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic made freelancing more common, especially in the Philippines. People who lost their jobs during the pandemic had to turn to alternate sources of income, such as freelance work, to replace or supplement their finances. Full-time freelancers are considered self-employed in the Philippines and can work as independent contractors.
Ready to take that leap into freelancing? This comprehensive guide will discuss what you need to know about starting, building, and growing as a freelancer.
Working freelance can be an additional source of income or an alternative career path. Freelancing offers many benefits that make it appealing.
The pandemic challenged the traditional work arrangement of many industries in the country. More people were allowed to work remotely after the nationwide quarantine was first set in 2020. Now, commuting to an office where you have to spend a prescribed number of hours per week may no longer be pleasant or financially viable.
If you thrive in a remote working set-up with flexible hours, freelancing might be a good career choice. You can structure your day as you need to, fitting in errands or other non-work tasks. Your office may be at home, in a co-working space, in a nearby cafe, or wherever you find yourself most comfortable.
In some cases, you might need to go to a client's office or be available for a fixed number of hours. But generally, freelancing gives you more choices regarding when and where you work.
As a freelancer, you are your own boss. You control all aspects of your work: your load, your income, and your schedule. You have contracts and deliverables for your clients, but you can make your own decisions when it comes to the projects and clients you want to work with.
Freelancers can often negotiate their own rates. You can earn more per project than you would with a fixed salary. You can take on multiple projects and increase your earning potential.
Freelancing allows you to work with different companies, opening up opportunities to do projects across various fields or industries. As a freelancer, you can work on projects you are interested in or challenge and excite you.
Getting started with freelancing can feel daunting at first. Here's what you can do.
As a self employed person, you're banking on your skills for income so you must know your strongest skills. It's equally important to know what you are interested in because working on your own can be lonely and challenging. You'll have to motivate yourself. One way to do that is to find work that is engaging.
If you are a marketing writer, you may have tried your hand at writing different marketing material, from company news articles and brochures to web content. In addition, if you are good at creating snappy, memorable text for social media posts, this can be your jump-off point as you possess strong writing skills.
Freelancers can have highly specialized skill sets. Once you have identified your strongest skills and interests, find out where your skills will provide the most value by choosing your niche. This will help increase your earning potential as an independent contractor.
One practical way to prepare for freelance work is to set up your work area. A Harvard Business Review article cited the importance of a “place” or dedicated workspace as one of the factors that help people thrive in freelancing. Your workspace could be a specific place in your home, like a work desk in your room. You could also have a favorite co-working space or cafe you work at.
A portfolio is a professional snapshot of who you are as an independent contractor. Your portfolio should contain samples of your best work and highlights your skills and achievements. As a freelancer, this serves as your “brochure” and should encourage potential clients to hire you.
Having an online presence is no longer optional in today's business environment. As a freelancer, you need to promote and advertize your services. Potential clients should be able to find you when they search online. You can create a website, maintain a professional blog, and curate your social media sites for your own business.
Also read: Going Freelance? Let's Get To Work!
Once you are ready to take on projects, you can find freelance work by:
Networking is important to your success as a freelancer. Build your network to include past, present, and potential clients. You can connect with your school alumni and people you have worked with.
Include other freelancers in your network as well. If they have different specializations, they may recommend you when they hear of an opportunity that suits you. Freelancers with the same specialization may pass on projects to you when they're at full capacity or if they're not interested. You can also pass on projects to other freelancers or inform them about job opportunities to build good working relationships.
Joining a freelance job platform can be a good first step for finding work and projects when you're starting out. Look at different platforms to get a sense of available opportunities, in-demand skills, and service rates. Explore Jobstreet, Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer.com, and similar sites.
You can create your freelancer profile and reach out to potential clients offering freelance work opportunities. Remember to keep your communication within the official freelance job platform to avoid getting scammed.
As a freelancer, you need to actively look for clients and projects. Learning how to pitch is a must. When you are new to freelancing, you may not have a big network or referrals yet. So find clients and projects you are really interested in and give your best pitch!
A proposal is your opportunity to show what you are offering and how you can meet a potential client's needs. Potential clients will look at your proposal to evaluate how you can meet their needs. Highlight your relevant skills. Emphasize how your services can benefit a client and add value to a project.
Freelance work will also involve negotiating your rates and the details of your contract. You must do your due diligence by researching standard or industry rates, clarifying the scope of your work and deliverables, and building your confidence to negotiate. You can set your rates in two ways. You can bill your client for the number of hours worked or you can propose a project cost, which is a fixed rate for the entire project.
Time management is an important skill that you as a freelancer need to develop since you will be setting your own work schedule. One way to hack your time and productivity peaks is to create your ideal routine based on your chronotype. If you're a morning person, tackle your most challenging tasks before noon. If you are more energized in the evenings, do easier tasks in the morning so you have more brain power later in the day.
Set goals that are meaningful to you. Your goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound). A SMART goal can be: “Send two project proposals to potential clients every week this month.”
Once you have identified your career goals, create an action plan to help you achieve them. State your goals and objectives, list the specific actions and tasks that can help you meet your goals, monitor your progress, and adjust your approach when circumstances change.
