After knowing how to “fear-proof” your freelancing journey, I think it’s about time that we talk about the realities of freelancing. Obviously, this article was not written to scare you (or was it? Haha! Just kidding!). But, I really thought about writing this, because more and more people are interested to try out freelancing in the Philippines.
More companies are also open to hiring independent contractors. Also, a lot of people have been asking me about freelancing tips, especially from those who are thinking of shifting careers.
I’m sure you’re at that point in your life if you’re reading this article today. It’s either you’re in the process of becoming a freelancer or creating some changes in your freelancing career. Or maybe, you’re just curious about what freelancing really is or you want to get into freelancing, but you’re feeling a bit lost and unsure of how to start.
Whatever the reason is, I’d like to share 15 things about freelancing that you should know about. I’ll talk about the harsh realities and all the exciting things that make freelancing such a thrilling career option.
- It takes a brave and courageous heart to be a freelancer.
Some people say online freelancing is easy. All you have to do is sit back and do things your own way.
But the truth is, it takes a brave heart and a courageous soul to be a freelancer!
It requires dealing with people coming from different countries, societies, and cultural backgrounds. Yet as a freelancer, you have to surpass all of those barriers and differences to do you work and deliver world-class work.
And this is not an easy task.
- Technological Limitations are real.
A recent article from Cosmo.PH says that the Philippines is one of the worst places in the world for freelancers. The factors they used to measure this included average internet connection speed, free Wi-Fi, and the average cost of a cup of coffee.
This is sad and true. You would hear a lot of freelancers complain about their internet service providers and the speed that they’re getting. There are also co-working spaces and good coffee places where you can get work done, but a freelancer’s budget is limited.
As freelancers, we rely a lot on these things. If internet drops intermittently, then it’s game over for us. If any of your gadgets break down, like your laptop, all else will. With this, you always need to come up with a back-up plan in case these things happen while you’re working.
- Avoid possible miscommunication between you and your clients.
You and your clients may have different beliefs and ideas. When you have clients from other countries, this is more likely to happen since you come from different countries and are brought up with different sets of values and grew up in different cultures.
Miscommunication may also happen because of differences in perception and intention (as I mentioned during my PayPal Freelancer Community Workshop). It can also be due to the differences in intonation or the words that you chose when communicating with a client.
So, as much as possible, try to keep this in mind and seek clarity with everything that you do for the client to avoid miscommunication. Write down how you understood the task and document everything. Send minutes of the meeting to your client so everyone is aligned.
- We may feel that we’re alone (most of the time).
All freelancers would agree that they spend more time facing the computer than meeting an actual human being around them.
They barely go out because they are busily working at home. They don’t have co-workers to speak of, but if they do, these co-workers are all virtual co-workers. So, oftentimes, they feel alone.
But this feeling is something that can be addressed. There are a lot of meet-ups, workshops, and training sessions that you can attend. If you really need someone to talk to, join “offline” activities like the PayPal Freelancer Community Workshops. If you’re online, you can also get some support and reassurance by interacting with other freelancers in the PayPal Philippines Freelancer Community Group. We can all share our challenges and our triumphs in this group, as well as be updated on the latest workshops when they’re announced!
- Contracts end and clients move on.
One thing to expect is that change is a reality. At any moment, the person or company you’re working for may end your contract or close down. If the client would like to try another service provider, you do not have the right to complain (legally) unless you have a contract that says so. In this kind of work, there is no such thing as “employment contract” that guarantees tenure or at least a 30 day notice from either party.
You client can end your contract any time — if they feel that they have no need for a freelancer. You have to live with it and move on.
What you can do about this is to plan ahead. Look for ways where you will have a steady stream of clients. Continue to build your net worth, so that you can charge and demand a higher rate. This will help you manage your finances well (you will need fewer higher paying clients than getting a lot of low paying clients). You can keep and build relationships with higher paying clients.
- Hone your Time-management skills
Clients are coming from all over the world. Because of this, you would need to track timelines and deadlines based on their location. This way you won’t miss any deadline or fail to comply with the client’s requirements. Make sure that as a freelancer, you have the “world clock” working on your phone most of the time.
You also need to learn how to manage your time effectively.
Working from home or remotely may mean that you also need to do housework or take care of the kids. You also need to have your ‘me time’ to keep your sanity in check.
There are free online tools you can use to maximize your time. One of the tools that you can use is called Tomighty, a free online pomodoro app that lets you do tasks in 25-minute intervals.
