Category: Career and Finances

The Challenges Of Freelancing

Still contemplating on quitting your job and starting your own business where the only investment required are your brains, your time, and your own brand of hard work?

Freelancing might seem too easy, most especially when you get all tangled up in destructive online literature that try to sell you the “Top 10 Secrets To Become A Successful Freelancer” ebook or, the “The Best Strategies To Earn Six-Digits As A Freelancer” course. Ha! So, be careful.

It’s A Whole Lot Of Sweat, Blood And Tears

I started freelancing in 2013. I was not contemplating on quitting my day job but just to pass the time and distract my mind from the very serious literature that came with my work in the world of social development. When I’m working online, I realized that I didn’t have to waste two precious hours debating the problems of the world with people who could hardly understand what  people on the ground really need. Working online meant completing a task, usually just one very specific task — in my case, that could be writing an article, a web copy, a blog or, an ebook, and delivering these on agreed timelines and to the specs provided by my clients. Simple, ain’t it?

Not. If you’re seriously courting the idea of working as a freelancer, whether as a writer, graphics designer, applications developer, accountant, virtual assistant, and what not, there are certain downsides of freelancing that you must become aware of and take into consideration before jumping ship.  Listed below are just the top five challenges of freelancing (well, from my perspective, of course):

Challenge No. 5: Dealing with difficult clients. Aha! Now, even if you don’t have to deal with annoying officemates when you’re freelancing, you still do have to deal with difficult clients. I am blessed, I guess, that in my less than five years of freelancing, I’ve so far been duped, unpaid (wawa!) by just one client. I had to really study the material. It was for a graduate school course work about tuberculosis. I got paid for the first milestone then, the client disappeared!

Unfortunately, freelancers do have to bite the bullet. You have to accept that, in most situations, you’re on the losing end of the table. Eventually, you will be able to find honest clients who hate to make their workers feel short changed. Even then, what I’ve found useful is to negotiate the terms of work and payment with your client beforehand. For example, request to be paid 50 per cent of the total amount when you’ve drafted half of the book, and the remaining amount upon completion.

Protect yourself from unfair requests for revisions too by defining how many times your client can send back the work with his or her comments for you to revise BEFORE you exert any effort on the assignment. Where there is anything vague, make sure to ask, clarify, and reach an agreement with your client — and document it by email or by chatting.

There are also online platforms for freelancers that help you stay protected and make sure that you get paid for your hard work. These platforms facilitate the work contracts and payments, some even making sure that the client has funded the work and holds it in escrow. The funds are released as soon as you and your client agree that a milestone has been achieved. The downside of these platforms is that they take a percentage of your pay which serves as management or facilitation fee.

Challenge No. 4: Meeting your deadlines. There’s all sorts of work opportunities online, and if you’re keen enough and have the drive to keep learning new things, you’ll never run out of services to offer other people. Thing is, your energy is a constant — you can only do so much in a day because you need to sleep, no matter how organized you are or, how diligently you fill out and try to stick with your notes on your Starbucks planner. That’s how our bodies work and there’s nothing that you can do about it.

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I’ve found myself several times in challenging situations where I have committed to overlapping deadlines with multiple clients. The most number of clients I’ve had to serve at the same time was four. I find myself in these situations when my primary clients aren’t sending over work so, the remedy is to look for other work opportunities.

I would say I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to meet my deadlines in spite of the crazy requirements and timelines. It’s being familiar with my work pacing that I’ve been able to negotiate reasonable deadlines. Of course, I also made sure that each of my clients felt that my output was the product of blood, sweat, and tears — and sleepless days and nights. (Seriously, sometimes I don’t even know what day it is!)

Key takeaway: Negotiate. May I also add that you should keep your clients updated of how far and long you are to completing the job.

Challenge No. 3: Making yourself available 24/7. So, how do you make yourself available 24/7? It’s not possible. All it really means is that you are consistently online at specific times of the day and make sure that your client knows about it.

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I have to confess I’ve been guilty with this point lately, mostly due to unreliable Internet connection — the biggest “no, no” when you’re doing online work. Unfortunately, my current residential arrangements neither permits a Fiber nor a DSL connection. I see this issue dragging on for the next couple of months or so. For now, the only track I can take is to let my clients know that I am on unreliable broadband and LTE connections. Nevertheless, I made sure I had redundant means to stay online, even though that still does not permit me to spend 24 hours on real-time apps, such as on Skype, because LTE and broadband are more expensive and do not give me unlimited Internet time.