As a freelance worker, your monthly income varies, depending on your projects. Have a complete and realistic view of your income and keep a strict budget. Maintain separate bank accounts for your personal and business finances.
Freelancers must file and pay taxes. Educate yourself on the requirements, procedures, and deadlines when it comes to filing your income tax returns and registration renewals. Since you will be handling all your paperwork and other administrative matters, you need to devise a system and automate certain tasks or hire someone to assist you.
Difficult clients exist in every industry, whatever your career. Some clients may not respect your work-life boundaries, are late with payments, or are hard to work with for one reason or another. If you find yourself with a difficult client, stay professional. Ensure you are protected with a clear contract. There may be situations when you have to engage with a difficult client. When this happens, seek to resolve conflicts peacefully. When all else fails, establish your boundaries or refer them back to the contract politely and professionally.
You might take on larger or more complex projects as your freelance career grows. You can build a team to assist you with additional assignments or tasks. You can also outsource part of your work to other freelancers or professionals. If you're a freelance graphic artist and a client wants you to do an illustrated book project, your team will need a writer and an editor. If you need to create a lot of artwork in a limited amount of time you can also outsource some of the illustrations to another graphic artist.
You can also outsource some of your administrative tasks as a freelancer. For example, you can get an accountant to keep track of your finances and do your taxes.
You may start offering one service in one area and then expand to more services in other areas. You might develop a different specialization or discover other interests. If you are a photographer who started by covering weddings, you could branch out to covering corporate events. You might become a videographer as well.
Once you have established yourself as a freelancer, have the confidence to increase your rates. For instance, the Freelance Writers' Guild of the Philippines has a recommended minimum industry rate for Filipino freelance writers. Those with more experience and skills are encouraged to increase their rates accordingly. Your track record and the quality of your work should justify your higher rates.
A referral is an indication of trust, and you are more likely to get a project if you are referred by someone that the client trusts. Contacts will refer you if they know that you are worth working with and bring value to a project. Referrals can come from past clients, other freelancers, peers, friends, and family. Nurture these relationships, not just to get referrals but because they are all part of your community.
Freelancers do not have consistent income every month like those with regular salaries, so they need to create passive income streams. Passive income stream ideas include investing in stocks, affiliate marketing, and renting out property.
As your work as a freelancer expands, so does the market you can serve. You can scale up your freelance business and pivot toward other markets. Offer more services and collaborate with other freelancers in complementary fields. By doing so, you can propose more complete solutions and offer a full-service team to clients.
If you are considering a career as a freelancer, remember: You are your most important resource – you must take care of yourself. Don't take on more projects than you can handle.
True self-care is taking the time to invest in your health and resilience. Start with the basics by eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, and moving your body regularly. Find the time to rest physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As in everything, strive to find the right balance in your professional and personal life.
Everyone has to face rejection and failure at some point in their career. A Psychology Today article says adopting the right mindset can help you cope with failure. Acknowledge that failing is part of the process for many areas in life. Allow yourself to feel bad about failures or setbacks. You can try journaling or talking with a trusted friend to process your feelings. And keep going. There are more clients and more projects out there!
Freelancers need to have a steady source of inspiration and creativity. What inspires and energizes you? You can set aside time for activities that excite you, like a hobby or sport. When you engage in activities outside of work, you'll find that you're more productive and innovative.
Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you are unworthy despite your accomplishments and that you will be exposed as a fake. Impostor syndrome is common, especially among creatives like writers and artists. But you can overcome it. Remind yourself of your past successes and how far you have come when you feel discouraged. While the negative thoughts that come with imposter syndrome may not go away completely, countering these thoughts with positive self-talk and evidence of your achievements can help you refocus and keep going.
Having a sense of belonging is a very human need. Freelancers do not have the built-in social interaction that a traditional workplace has, so be intentional in looking for support and joining communities. Your community can provide support and encouragement. It is a valuable resource when it comes to advice in practical and personal matters. Most importantly, a community makes you feel less alone.
According to a 2022 national survey on freelancers, as many as 1.5 million Filipinos work freelance. Freelancing gives you flexibility, more autonomy, increased earning potential, and diverse opportunities.
You can get started with freelancing by assessing your skills and interests, choosing a niche, setting up your workspace, and developing your portfolio and online presence. Find freelance work by expanding your network, building relationships, using freelance job platforms, pitching to potential clients, creating a strong proposal, and learning how to negotiate your rates and contracts.
You can manage your freelance business by practicing good time management, setting goals, getting your taxes in order, learning how to deal with difficult clients, and building a team you can work with whenever you need to outsource tasks. You can also grow your freelance business by offering more services, increasing your rates, building a referral system, creating passive income streams, and scaling your business when the time is right.
With self employment, it's important to stay motivated and avoid burnout by prioritizing self-care and your work-life balance. Prepare yourself for times of rejection and failure, and find ways to stay creative and inspired. Do your best to overcome the impostor syndrome and seek support from your loved ones and your “tribe” or community.
Whether you want to supplement your regular income while working full-time or explore a new career path, freelancing can be a viable option. Use this guide as you get started on your freelance journey. Good luck!