Here’s another interview with a successful work from home freelancer. Read on to learn how Jan makes a great living independently. You can do it too!
How did you get into freelancing?
Before doing online freelancing, I was working in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. I got into it right after graduating from college, and did customer service there for 8 years. At the time that I started, it was the only job I could think of that could support me and my family financially. The call center industry in the Philippines was booming during those years, and I just jumped on the bandwagon.
I never did “call-center-hopping” to increase my salary. I only worked for four BPO companies in the Philippines, two of which were for the Financial Services industry, one for Banking and Finance, and the last – which I am still proud to be working with – for the Consumer Electronics industry. Despite my loyalty to those companies, I almost always found myself looking for more things to do to keep myself busy and earn more.
As an arts enthusiast and a self-confessed workaholic, I took chances and did some Production Management for film and theatre, casting, acting, and a lot of different kinds of part-time jobs in the entertainment industry. But none of those gave me what I really wanted – freedom and a stable income.
I was juggling an 8-hour full-time job on the graveyard shift and sometimes on shifting schedules. Plus, I was attending rehearsals, auditions, film shoots and events on the side, all while commuting to and from different cities of the metro. It took a toll on my health. I found myself getting really tired just a few hours into my shifts, my attendance issues started to soar, my medical bills sky-rocketed – making me realize that I had exhausted all my company medical benefits. I was paying cash out of my own pocket and my work performance started to fail. I knew then that I had to stop.
Prior to being hired by my fourth BPO company, I tried being a full-time freelance artist, involving myself in film production and casting calls. But the constant commute and minimum salary didn’t help at all, so I applied to a BPO company again. It was then that online freelancing started making its presence known.
I did everything I could to excel at my last BPO job to pick myself up and prove my worth, and my client in the US noticed that. In the span of three months working for him in the Business Development division of his company, I was commended for a job well done. And in that short period, I was trained at a high level to handle customers, dealers, and an entire department when my client was out on business trips. He taught me how to work independently without too much supervision. He taught me how to handle issues on my own. He taught me a lot of things I never knew I could learn, most of which I still carry with me at present.
Finally, this client of mine trusted me enough to work from home so I could continue providing exceptional services for the company. It all started with him, and I am truly grateful.
My life has changed for the better since then. I was able to focus more, work more, and rest more because I never had to commute to and from an office and waste time in traffic. I started to experience freedom. But I still wanted to earn more, so I began putting up my profile on almost all the freelancing platforms. It wasn’t easy getting those first online freelancing gigs, and it was a real learning experience. With online freelancing, you are literally on your own. There wasn’t much of a support system for freelancers back then – not even Facebook communities.
And then there was FreeeUp.
When did you join the FreeeUp Marketplace, and what attracted you to it?
I found them in early 2016, but I only joined the marketplace in September of that year. It took me seven months before I finally gave in, filled out their forms and signed the freelancer agreement. That’s how skeptical I was.
Coming from a client with whom I had been working for three years straight, it took me that long before I could jump in. I was very active on big freelance platforms back then just to add to my full-time work-from-home job, so when I received a message from FreeeUp’s CEO, Nathan, I initially ignored him.
But what did I do on those seven months? Apart from searching and applying for work on different platforms, I researched this newcomer. I watched all their videos on YouTube, Googled them – the works. When a post for a Walmart product lister got offered to me, I finally said yes.
I’ve been working through this marketplace for almost 2 years now, and it’s so amazing how fast my career and freelancing business has grown. In as little as three months, I got hired by multiple clients and became one of the marketplace internal assistants, working a few hours a day for both Nathan and the CMO, Connor.
Who wouldn’t want to stay at a place where they value you as a freelancer and where you see real career growth, all while supporting you every step of the way? I don’t see FreeeUp as just any other freelancing platform but a a community where people are real and give you hands-on support for just about anything.
Tell us about your first months working through FreeeUp, and how your freelancing business grew.
I got my first client through them one day after being introduced to the network on the Skype freelancer group chat. (Yes, we have a Skype group chat for all freelancers, support assistants, and founders). Then in about the span of a week, I got introduced and hired by around four more clients. That’s how fast the opportunities came. I realized that unlike other platforms, I could easily get introduced to clients who needed my expertise. All I needed was the right skill sets for each project.
Nine months down the road, I was able to build my own freelance business. I partnered my own freelancing company for artists and online professionals with FreeeUp and hired freelancers on the platform. I always wanted to teach or become a trainer, or simply just share my stories and experiences to anyone I had the pleasure of meeting. Since I wasn’t given that chance when I was working in the BPO industry because I didn’t have a teaching license, I built my own company instead.
When people reject me and tell me I can’t do something, I always make sure that I end up proving them wrong. Now, because of the great support on the marketplace and the constant learnings I get from all the clients I have under my belt, I am able to help others build their own freelancing careers as I did mine. Oh, and I don’t just teach new freelancers or give assessment tests then leave them behind. I work WITH them on actual tasks, and together we figure out ways to make our clients happy.