There are some types of freelance work, like serving as a virtual assistant, where less than a DSL connection cannot apply. Often, clients will define their IT requirements, most especially when they need you online at specific times of the day or, if they have to consistently reach out to you.

Challenge No. 2: Keeping up with the “K’s” and “Q’s”(“Kings” and “Queens”) of freelancing. There’s no dull moment if you’re a freelancer. Heck! That’s why I couldn’t even post a single article on this personal blog for months now. I have to keep myself valuable to my clients by delivering valuable work. Unlike in a traditional 8 to 5 job where employees are protected by labor rights, including tenure, freelancers are highly dispensable. That’s partly because there’s so much talent all over the world.

So, when you do get all serious about becoming a freelancer or, if you are already freelancing, think about what added value (a value proposition) you are bringing to your clients. In my case, a lot of people can write but, not too many can connect with their readers, plus I also keep proving that I am worthy of my client’s trust not to plagiarize, to research my topics well, and to consistently deliver top grade work (Ahem!). They’re very smart and they will be able to tell if you are worth their money or not.

Challenge No. 1: It can’t be all about the Benjamins, Baby! If you’re really hardworking and have the  stamina to be the best of the best in your chosen field of freelancing then, you can literally see those Benjamins credited regularly to your account. Once you get the hang of it, you’re going to keep wanting more!

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Here are just some of the situations where your interest for those Benjamins have to take the backseat:

  • When quality has to come first. Don’t turn in work just because you need to hit your financial targets for that specific period. Keep in mind that freelancing has a lot to do with earning a good reputation for delivering quality outputs which is not very common in the world of online work.

When you recognize how difficult it is to find a client who is as hardworking and honest as you are, you will learn to always put quality first, even above your Benjamins. That’s because you respect your client, and you know he or she is smart and will be able to tell good from bad quality of work. If you turn in less than stellar output, it’s likely your client will find a replacement. In the end, you lose big time.

  • You simply need to get offline. As a freelancer, you will be spending most of your time online, even when you’re the first person in your home to get up in the morning and still be the last to hit the sheets after midnight. You need to raise your monthly financial targets and that’s your reality. However, you do have to set aside time to do other things than just working on your tasks, negotiating with your clients, and looking for your next client.

You’re wanted by your clients any time, all the time but, your loved ones need to spend time with you too. After all, that’s one major benefit of freelancing that you do have to learn to take advantage of. Besides, when you get downtime, your productivity bounces back more fiercely so, find time to close that laptop and do something more personal.

Just last month, I had to re-learn the wisdom of taking a break. Normally, I would run my basic errands throughout the day — do the household chores, and fetch the kids from school, even pick up stuff from the market or the mall — but, always with my laptop in tow. I’m writing my articles while waiting for school dismissal. I type away during guitar class. I’m up before I prep breakfast, and I’m still online long after my family is in deep slumber. My body had to force me to stop for a full week with a terrible headache and flu that came with sore eyes, as if making sure I wouldn’t peek into my Skype or email while I’m on my flu meds! I’ve forgotten to set aside “me” time. We all need that constantly.

  • Your client is facing business difficulties. You must not offer your services for free or, at a bargain. However, when your relationship with a client has grown to become more personal, you also cannot help but care — it’s human nature. It also comes so much more naturally when you realize that your long-time, repeat client has been financing your freelancer lifestyle and paying for the bills.

You have to realize that when your client succeeds, you succeed with him or her too. That means you have to be ready to negotiate for a win-win situation, not just you winning on one end, even when that might mean getting lower rates. One of my clients re-negotiated my rate once. I agreed for a lower rate that was still acceptable to me which came with a promise that I will get higher volume of work which, in turn, translated to higher total earnings — win-win.

  • Humanity calls. Other than my recent bout with flu, there was one other time I remember when I had to tell my client I had to be offline for two full weeks. That was when I got involved in humanitarian work for Tacloban City which Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated in 2013. I was surprised how my client even thank me for putting in work for the people who badly needed help and relief. Sometimes, there are just some things that need to be on top of your freelancing business, and among those moments is when you have been given the power and the opportunity to help others.

What’s It Going To Be?

Still think you will succeed as a freelancer? You probably will. You’ve heard what entrepreneurs have shared about putting up your own business and making sure it succeeds? They say you need patience, a lot of hard work, and the heart to take the leap and risk it. The same is true with freelancing. It may or, may not be for you but, you’ll never know unless you try.

