You don’t need to repeat my mistakes or other freelancers’ to successfully navigate the world of freelancing. You can learn them so you avoid experiencing them again. History does not repeat itself, we repeat history.
Having been an online freelancer since 2010, I have had shares of ups and downs that can be of relevant value for you. The major platform I use is Upwork, even up to this day. Thankfully, I was able to maintain a consistent 100% job success rate and top talent.
I know some items in the following list may change, but for now, here are tested-and-proven strategies through the years that I learned and that I want to share as a freelancer:
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1. Have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
You have to decide early what’s your Unique Selling Proposition. Enjoy, persevere, innovate and pain the niche.
What is it that sets your apart? What makes you valuable and sought for? What is your target market/ clients?
What is it that you really want to know deeply in your life? What is that something that even when it gets hard, you will still enjoy doing? Passion will get you through it. Truth is, in life, we will have one (or at least a few) selling propositions.
Truth is, not matter what you do in life, you can have something to blog for. You can have something to do for free or for freelance. You can aim to start as a freelancer and later on as a consultant of something. It can be a profession, business, ministry or knowledge experties- my point is, your USP is your gift to the society- and this is where you leverage. One positive thing with freelancing, is that you can enjoy what you do and at the same time earn from it.
2. Continuously Upgrade Your Skills
The freelance and offline world have a lot in common- one is the need for perpetual learning. The IT realm is an ever-changing arena. You should not be left behind. Be evergreen. Be evolving.
Just like BPOs, the world of freelancing is constantly changing. No human knows the future for all certainty, but it is always good to retool, refresh and upgrade to higher-value skills time to time so you can stay competitive in your field. You may serve a client that has repetitive tasks, but I think this is the best time you can explore other arenas.
Here in the Philippines, we’ve been known as one of the top destinations for voice outsourcing, but we gradually transforming to become a center for Non-Voice operations such as HIM (Health Outsourcing due to high volume of nursing grads), ESL (English as Second Language due to our English competency) and other non-voice skills.
The threat of robots. One reason why you need to upgrade continually is because of the threat of AI and the maturing of software development. Yes, there are still doubts with AI if it is feasible to replace call centers, but you don’t know what is ahead, so it is better to have some preparations for uncertainties. No one knew in the past that typewriters can be replaced. The key is to innovate.
Robots replaced my job. One thing I am certain about: Canva replaced most of my main line work before as a Graphics Designer. Before, clients would hire me to make social media images. Then here came Canva- an online design maker. The amount that clients paid me was much higher per design compared to what Canva can make. Canva is cheaper, better and faster. Canva is a website, a robot, a program. The competition is killing human-done jobs. It replaced my job- at least as a Photoshop designer but still, clients need Canva workers. My point is this: we don’t know if your current job will be replaced by some company in the near future.
Here is a list the freelance jobs that you can work on in Upwork.
Choose Rare or Evergreen Skills. My advise is to choose skills that are not very crowded because recently, Upwork is rejecting applicants that apply with very familiar skills like Data-entry. You might as well choose skills that are evergreen- those that cannot be easily replaced. Be a linchpin. Be someone who’s hard to be replaced. In my opinion, the jobs that are highly in demand in the long-term are SEO, Marketing, Autocad, WordPress, Amazon Affiliates, Programming, Lead Generation and SEM/ Facebook Marketing. The glorious future of work are Augmented Reality, Internet of Things and Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency.
Migrate your offline world to the online. One beauty of freelance is you don’t have to be totally an IT. There are many jobs that are very present in the offline world such as Engineering designs, AutoCad, Legal Services and Research. Some jobs can even be called classic or traditional. So, engineers and attorneys can join and benefit as freelancers in Upwork too. I even knew someone who, even her prepaid load, was being refunded through Upwork’s offline/manual logs.
Target long-term work. Staying in a certain platform has advantages: (1) In Upwork, for example, allows you to earn a record of working hours. This sends positive signals to your future clients if you were able to maintain good work relationships with good clients for a long period of time. (2) The longer you stay in a field, the greater the possibility of increasing your expertise, authority and network.