- Practice being Organized!
As a freelancer, it is necessary for you to learn how to organize things around you. Organize your desk (a clean desk brings clarity of thinking!). List the things or duties that you have to do. I have seen that “To-do-lists” work especially well.
Use tools that you are comfortable in using. If you are comfortable with writing in a notepad or notebook, then do it. If you feel more comfortable using Google Calendar, then use that. Online tools like Google Docs recently integrated calendars, notes, and a to-do-list tracker so you could take control of your tasks all in one place. And guess what! This is absolutely FREE! All you need to have is a gmail account to get started.
Another thing that I often miss is to send invoices on time. Do you know that PayPal has an invoice creation functionality? You can easily create invoices and easily send these to your clients.
Check out how you can create and send an invoice:
If you don’t have a PayPal account yet, you can sign up here: http://bit.ly/GA_O_PayPalSignUp
- You need to have Clerical Skills, too!
The administrative functions are tasks that we can’t do without. As a freelancer, we need to know how to send emails, collate data, do follow-ups, schedule events, and do all clerical tasks. You would also need to understand how to do basic accounting and bookkeeping in order to run your freelancing business.
You can use technology to make the most of your freelancing career.
Apps like Quickbooks and Freshbooks can help you track income and expenses easier. You can also use PayPal’s Report feature to keep track of your financial statements. This will give you insights, financial reports, and other information and help you create strategies to grow your funds, too.
- Online Visibility Matters
As a freelancer, you need to have a strong online presence.
You need to learn how to market yourself and your services. You should be easily found by your potential clients.
You also need to be visible and available online. Your clients might contact you for different tasks at any time of the day. Remember, no client would like to send a message and receive a response the following day, except if it is a Sunday or an official holiday.
Based on experience, the more active you are online and the more you interact with others, the better it is when you’re still looking for clients.
- Know how to market yourself and your services
As a freelancer, you are marketing your skills and the things that you can do.
The way you market yourself will be a testament to your marketing abilities as a freelancer. You are your own “portfolio”. Make sure that you let them know who you are, what you have done in the past, and what you are capable of doing. Continue to learn more about marketing.
- Gain respect and trust.
Clients look at two things: your skills and expertise and your past performance. One way of looking at your previous performance is by looking at the posted feedback on your profile in different freelancing sites. Another way for them to see if you are a serious freelancer is if you take your craft seriously (if you are running a legit freelancing career with business documents, if you are using trusted payment methods like PayPal, etc.). I talked about this in a recent blog post. You can read this: https://mommyginger.com/mythbuster-why-you-need-to-pay-your-taxes-as-a-freelancer.html
You win respect and trust over time, so you need to be consistent in delivering amazing work.
- Be Ready for Possible Stressors
Expect that as an online worker, you will most probably face a lot of stressors related to communication, internet connection, deadlines, and the like.
You need to learn how to adapt and manage things properly despite all the bumps along the way. A strong support system is also crucial. Surround yourself with people who understand and who will help you during these times.
- Be cautious of scams
A lot of online predators nowadays are waiting for those people that they can scam. They would offer scam investments to try to get your hard-earned money. It is best to study every so-called opportunity before grabbing it. Protect yourself and your money by researching well and doing due-diligence before jumping into any “legit” investment or opportunity.
This is why contracts are important. It protects you from scams and other dubious deals. It’s also essential in ensuring your financial stability as a freelancer.
Never work on projects without having at least a 50% down payment. Even if you’re working with friends, it’s best to ask for down payment when dealing with projects.
PayPal has an option for creating invoices to make it easier for you to collect payment from clients. You can also set up invoices for recurring projects and even create templates for the services you offer.
- Trial and error
We all make mistakes. If you lose a job, all you have to do is look for another. Learn from past mistakes to better your craft. Focus on the long game. Never lose hope and always aim to be better every day.
- Keep the passion and the fire burning!
Remember that you’re doing something that gives time flexibility. Do things that you love doing! Money will come once you’ve found that sense of purpose.
In cases when you feel tired, just remember that we are all human. Obviously, we get tired at times. This does not mean though that it’s time to give up! Just think of why you’re in this kind of career and why you chose this. Remembering your purpose can help you realign your focus and meet your goals.
So that’s it! I hope all these freelancing tips helped you get more realistic view of what to expect when your start freelancing.
Do you have any questions about freelancing? Let me know in the comments section below.