Over 629,000 Filipinos use the platform Freelancer.com to find online work, and the site hopes to raise that number to over 1 million by end-2015.
Freelancing benefits individual Filipino users because it is a true meritocracy, says Evan Tan, the Freelancer.com regional director for Southeast Asia.
“The beauty of freelancing is not just the extra income nor even the spare time for other responsibilities, but also the equal opportunity that freelancing allows – no matter what your social, economic, or educational background is, you have a chance to work on your passion,” Tan said.
Since 2013, Tan and the Freelancer.com team have noticed a growing demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related work, such as web development, engineering, Matlab and Mathematica, and 3D-related projects.
While Tan agrees that it is smart to try to pick up the skills that are most in demand, he cautions against doing so simply for the sake of money.
“How does your passion intersect with a present need? What thing can you do and which you love doing that the world will be more than willing to pay for?” Tan said. He said this intersection is the sweet spot that all freelancers should aspire for.
Freelancing as a ‘true career’
One challenge for the site in gaining more active users is that many Filipinos still see online freelancing as only a supplement to full-time work, a way to generate side money, build portfolio, or expand professional network.
Yet, according to Tan, freelancing can be leveraged into a true career, with some freelancers even doing so on skills that they picked up through the platform.
Freelancing can even become an enterprise of sorts – if the commitment is there.
“We’ve seen people who have made it into a business, eventually hiring several team members and turning into an overseer who delegates tasks,” Tan shared.
This process begins with the freelancer doing part-time work, before transitioning to full-time work after they have proved themselves to the employers on the site.
While this is an admirable goal – making good income from the comfort of your home and having great flexibility to boot, Tan emphasized that it takes time and dedication.
“Our platform’s top freelancers took years and several projects and good reviews before the projects started pouring in constantly,” he pointed out.
Whether Filipinos use Freelancer.com for part-time or full-time work, Tan said that people only get out of the platform as much as they put in.
“It’s not an overnight success in the freelancing industry. It’s not like winning the lottery,” Tan said.
The Freelancer.com experience
Yet even if their attitude is right, freelancers still have to contend with issues that are well beyond their control. One such example is the Internet speed in the Philippines.
Tan says our Internet has the slowest average connection in Asia, inevitably affecting the user experience on Freelancer.com.
“So while our users could sign up on the platform, a slow and choppy Internet connection could cause project delays and communication problems,” Tan said.
Thus, they need the government’s support to address this issue, especially as he feels that the website can contribute to nation building, Tan said.
“By developing their skills and creating avenues where they can expose themselves to the right network, we dream to have more financially-empowered, highly-skilled Filipino freelancers who contribute to our country’s economic growth,” Tan said.
For now, Tan and the Freelancer.com team are focused on building a supportive community around the platform in the Philippines.
The team, for example, hosts regular Talino Talks seminars. For these sessions, experts from different fields – including everything from the Internet of Things and 3D printing to personal finance and personal brand development – come in to share their knowledge.
Tips to freelancers
Tan shared how aspiring freelancers can make the most out of the Freelancer.com platform.
He recommended that Filipinos treat the Freelancer.com profile like an actual resume in that they must try to fill it out in as much detail as they can.
This advice extends to their portfolio section. While most Filipinos might assume that the portfolio section is only for visually-oriented jobs like graphic design, Tan believes all freelancers should avail of the opportunity this section represents.
“You can include articles you’ve written to show off your writing skills and strengths, or attach some of your Powerpoint presentations if you are looking for jobs related to presentation skills,” Tan said.
He added that voice actors could even go so far as to include audio-visual presentations that they have dubbed.
This hard work pays off in the end, especially as Tan thinks that freelancing can be a viable option to grow if your day job is not providing you with that opportunity.
“If our current jobs do not help us grow as professionals, or even as individuals, then we should look for other avenues where we can take charge of our careers and lives,” Tan said. – Rappler.com
Rappler Business columnist Ezra Ferraz is also the chief content officer at ZipMatch, a tech company backed by Ideaspace Foundation, Hatchd Digital, IMJ Investment Partners, and 500 Startups. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Connect with him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz
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