See also: What pros aren’t telling you about becoming an online freelancer

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How to use Snapchat for your business

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Follow thehouseofmargaux.com on Snapchat. Take a screenshot of this snapcode. Go to your Snapchat account. Click the ghost icon on the upper lefthand corner of your screen to take you to your home page. Click Add Friends -> Add by Snapcode -> Select the image you took of the snapcode above.

Five years ago, Snapchat founders, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy (who is Fil-Am, by the way, and is listed by Forbes magazine to be worth US $1.8 billion) and Reggie Brown, then students at Stanford University in California, experimented with a new platform that provided users more privacy than Facebook. Early in 2017, Snapchat became a publicly registered company with a declared value totalling US $3 billion.

“Snap Inc. is a camera company,” the company website reads. In reality, it’s a communication platform that is not yet quite as popular as Facebook is for networking, and much less known for business purposes.  Philippines ranks 6th on the most number of active users on Facebook; that is, 60 million Filipinos on Facebook out of the total 1.7 billion users worldwide. Still, here, we will tell you why your brand needs to be on Snapchat right now.

Social media use in the Philippines

Based on the report, “Digital in 2016” from We Are Social, Filipinos spend the most amount of time on social media clocking in 04:17.  Other important statistics that you must consider which were also highlighted in the report:

  • Philippines has 58 per cent Internet penetration rate, and second highest growth of Internet users (27 per cent ) next to Indonesia (51 per cent) in 2016
  • 38 per cent of Filipino Internet users use mobile devices to access the Internet
  • 58 per cent of Filipinos are active on social media, including 12 million new users in 2016
  • 38 per cent of Filipinos participate in e-Commerce (Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand each has between 50 to 60 per cent e-Commerce participation)

The profitable side of Snapchat

SnapChat is far from the robust analytics available on Facebook or Google which allow you to make an analysis of your audience and customers. Plus, messages disappear by default, depending on your settings.  Frankly, the most compelling reason for your business to be on Snapchat right now is because Snapchat is the latest, most fun thing to do on social media at the moment, and it is in your best interest to have your presence felt on the platform right now to join in the fun — and sell more.

So, how can you effectively use it for your business? Here are at least five ways:

1. Create Snapcodes to support your branding and promotions efforts. Snapcode works like a QR code or a barcode. It carries your unique data.  Here are three ways by which you can take advantage of this Snapchat feature:

  • When you register on SnapChat, register using your business credentials, that is, email and mobile number. It will then create a Snapchat account for your business with a matching snapcode. Go ahead and snap your company logo or yourself if you are your own brand (such as if you’re running a blogging service).
  • Create a snapcode for your website. Go to Settings —> Snapcode —> Create snapcode. Type in your web address then generate your snapcode. Take a screenshot and start sharing.
  • Create a snapcode for a special promo that you are running for a limited period.

You can put your Snapchat snapcode account on your website and other social media accounts to let your clients know that they may also follow you on Snapchat. Post your website’s snapcode on your social media accounts, including on Instagram, to invite your followers to view your website. Use these on your business cards. If you have a physical store, print and post.

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Snapcode for the houseofmargaux.com Take a snap and Snapchat will open the website instantly from the Snapchat app.

2. Use Snapchat to drive campaigns.  On this platform, you only have roughly 10 seconds or less to make an impression, deliver information and make your call to action.  Run a brand campaign that asks users to, for instance, take a snap beside your product or logo. Make it worthwhile for them to engage by giving away prizes, at least for top entries.

3. Offer your Snapchat space for a fee. If you have a mass following on Snapchat or, if you’re on your way there, you can lure in brands to collaborate with you. Negotiate for a fee — as usual, in cash or in kind — to feature a brand, service or product on your Snapchat account. Just keep in mind that your biggest asset online is your reputation so you better be careful which brands you are collaborating with. Also, be transparent with your followers. Let them know if a product or service that you are featuring is sponsored.

4. Create geofilters for your events.  One of the more exciting new features on SnapChat is geofilters. You can use this feature if you are running a public event, such as a concert or a mall-wide sale. Create a unique geofilter for your event. Visit the snapchat website for guidelines and submission requirements.

5. Sell products and services. People are starting to use Snapchat to sell but there are quite a number of improvements required on the platform to make transactions easy, that includes enabling secure online payments. You can still snap on what you’re selling to drive them to your website, Facebook, Amazon or eBay store.

