Working flexibly, sustainably: How to be a professional freelancer

Cover art Erka Inciong

logo

Words by

Digital Reporter

Working 8-to-5 at a desk job for a big corporation — for most, that’s what work looks like. And as if the job in itself wasn’t tiring enough, bumper-to-bumper traffic and long lines at the stations make exhaustion and stress inescapable.

In an increasingly competitive world, more and more of these sacrifices need to be made. Filipino workers trade in control over their time and energy for economic stability. At least, that’s the traditional model. But what if there were an alternative that could not only eliminate these downsides but also possibly offer a more prosperous lifestyle?

Work locally, compete globally

Freelancing isn’t a foreign concept for most Filipinos, but its nature may not be inviting for the majority. Without a steady employer, a monthly paycheck isn’t guaranteed. It just doesn’t seem practical for workers struggling to make ends meet in today’s economy.

Professional freelancers like CJ Maturino-Cajoles, hope to shatter this misconception. Maturino-Cajoles is the CEO of Online Filipino Freelancers (OFF), a network of Filipino freelancers that claims to be the “biggest, most active, and most influential community in the Philippines.”

Countless online tools and resources have opened a world of opportunities in today’s global gig economy. And Filipinos have the means to capitalize on that market. “[Especially now that mastering] Facebook, SEO, and Google are the trends, a Filipino can definitely start to be an online marketer, or a writer, a blogger, or you can do web design for clients abroad not only in the US but the entire world,” Maturino-Cajoles said.

And if you’re working for clients abroad, that translates to the figures you’re paid. “If Americans can earn 50 dollars per hour, why can’t Filipinos?” she said. In 2017, the PSA recorded 2.3 million Filipinos working abroad, leaving their families to find better paying work elsewhere. Being an online freelancer, Maturino-Cajoles says, means being able to reach those same clients, without ever leaving your home.

“Zero to six figures in seven days — now that sounds like a headline or something. But that’s true,” said John Pangulayan, an email copywriter and OFF-member. “It’s doable. I’ve done it.”

Taking back control

Lish Aquino, an Amazon seller and fellow member of OFF, shared how she achieved work-life balance, particularly with her role as a mother. “Ang ganda-ganda nung you’re just working two to four hours a day, you’re working part-time, you’re just at home. Tapos you’re being with your kids, and you’re earning very well.”

(“It’s great that you’re just working 2 to 4 hours a day, you’re working part-time, you’re just at home. Plus you’re being with your kids, and you’re earning very well.”)

The global gig economy offers more and more Filipinos opportunities to earn well and work flexibly. Those who have mastered the tools of the trade, as the members of OFF claim to have done, are nurturing highly competitive careers, without ever having to clock in at an office or sit through traffic. Now these professional freelancers are coming together to pool their resources and share that expertise with the Filipino people at large.

On Oct. 13, OFF will be hosting the first-ever Online Filipino Freelancers Conference (OFFCon) at Le Pavillon, Pasay City. The whole day affair features an experienced lineup of speakers such as Glenda Victorio, Gawad Amerika 2018’s Youngest Filipino CEO in the field of Skincare, who received the award at age 21.

A wide array of topics will be covered, from filing taxes as a freelancer to maximizing earnings from international clients.

Financial literacy will be another core topic at the event. Floi Wycoco, founder of financial literacy advocacy group and OFFCon co-presenter, The Global Filipino Investors (TGFI), lamented how much money Filipinos are losing due to bad investments. “For the last 10 years, there’s almost around a hundred billion pesos scammed from Filipinos,” he said.

OFF and TGFI hope that the conference will open doors for freelancers and OFWs interested in matching their salaries abroad while working back at home.

“The gig economy is really booming, and a lot of Filipinos are being opened to the idea of ‘It’s possible for me pala to work from home’,” Maturino-Cajoles said. “For OFWs to go back to the Philippines and just really stay home, makita nila yung milestone ng mga kids nila and they don’t have to leave at all, Maturino-Cajoles said.

(Like Sir JJ mentioned, the gig economy is really booming, and a lot of Filipinos are being opened to the idea of ‘It’s possible for me to work from home’,” Maturino-Cajoles said. “For OFWs to go back to the Philippines and just really stay home, see the milestones of their kids without leaving at all.”)