I had a great chat recently with fellow career freelancer Jan B about how she started working through FreeeUp and how it has changed her life. From working herself sick in the corporate world going in circles, she has found fulfillment building an impressive freelance business through the marketplace. It’s a truly inspiring story of how hard work pays off when you have the right people and system to support you.
What did you do before you became a Filipino Nomad?
Right after graduating from college, I started working in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. I did customer service there for 8 years before I started doing online freelancing.
I started in BPO because it was the only job I could think of where I could earn enough to support myself and my family. The call center industry in the Philippines was booming back then, and that greatly influenced my decision. It was a trend to do move from one call center to another to get better pay, but I never did that. I only worked for two BPO companies in the Financial Services industry, one in Banking and Finance, and still proudly work with the last one, in the Consumer Electronics industry. I was loyal to these companies, but I still almost always found myself wanting more to occupy my time and earn more money.
I am an arts enthusiast on top of admittedly being a workaholic. With these two qualities, I tried doing some Production Management for film and theatre, casting, acting, and many other various kinds of part-time work in the entertainment industry. Sadly, I discovered that none of these endeavors would give me the location independence and financial freedom that I really wanted. It was severely draining. I was working an 8 hours on the graveyard shift with my schedule often changing. I was also attending auditions, rehearsals, film shoots and related events. And I was spending a lot of time traveling to and from different cities of the Metro Manila area to get where I needed to be for all this.
This hectic schedule finally began to affect my health. At first, I got tired so easily, feeling drained after just a few hours of call center duty. Then my previously stellar work performance started to fail. Next, I started missing shifts. To make things worse, I was beginning to accumulate medical bills and had used up all my company medical benefits. I needed and didn’t have the cash to pay for these and other expenses because I was working less than before. It had to stop, there was just no way this could go on.
How did you first start freelancing?
Before I moved to the last BPO company I worked for, I tried my luck as a freelance artist. I got involved in full-time film production and casting calls. The salary was minimum wage, however, and I had to commute back and forth every day. It wasn’t working out, so I went back to BPO. I was down and out and I needed to pick myself back up, so I did everything I could to excel and prove my worth once again. My client in the US noticed, and within three months of working for him, I was commended for my efforts. He also put me in charge of customers, dealers, and the entire Business Development department of his company when he was out on business trips. This experience taught me how to be independent and not rely on supervision to get things done right. I learned how to handle problems on my own. This client taught me a lot of things I never knew I could learn, and that I still apply to my work today.
During my time at this fourth company, the idea of being a Filipino nomad through online freelancing started to become more well known around the Philippines. A trust developed between myself and that same client, and he let me start working from home when my health began to fail so I didn’t have to stop working for his company. My freelancing career started there, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity he gave me.
My life began to change for the better at this point because I was able to focus more on work and spend more hours productively while also resting more without the need to commute and deal with traffic. I started to experience that freedom that I had longed for, but I still wanted to be able to earn more, to travel and become a true Filipino nomad.
With more time on my hands, I started setting up profiles on almost all the freelancing platforms I could find. Getting those first projects wasn’t easy, but the trial and error I went through was a good learning experience. I found out that I was literally on my own freelancing online. There wasn’t much of a support system at this early stage in the gig economy, not even enough freelancers, apparently, to form a good Facebook community. Then I found FreeeUp.
When did you find the FreeeUp Marketplace, and what enticed you to join?
In early 2016, FreeeUp’s CEO, Nathan, sent me a message about FreeeUp, but I didn’t join. I was skeptical because it was a new marketplace, so I actually ignored him. I already had a current long-term client who had been very good to me for three years, plus lots of side gigs from all the much bigger freelance platforms I was already on.
I did finally join FreeeUp in September of 2016, however. As I went for different projects on different platforms, I researched this newcomer. I Googled them and watched all their YouTube videos. They marketed a pretty impressive approach to eCommerce hiring, so when they needed a Walmart product lister, I applied.
What was it like working through FreeeUp the first few months?
Opportunities for work came fast on FreeeUp, unlike other platforms where communication with clients can be difficult. I was hired by my first client through the marketplace one day after being added to the Skype freelancer group chat. Within a week, I was hired by four more clients. I also became one of the marketplace internal assistants, working a few hours a day for both Nathan and the CMO, Connor. I realized that all I needed to find work on FreeeUp was the right skill sets.
