I moved to Cebu to work in a call center when I was 18, I just finished a two year Practical Nursing course a few months before but I could not find work because the hospitals weren’t hiring or you had to do volunteer work for at least a year or two before you actually got paid. I worked as a customer service advocate for an auto financing company in the U.S. and then as a financial service adviser for another U.S. bank for a total of four years.
At first it was fun. Everything was so new to me: living with friends, earning your own money for the first time, and being able to go out and party during days off. After a while, I realized that I really miss Tacloban. My friends and family were there and suddenly all I wanted was to move back home. Also, I was sick and tired of working at night and it was slowly affecting my health. There were a few things to consider though, one of those was that I wanted to have my own place and not live with my parents when I moved back so I had to find a job with the same income that I had in Cebu. There was one call center in Tacloban, but only paid half than the regular rate for call center agents in Cebu and Manila and I also didn’t want to work nights anymore so that wasn’t an option.
I remember a friend told me about working online as a freelancer and that it could potentially provide you with good income. So I started out by creating a profile at(formerly called oDesk) and applied for simple jobs like doing data entry and research work. Turns out, it wasn’t as easy as it seemed, so I tried exploring other online jobs. I eventually scored a job as an English tutor that I found on another site and did that while working as a financial service adviser so I could save up for my new place in Tacloban. However, my dad got sick so my plans changed and I had to come home immediately.
I was basically unemployed when I moved back home, as my tutoring gig ended so I had to give online freelancing another shot. I tried other freelancing sites like Freelancer and Elance but I found Upwork much easier to navigate and it did not require payment on anything. I completed my profile in Upwork by submitting a photocopy of my ID, I took exams like the Basic English Skills Test, English Spelling Test, Customer Service Test and the Telephone Etiquette Certification. I studied the site, and noticed that on every job post, there were hundreds and hundreds of applications sent. I realized that if I wanted to stand out among the rest, I had to write a good cover letter. Eventually, I was able to get a Virtual Assistant job for a start-up company in San Francisco and then later for a Dubai-based yoga instructor.
I still consider myself an amateur freelancer, but if you want to try out freelancing and need some tips, so far here’s what I can give:
- Make your profile shine.
Whether you sign up for Upwork, Freelancer, Guru or other freelancing sites, you need to work on your profile in order for clients to take notice and help them decide to pick you. List your qualifications, your work experience (whether online or not), your references and your skills.
- Start with a lower rate.
If you are starting out and don’t have hours of experience logged on that particular freelancing site, start with a lower rate for a better chance of getting hired. The competition out there is tough. There are lots of freelancers who both have experience and a reasonable rate and they are the ones who usually get the job. I suggest you start out with a lower rate and once you have logged in hours of experience and get good client reviews, then you can slowly start increasing it.
- Take the tests.
Like I mentioned earlier, I took a few tests to increase my chances of getting the gig. If you’re looking to score a Virtual Assistant or data entry job, tests like Basic English Skills and Spelling tests are recommended while the Customer Service Test, Email and Telephone Etiquette Tests are ideal for those who want to work as a customer service representative.
- Write a good cover letter.
Clients receive a lot of job applications with cover letters so you have to make yours stand out. Also, some clients may add instructions on their job post like, “Write the word YELLOW on the first line of your cover letter” or “Write about your favorite movie”. They want to make sure that their job post has been understood so you have to read them carefully before clicking on Apply Job and writing your cover letter right away.
- Learn new skills.
A lot of us who are starting out usually have limited skills. When I started in Upwork, I only had customer service skills. But when I started working as a Virtual Assistant, I learned a bit of MailChimp, product adding on a WordPress site and organizing events. You should also do research on how to do other stuff like article writing, SEO, social media management and lots more so you can have more to offer your clients.
I have been freelancing now for more than two years, and while my first year was tough, with a lot of patience and hard work, it now has become my steady source of income. Another tip to succeed in the online freelancing world is to take care of your clients because they may have lots of contacts and if you do a great job, they can refer those contacts to you.
Right now, I am taking an online freelancing course provided by Symphonics Co. Ltd.. They will be teaching us basic skills on article writing, social media campaign, SEO and WordPress website design and lots more. I am hoping this will help me gain more skills to be successful with online freelancing. The course is free as it is sponsored by Plan International and Accenture to help Typhoon Haiyan survivors like me get back on their feet. This course is ideal for people who want to start online freelancing as they will be giving you the basics like creating your profile on freelancing sites, how to win bids and everything necessary to get your first client. So if you happen to be reading this, interested in freelancing and you’re located in Tacloban City, Philippines, you may contact them on their Facebook page to check for available slots for the next batch of students.
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