Ways to upgrade skills. When I started in Upwork, I only have Photoshop skills as a starter. Back in high school, we have this Skills subject called TLE or STEP, and that’s where I was able to gain knowledge. These then became a way for me to make an Upwork profile. When I realized that Photoshop skill is becoming more crowded, I endeavoured to learn web development through CodeAcademy. You can learn for free in that site as well as in Udemy and W3schools. These are the top 3 sites that helped me learn WordPress/HTML.
3. Network with Other Freelancers
Work in a Co-working Space. From the word itself, this type of office aims to network with other workers and allow opportunities of networking to flourish. Honestly, working from home can sometimes be boring. You work alone, eat alone or get entertained alone, except if you have kids or families staying at home. Co-working spaces are on the rise around the country. It’s also a place where students meet and study. Some offer unlimited coffee/juices, couch to sleep, big tables to work with or small cubicles to concentrate. Here’s one co-working space in my city.
Attend networking events. Be on the lookout for events such as seminars, small groups or conferences that will allow you to meet other people. Co-working spaces occasionally offer networking events where they invite experts from certain freelance fields. I advise that you attend alone so you can take time talking to people for the first time. Equip yourself with conversation starters and businesscards.
Be empowered through Facebook Groups where you can constantly interact with fellow freelancers and gain through their experience. Join and contribute for our flourishing. Here’s an Upwork FB Group which I moderate.
4. Automate your Bills
As a freelancer, time is gold. As much as possible, you would want to save time as a freelancer so you can devote to things that matter. Some would disagree on getting a credit card, but I think it still takes discipline as much as you need self-control in cash.
With a credit card, I automate my payments or pay my bills online such as:
1. Internet Bill- the internet is your bread and butter. You want to make sure it is paid in time to avoid disconnection. I advise that you get Fibr connection because it is faster.
2. Phone / Postpaid– I am also a salesman, that’s why I prefer to have a plan. Having postpaid also allows you to have consistent internet so you can communicate with clients via Email or Upwork app.
3. Insurance– I use BPI Expressonline to pay my Sun Life Financial Life and Health insurance.
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4. Save the Bank waiting time- when I go to BPI, I go directly to the teller because I used BPI online express assist.
5. Aim for Top-Rated Profile
Here are some tips I gathered from friends over the years:
a. Always check the credibility of the client- feedbacks, amount paid, work history, etc.
b. Don’t accept payments outside Upwork- yes there is a fee, but the benefits of protection, profile progress and more outweigh the fees that are deducted from your client.
c. Target long-time- it will lead to sliding Upwork fees and better profile rating.
d. In my personal opinion, it’s better to get lower but long-term contracts than bigger but uncertain and unstable work.
6. Get Some Rest
Freelancers are not robots. Life is short. Don’t let the temptation of further income gets its way against your health. You are not in control. We were not designed to accommodate the demands of the digital economy 24/7. Set limits to your family during work or rest time. Make time for quality time, perhaps every weekend.
One reason I was able to endure was that I did rest. Rest allows our mind to recuperate. It decreases irritability. If available, get some time to travel or enjoy some vacation. The beauty of creation is a healing balm.
Ultimately, get spiritual rest. Reflect on His Word. Cast all your cares upon Him. The ultimate rest is found in Christ alone- “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” “I am the Lord of the Sabbath/ Rest.”
7. Get Protection and Investments
You don’t want your hard-earned income be put to waste. Yes life is short, that’s why enjoy, but what if life gets longer that it should? How would you approach retirement? How would you get your kids to college? What would happen to your dependents in case uncertainties come?
Place your income on instruments that will grow through time. You work to earn money, but make it as a goal that money will work for you so you can give time to things that you love most. As a Financial advisor, I can help you get income protection, health protection and investments all at the same time. Contact me here.
Do you have other tips to share? Comment below.
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