My Take: Starting a Freelance Writing Career in the Philippines
Starting a freelance writing career in the Philippines may seem easy. But it requires pure hard work and perseverance to last.
This year, I launched my journey to being a freelancer. I recalled two years ago that this is something I want to push through. And right now, I am totally in it.
But that journey was not easy.
Right now, I am still on my way to getting a full grip on my freelance business. Managing a couple of clients—international and local—is tough, of course. But the proper allocation of time is key. I can’t say I am an expert but if you start to get organized on your schedule, you will find a way to juggle projects without compromising the output of each. In a week, I spend two days in an office set-up, former employer turned client. The rest of the work week, I work location-independent. Most of the time, you will see me in a coffee shop or in a bread house nearby my apartment. Or, I am somewhere traveling.
This is where play comes in. The recreational and leisure part.
My leisure time, aside from traveling alone or with my partner, is spending coffee with loved ones.
On weekends I go to my parents’ home and spend time with the family. And because a big part of my work week has a flexible schedule, I can still spend more time with them. Sipping a cup of coffee while catching up with my parents is one of the best reasons while I am loving the digital nomad lifestyle. I am no longer chained in an 8-5 job.
My friends, just a few from college and former work mates, are also the people I love spending coffee with.
But of course, independence comes with a tad limitation when you are a freelancer. For one, not having an employer-employee relationship means you are not covered with benefits and all. A freelance career is a business and you need to take care of its every part—how to market yourself, how to sell, how to deal with clients, taxes, and more.
Freelance career: Is it for me?
I believe freelancing is not for the faint heart. It requires volition. The willingness to try things, be open to possibilities and opportunities, even rejections and failure—they are all a part of it. But the rewards of having a freelance business is all worth it.
Starting a freelance writing career in the Philippines
I am a Journalism graduate from the University of the East-Manila. I can say that my four years in college equipped me to be the person I am today. In those years I handled the school publication, as well as the organization of journalism students. In those years too that I was able to build connections in the media industry. And in those years I have practiced writing in different types.
While working as a full-time editorial assistant for a newspaper, I looked on jobs online. My first writing gig is a copy editor position for a yoga retreat booking site based in Indonesia. It lasted for four months. The second, I was an entertainment writer for a couple of trending news sites based in New York. It paid more than what my full-time job offered—and I was doing it after work, for two hours a day.
Get as many information as possible
Before this, I never knew online writing existed. But due to my curiosity, and boredom too, that I was able to read online articles about earning more right at the comforts of your home.
Tip: Read online articles. Follow freelancing websites like Freelance Union, Freelance Writing Gigs, and a whole lot more. And I subscribed to them.
I also get a regular dose of emails from top freelancers Neil Patel, Maggie Linders, and John Morrow.
Websites about business and entrepreneurship are also a big help. I followed Fast Company, Entrepreneurship, and the likes. In short, my social media feed is filled with ideas of freelancing and entrepreneurship, aside from inspiring travel stories.
Tip: Subscribe and sign up to online marketplace for freelancers. The top content mart is Upwork (formerly Elance). I recommend this for those who are starting, however, pitching and landing clients are a little competitive. Also, clients usually look for the pitches with the lowest rates. Which is a little turn off for me.
In the Philippines, I signed up for OnlineJobs.ph. Jobstreet also has listings for project-based, online/home based writers, and freelance writers.
There are dozens of online marketplace for freelancers, especially for writers. However, I don’t think many of these really want to help freelancers. I honestly believe some are only in for phishing. Just be careful on whataver platform you sign up for. Research first and then decide.
LinkedIn is a good source of eyeing potential clients. Whip up a good profile and interested recruiters will likely to stumble upon your page.
Tip: Follow freelancing groups on Facebook.
You may want to check out Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines. I remember I bagged my first big Filipino company client when I saw a freelance writer position.
Here are some other helpful groups for writers and digital nomads:
Just keep on scanning and checking out. Be sure to always check the emails as some, as I said, may just be phishing information from you. See if the one who posted has a legitimate Facebook account and double check on LinkedIn. It’s not stalking, you know. It’s just double checking if you are sending a resume or portfolio to a credible person.
How to secure the pay?
At first, I was so overwhelmed with writing jobs that I always comply with their tasks even if the payment has not been settled. But a couple of unpaid jobs after (one client just disappeared, another international one just don’t answer my emails anymore), I am now more firm on payment agreement.
First thing you have to secure is a contract.
But okay, you have the contract already. The client sent it to you via PDF and you returned it with your e-signature but really, a contract is merely a document if it’s sent virtually. Remember, they are from other countries, meaning there is a chance you can no longer chase after them if they just disappeared.
That’s when the second tip comes in: Ask for a downpayment.
For people working on Upwork, it is generally easier to deal with payments because there’s an escrow. Even before you start your job, the client pays the fund in Upwork. When you finished the project and asked for the pay, Upwork will release it to you, once client already approved the output.
I usually receive payments via Paypal and thru bank transfer.
How to market your freelance business?
Having a niche is key. Number two is building a portfolio. Join LinkedIn. Get connected with people in your industry.
Print business cards you can give away to people. Go to gatherings, join clubs and organization, social media pages related to your niche.
They say freelancing is mostly for the introvert. But really, if you want to have a steady flow of clients, you need to somehow get out and meet people. There are a lot of opportunities for networking.
Be a responsible freelancer
I know! Dealing with taxes is quite a headache. But since you are working, do not forget to pay taxes on time and voluntarily pay for your insurances. You can also be open to the idea of registering your name as a business. Start with registration thru the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Almost a year into freelancing, I can say I am still getting the hang of it, but I am more than excited to explore more possibilities. I can’t say I am totally ditching the corporate-boxed-9 to 5 jobs but right now, I am loving my lifestyle.
I’ve read and witnessed inspirational stories for the longest time. Hundreds of them. There’s one former schoolmate who ventured into baking because it calls her more than the office work. One make-up artist is living the dream after making the big decision of ditching one career and pursuing what she really loves. Another one just auditioned (and got accepted for the lead role) for a play she has been praying for. All of these, and more, are my inspiration to spread my own wings. In my case, to be a freelancer that is.
If they can, then so am I. And I believe, whatever your heart desires, you can too.