Anyway, the best use of Snapchat when it comes to selling your products and services is by creating coupons or flash sale announcements that your followers can snap and present in store.

Ready. Set. Snap! Alright, hold on. You need to download Snapchat on your mobile first. Enjoy!

References:

Kemp, Simon. “Digital in 2016” We Are Social. Link: https://www.slideshare.net/wearesocialsg/digital-in-2016?next_slideshow=1  Accessed on: 7 Mar 2017

Vinton, Kate. “The World’s Youngest Billionaires 2016: 66 Under 40” Forbes Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/katevinton/2016/03/01/the-worlds-youngest-billionaires-2016-66-under-40/#79531ecc4440  Accessed on: 7 Mar 2017

What pros aren’t telling you about becoming an online freelancer

I imagine every millennial going through thoughts of creating their own service or product based enterprises. Many middle-aged professionals are also considering freelancing online as a better option. Why not? We’ve seen kids practically making billions of dollars out of Silicon Valley simply by pitching their sheer innovative ideas!

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What pros aren’t telling

If you’re courting thoughts of moving on to the greener online pasture then, it’s good that you’re considering to do so at all.  Before you move another muscle, I want you to think really hard and answer this question truthfully, “Do you understand what you’re getting yourself into?”

I know you’ve probably obsessed over thoughts of building an online career or an e-commerce business. Maybe you’ve been staying up late to read up on online marketing and digital content strategists who have made a name for themselves in the digital world and who have earned their title as “gurus” in their own little niches.  Here’s what many, guru or novice, aren’t telling you:

1. Online work isn’t as easy as many make it sound. I don’t know about the millennials. Maybe they’re naturals. For someone like me, however, who has gotten used to the slow, structured, bureaucratic way of getting things done, everything about online freelancing had to be learned firsthand and from scratch.

2. There is so much opportunity to learn. If you’re used to the kind of environment that I was also trained in, you’ll be in for an adventure! If you still have the stamina to learn, then it’s right that you’re setting up yourself for a pleasant surprise. However, if you just want to receive your pay check every 15th or 30th of the month and get your 13th month pay in December then, you’re probably better off staying put where you already are.

3. There are plenty of opportunities to earn. There’s a caveat though. If you’re working different clients in different timezones, there’s only so much work that you can get done. You’ve got to conserve your energy and choose to be in roles that you are already familiar with to be efficient work-wise and money-wise. However, if you’re a self-starter, you may have to weigh a lower pay against the possible learning opportunities that you can pick up on the job which you can later add to your skills and showcase in your credentials. In the online world, everything happens at triple speeds and you don’t want to get left behind.

4. Online freelancing may require you to work longer hours than your corporate day job. Online jobs will pay either on output basis or hourly basis or commission basis or a combination of these. Not one is better than the other. It all depends on what skills or services you can offer. Most writing gigs will pay on output basis but a lot of clients also prefer on per hour (until now, I don’t understand why per hour). The point is, it’s not an easy job but, at least you’re far from wasting time sitting or driving through at least four or five hours of traffic everyday.

5. There’s no offline when you’re online. It goes without saying that you have to have highly reliable Internet access to keep doing online work. Expect clients not to care about Manila time, however. That means, be ready to keep coming back online for any possible new assignments because your clients will assume that you check your email regularly. Some will email you at our 2 am while some will email you before you go to bed at 10 pm. So, whether you are at home or outdoors, your online life will definitely be in danger when you lose that smartphone or laptop so keep your gadgets close.

There really are no rules

Some people who have done online freelancing work will advice you not to abandon your ship until you’re confident that you can dive but, you know that advice is for fools. You know what I think? As long as you’ve got the heart to dare it then, do it!

Are you on your way to join the online revolution? Tell us about it by commenting below.

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7 compelling reasons why you should look for another job right now

Feel like you’ve been waking up on the wrong side of the bed lately?  When you feel uninspired about going to work, there can be many reasons but, the most compelling ones may involve your job itself.  Is it time for you to go on a job expedition yet again?  Or, might it be just a temporary itch to leave and try something new?

7 reasons why you deserve another job

Before quitting your job, it’s important to weigh two things: it could be you or, it could be your job.  There are times, too, when the job is the major driver behind a person’s poor performance at work or unpleasant attitude towards work.

Here is a list of 7 signs why you should seriously consider quitting your job:

1.  You’re literally dragging yourself to work.  When you’re starting to feel that the work that you do hardly makes it worthwhile for you to sit or drive through at least two hours of traffic in EDSA (one way) then, you have to figure out whether it is the traffic that’s troubling you or your job itself.