How is your freelancing business doing now?
My freelancing business is doing incredibly well, especially this month. It even got to the point that I had to stop taking on new clients for a while so we could concentrate on providing high-level service to all the awesome clients we have now.
Some of my clients pass on ad hoc tasks, so I always make sure that I have someone ready to assist. I wouldn’t be able to do all these tasks without the help of my amazing assistants, whom I call associates. I have from seven to ten active associates who do various tasks for every client who has given me permission to have an associate assist. I personally and fully onboard each of them in multiple skill sets, and I continue to upskill them as time permits.
Through FreeeUp alone and for this month alone (April 2018), I am averaging 80 to 150 hours billed per week for roughly eight to ten active clients at various dollar rates. My highest billed amount through them in a single month is around $2,600.
Do you have any advice for other freelancers who want to grow their business?
I give the following reminders to my associates before I end every onboarding session and before I introduce FreeeUp:
- Are you ready to work on your own?
- How good are you at following instructions (as in REALLY follow instructions)?
- What skill sets do you excel at?
- What is your attitude towards working with people you don’t physically see every day?
- How good a communicator are you (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)?
If you answer anything in the negative, or don’t know, you are not yet ready. As with any type of work, online freelancing is not for everyone.
Are you willing to take it seriously?
Be a great follower
Follow instructions, guidelines, best practices, policies and agreements with clients, coworkers and the platform.
Be a good leader
As you grow, learn to take greater responsibility for tasks and others that you work with.
Surround yourself with success
Find successful, like-minded, passion-driven, and happy people. They 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 your pace, but don’t be so slow that you get left behind by others who are working as hard as you do. There’s a fine line between wanting to get rich quick and working your way to riches more quickly.
Work hard every day, and the money will follow as a natural consequence.
You can do anything, as long as you put your mind and heart in it.
Be honest and be yourself
Do not pretend to be someone you are not. If you claim that you are an expert in something, the client will always find out sooner or later that you have no idea at all what you are doing. Your actions can make or break a business.
Accept. Every. Challenge.
You are not encouraged to lie about the skills that you have, but you are encouraged to never stop learning. Explore other skills. Don’t settle for only one basic or easy skill that you already know.
Once you can answer with a positive attitude and are ready for all the above, there is no better place to start your freelancing career. When I started working through the marketplace, I stopped searching elsewhere.
Here are the pros of working through FreeeUp:
- They pre-vet and accept only the top 1% of freelancers onto the marketplace.
- They don’t hire newbies, so clients are sure to get high quality services, and freelancers get matched with high value clients in return.
- Freelancers get to set the rate they want for their time based on their expertise level – there’s no need to bargain or bid for super low rates just to get a project.
- Clients and freelancers are introduced within 24 business hours of a request, and freelancers respond within 24 business hours as well.
- Freelancers need not wait for weeks or months before they finally give up on getting a response from a client about their proposal.
- It’s first come, first served – In rare cases where a client hires but takes a while to give out tasks to get started, all freelancers are free to accept other work from different clients to fill up their time. If the first client gives you a task and you’re no longer available, the client will simply be introduced to another worker.
- They handle issues skillfully and professionally – they make sure that at the end of the day, both clients and freelancers are satisfied.
- Freelance business growth is fast as long as freelancers keep working hard and comply with the marketplace best practices.
- Freelancers get to work with a dynamic and diverse group who are comprised of a very supportive mix of US and Non-US freelancers whom you can count on should there be any questions about a task, pay, or anything in between.
- They highly value everyone’s feedback and take real action on suggestions.
My experience with the marketplace has been simply exceptional. I can’t thank all my clients, all my associates, and FreeeUp enough for helping me improve my life. I now get to visit places I never knew I could. I was able to achieve my dream of teaching people even without a master’s degree or license. I have been able to lead a group of amazing individuals without waiting for anyone’s approval from higher management. I have been able to secure myself with life and medical insurance so my family is covered if anything happens to me. I have also just recently purchased my first-ever property investment.
These achievements did not happen overnight, but they happened within the five years that I’ve been doing online freelancing – about a third of my previous time spent working myself sick in the corporate world and not getting anywhere.
Interviewed by Connor Gillivan
Connor Gillivan is a serial eCommerce entrepreneur and an expert in online hiring, eCommerce, and bootstrapping businesses. With his first eCommerce business, he sold over $20 million worth of product and managed over 60 freelance workers. He is now the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of FreeeUp.com, the hands-on hiring marketplace connecting hundreds of online business owners with reliable, pre-vetted remote workers. He is an avid writer on his own site, ConnorGillivan.com, and his business advice can also be found in top publications such as WebRetailer.com. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado.