The Philippines is currently experiencing a freelancing renaissance of sorts. Thanks to sites such as Smalljobs, freelancers find it easier than ever before to get in touch with those who need them the most, and local businesses now have access to a wide selection of domestically-cultivated world-class talents.
However, all freelancers have to start somewhere. For a good number of them, the first few months of years can be absolutely brutal. It would be fair to say most people aren’t cut out for the lifestyle, at least, not as a regular source of income.
Between untalented hacks who dilute the value of the market by spreading disinformation and offering ridiculous rates and predatory clients who thrive on the desperation and Filipino penchant for passivity, one could say that the freelance scene is a buyer’s market right now.
However, if you play your cards right, there is plenty of good money – and freedom – to be had.
1.) Use a contract
Novice freelancers are uniquely vulnerable to predatory clients who may take advantage of their eagerness to take any job that goes their way. Creatives are especially vulnerable due to the somewhat open-ended and subjective nature of their work. Without a contract, clients may request unreasonable numbers of revisions or take their time paying the freelancer.
Contracts can go a long way into ensuring that the scope and scale of a specific job are unambiguous and affords both the freelancer and the client are protected. Check out this sample contract for one-off projects and consult with a lawyer to draft a standard contract that you can use when dealing with clients.
2.) Don’t be afraid to “fire” clients
Some clients simply aren’t worth your time. Unfortunately, many Filipino freelancers still have a misplaced sense of loyalty, even given the fact that the freelancer-client relationship isn’t exactly conducive to that kind of attitude.
If you have a toxic client, don’t hesitate to shop around for replacements, because chances are, your client isn’t interested in being loyal to you either. If that were the case, then they would want to hire you full time or put you on a retainer.
3.) Always ask for cash upfront
A lot of clients will try to ask you to work for free, in order to “prove” that you have what it takes. However, one must consider that the purpose of your portfolio is to present proof of your capability as a freelancer. If you have a good portfolio ad your client still asks you to work to “prove” yourself, it may be a good idea to stay away.
4.) Focus on the one thing you’re good at
While you might genuinely be multitalented, it’s usually best to specialize in one very specific field. This will allow you not only to eventually become a true subject matter expert in that field, but it will also allow you to build a stronger, more refined portfolio as well. Together, this will allow you to become an authority in the area you choose to specialize, which can often be more profitable than simply being adequate in a variety of areas.
5.) Study SEO
Regardless of the field you want to freelance in, it helps to have at least some knowledge of how search engine optimization (SEO) works. These principles don’t just apply to large search engines, such as Google, but also to internal search engines such as those on e-commerce and job-placement sites as well. If you’re having trouble getting inquiries or being found, that small bit of SEO knowledge can make all the difference to your budding freelance venture.
6.) Pay your taxes
A shocking number of freelancers don’t pay their taxes. In the Philippine freelancing community, tax evasion is often considered to be the unspoken rule, rather than the exception. However, more and more freelancers find themselves being audited by the BIR, and that’s not exactly something you want to risk happening to yourself.
7.) Optimize your home office
One of the biggest perks of working for yourself is that you get to set up your own work conditions. This isn’t always possible in a regular workplace setting. Your set-up in a regular job might be subject to arbitrary rules and budget constraints. On the other hand, your home office – or what passes for it – can and should be made conducive to your specific work style.
Having equipment and layouts that you enjoy using will not only help make work more pleasant, it can also help keep you focused on being productive. This means a well-optimized workspace can have a significant impact on both your happiness and your ability to deliver quality work to your clients.
Bonus: Keep your mental health in check
Freelancer burnout is a very real thing. Depression, anxiety, and social isolation also run rampant in the community, perhaps largely because Philippine culture is quite social and collectivist, while freelance work can often be lonely and highly individualistic. There is also a very primitive mental health support system in the country, at least in contrast with developed nations. Learning to manage your mental energy can go a long way in helping keep your freelance practice consistently productive – and profitable.