After having been employed in five different offices, I’ve learned that there is an invisible hand that keeps you up and going no matter what difficulties you may face when you’re really inspired about your job responsibilities and what your organization is trying to deliver.  For me, that came with the feeling of having a higher purpose that went beyond myself and the organization I worked for.  Whenever I lose that magic, I know it’s time to go.

Do you still feel inspired to get up in the morning?  Do you still feel motivated to go beyond what’s expected of you?  Do you want to solve the challenges laid out before you to achieve a higher purpose or, do you just want to get things done to get the papers off of your desk?

2.  Your values are in conflict with your organization’s and your boss’s values.  I had an executive member of the company’s management team tell me once that he was merely keeping some annoying people on the job so that in the highly probable situation that the startup company fails, he’ll have them to blame. I: Red flags up! Mind you, these people reported to him too!  The moment I heard him say that, there was no doubt in my mind that it was time for me to go.

When you have a boss who does not believe in what you and your team are trying to do in the first place, there’s absolutely no reason why you should believe in what you’re doing either.  Ship out!

Keep in mind that when you’re delivering any job-related output, your name is on it too.  It’s your reputation that’s on the line, and not just your company’s nor your boss’s.  That means, there’s no reason why you should adjust your personal values just to accommodate the lower standards set by  your organization or your boss.

3.  The company you work for is losing.  Get real!  When you need a real job and a real career that will help support your continued growth and productivity, and help you stay liquid then, you have to associate yourself with an organization that’s thriving.  You can’t expect to receive training, mentoring and better pay if the company that you’re working for does not own sufficient resources to nurture talents like yourself.

4.  You haven’t learned any new, valuable skill in the past two consecutive years.  It is one sign that your company may be losing because of the lack of a robust employee training program.  It can also be a sign that the management simply isn’t able to tap your full potential.  Here, you have to be extra careful in making that assumption because it’s possible that you may be overvaluing your worth as well.  However, if you honestly feel that you have management experience but have been pinned down to answer emails for other people then, you’re definitely in the wrong place.

According to the “Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016”, which covered 7,700 millennials in 29 countries including 300 in the Philippines, millennials want to be with companies that have a “strong sense of purpose, inclusiveness and open communications”.  That does not, however, keep two of three respondents from wanting to leave their current employers by 2020.  This trend is glaring among emerging markets, including the Philippines where 64% of those surveyed intend to leave their current employers.

Perhaps there is a lesson we, Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, can learn from our younger counterparts — we have to admire their boldness and in keeping their eyes focused on their personal career goals.  If your current employer can’t help you accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself, it may be time to move to another or, consider creating your own enterprise.

5.  You’d rather be eating lunch alone than with any of your colleagues.  This situation may seem harmless but, it can be very unhealthy in the long run.  Just consider that you’re spending a big chunk of your waking hours in your workplace and not feeling free to share and socialize with your colleagues can be problematic.  It’s possible that you’re not a good fit for the company’s culture or, you may be discriminated.

A Gallup study published in 2015 found that American employees often resigned because they did not like their boss.  (I wonder what the figure is among Filipinos if the same survey was conducted here.)  Regular, consistent communication of American employees with their bosses were considered a determining factor in keeping the turnover rate low.

If communicating with the bosses is such a big deal then, not being able to build effective relationships with your colleagues can be stressful.

6.  You’re only in it for the pay.  A higher than the average pay can be a good motivation at first but, it will be hard to perform at your best when money is your only motivation to stay on the job — well, perhaps, unless you’re really out of options.  Truth is, I’ve seen too many people just do it for the pay but, rarely are these people happy which, in turn, makes them unpleasant and disliked by many at their places of work.

Ask yourself truthfully, “Am I just in this job for the money?”  When the answer is ‘yes’, be ready to be unhappy.

7.  You don’t have too many good things to say about your job.  When your friends outside of work ask you about what you do for a living and you catch yourself responding “so-so” or, making up good stories to tell about what you do then, it’s likely that you don’t feel a sense of pride towards your work and your company.  Otherwise, the good stories will have come out of you effortlessly.

Should you quit now?

Quitting your job is never an easy decision to make — not when it’s your first nor your sixth time to say ‘bye, bye’ — most especially when you have family members who depend on you.  Think hard and make sure that you have a clear fallback before you turn in that irrevocable resignation letter.

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New year, new career? Is it really time to leave your current job behind?