Tell us about how your freelancing business grew.
After nine months of working through the marketplace, I was able to build my own freelance business. I already had my own freelancing business for artists and online professionals, and I just added FreeeUp and started hiring freelancers there to assist me with additional projects. I now have from seven to ten active associates at any given point who do various tasks for clients – with their permission, of course. I personally and fully onboard each of them in multiple skill sets as tasks come in and as time allows.
It has been very fulfilling since I have always wanted to become a trainer and share my experience, and I finally have that chance. In addition, because of the great support and the constant learnings I get from new clients, I am able to help others build their own freelancing careers, working with them to figure out how to make and keep our clients happy.
How is your freelancing business doing now?
I’ve been working through FreeeUp for about two years, and it’s so amazing how fast my freelancing business has grown. The marketplace values me as a freelancer and provides real opportunities for career growth every step of the way. To me, FreeeUp is a community where people are authentic and unselfish in the way they provide hands-on support for just about anything, whether they are hired assistants or just other freelancers in the network.
My freelancing business is doing incredibly well, more so over the past few months. In fact, it got to the point last April where I had to stop taking on new clients so my associates and I could concentrate on performing at a high level for all our current clients, making sure that there’s always someone ready to take on any new task. Through FreeeUp alone for April 2018, I billed an average of 80 to 150 hours a week. My highest weekly billed amount on the marketplace is around $2,600 – forty times the minimum wage for employment in the metro retail sector, and almost thirty times what I was making in BPO.
Do you have any advice for other freelancers who want to grow their business?
This is what I share with my associates during every onboarding session and before I introduce them to FreeeUp. If the answer to any of these questions is no, I advise them to work on that point:
Are you ready to work on your own?
What skill sets do you excel at?
Can you follow instructions, guidelines, best practices, policies and agreements with clients, other freelancers and the platform to the letter?
Can you work consistently at a high level with people you don’t see or even talk to every day?
How good are you at expressing yourself, sharing your thoughts, and making decisions?
Are you ready with the basic tools of freelancing (high-speed and back-up internet, and a quality PC or laptop)?
Take it seriously
Are you a good leader, growing to learn to take greater responsibility for tasks and others that you work with?
Do you surround yourself with successful, like-minded, passion-driven, and happy people who will help you step up your game and climb that freelance career ladder faster than you expected?
Don’t get left behind
It’s okay to go slow if that’s the pace that you’re comfortable with, but don’t be so slow that you get left behind by others who are working hard to excel. You won’t get rich quick through freelancing, but you can work your way up to riches if you move quickly. Work hard every day – you can do anything as long as you put your mind and heart in it – and the money will follow as a natural consequence. Accept. Every. Challenge. Never stop exploring and learning other skills. Don’t settle for only one basic or easy skill that you already know.
Be honest and be yourself
Do not pretend to be an expert in something if you’re not. The client will always find out sooner or later, and your actions can make or break the business.
I tell my associates that once they are able to answer each question and take each piece of advice with a positive attitude, then they are ready, and there’s no better place to start freelancing than on FreeeUp. When I started working through the marketplace, I stopped searching elsewhere.
Based on my experience, freelance business growth is fast on FreeeUp as long as freelancers keep working hard and comply with the marketplace best practices. They are connected with a dynamic and diverse group of freelancers from all over the world – some of them business owners themselves – whom you can count on for professional help or just answers to questions about tasks, pay, or anything in between.
Any final thoughts for the FreeeUp community and prospective freelance applicants?
My experience with the marketplace has been absolutely exceptional. I can’t thank all my clients, associates, and everyone that works to build FreeeUp enough for helping me improve my life. I have that freedom I always wanted. More than taking care of the health and basic needs of my family, I am a true Filipino nomad, visiting places I never knew I could. I also have just recently purchased my first-ever property investment, and have achieved my dream of teaching people even without a master’s degree or license.
Julia Valdez is a professional teacher and decades-long lover of the art of words on paper, the stage and the big screen. She spends most of her time doing freelance content and project management, community volunteer work with the Philippine Advocates for Resilient Communities, adventuring with the Greenhouse Christian Fellowship, and sharing lots of laughs over little crazy things.