Words by Shannon Matsuda
Edited by Martine Irog
Art by Ewemiz Insigne
“With an ever-changing atmosphere in the job market, freelance work can be very broad and diverse. Despite the versatile scope of work, starting out and establishing one’s self as a freelancer takes courage, dedication, and discipline…”
Finding a calling especially during the pandemic has always been an impending feat for everyone who is trying to build their career. This goes from sending out resumes to established companies to working on various projects to gain more experience. Despite this norm, some would opt to choose the path of self-employment or freelancing in order to have more control over their craft.
It may be exciting and ambitious but it also poses many risks and challenges ahead. Unlike working on a regular basis, freelancers work based on the projects they receive from clients. This can pose a threat to financial stability, especially with so many competitors. However, a way to go around this is to be versatile and expand one’s knowledge and skills.
With an ever-changing atmosphere in the job market, freelance work can be very broad and diverse. Some of these jobs include but are not limited to writing, graphic designer, photographer, software engineer, and even social entrepreneurs. Despite the versatile scope of work, starting out and establishing one’s self as a freelancer takes courage, dedication, and discipline especially for Nala Chincuanco, a photographer, Harvey Jay Sison, a software engineer, and Butch Balsomo, a full-time freelance designer.
Whether one is fresh out of college or currently studying, beginning one’s freelance career can be quite daunting if one does not know where to start. In Chincuanco’s case, it started with an assignment compiling product shots for an internship application.
“I never really took any pictures of product shoots so I was just looking around my room for what I can shoot with. I saw lotion and the only food I had that was easy to do but also yummy was the popcorn. So I just played around with those items and I posted it,” Chincuanco shared. Though it would seem that it may have been fun for her, she did not expect a lot of positive support and feedback from her friends and relatives which inspired her to really invest in her career as a freelance photographer.
Website by Harvey Sison [oursanggu.com]
Similarly, Harvey had the same case when he started building his portfolio. “It all started as org work and then people are reaching out. As you increase your project, people will get to know you more,” Sison explained. For Balsomo, he was introduced to freelancing by his wife and started learning more about how it works through his studies in Computer Science until he eventually took on projects before finding a full-time job.
Based on their stories, anyone can start as a freelancer through practice, training, and even support from friends, family, and communities. It is also important to be ready to try new and learn new things to improve one’s craft. However, one must be prepared to take on risks and challenges that come with one’s passion.
Challenges, COVID-19, more competition
From a broad perspective, one may think that freelancers would be greatly affected by the pandemic. According to an online survey conducted by PaYoneer blog to freelancers, 32% of the respondents said that demand for freelance services from companies have decreased while 23% shared that their businesses were not affected and that 17% saw an increase in the demand for their services. Due to this, there were more windows of opportunities for current and prospective freelancers.
While the pandemic may pose a threat to freelancers, it is actually quite the opposite for many. In fact, Balsomo shared that luckily, no clients were lost and he “used this time to learn more and upscale as well.” Transitioning was relatively quick for Sison as he shared how he normally would conduct businesses with his clients online and requires little to no meeting at all. “I can do anything online like work from home. So I would say that it’s just the same,” Sison explained.
Photo by Butch Balsomo
Any freelancer who just started or has been in the industry for a while has gone through the trouble of figuring out their rates. “I always find that troubling because I don’t know where to put myself in that scale, comparing to people like my friends who also do the same line of work. So that one but then I think the most challenging is just getting over the pressure as I’m shooting,” Chincuanco shares.
In order to figure out how to set their rates, each freelancer has their own basis. Balsomo, for instance, tries to set it according to how much he can contribute to a project and shares that the logic of doing it on a per hour basis is not sensible as it “punishes you for being good.” Striking a balance between how much energy and time one commits to a project, the client’s budget, and personal value is the basis of Chincuanco’s rates. “I don’t mind negotiating to find a middle ground. Just be fair with yourself and be fair with the client,” Chincuanco shares. For Sison, it would depend on the features a client is asking for as he usually looks for “how much time is needed or how immediate the deadline is.”
“Passion may be achievable for any independent professional, but competition will always be inevitable. “
Passion may be achievable for any independent professional, but competition will always be inevitable. That is why it is only natural to compare one’s work with others which can lead to insecurity. One can even turn these fears into opportunities by being humble and learning from these competitors. “If you feel bad, it’s probably because you think you can do it but you’re just not at that level yet and ask questions. Ask them how they did it. Maybe you’ll find some peace at knowing how they did it so eventually, you can reach their level,” Chincuanco explains. Freelancing is an endless learning journey as you continuously learn from your past experiences. With the increasing competition, there is a need to upgrade your own skill sets to explore more opportunities. “You should train yourself to be able to do something and to cater to more clients” Sison shared.
Knowing how or when to begin
As overwhelming as it sounds, learning how to go about self-employment is possible. Working in freelance requires hard work and perseverance but as long as one is willing to learn and adapt, the fruits of their labor will be realized. For those who seek to know where to start, it all starts with the profile and portfolio if there are any past projects that one has done. Next will be how to connect and reach out to possible clients that can help you grow internally or externally.
First clients do not necessarily have to be strangers, but your friends and loved ones. Chincuanco talked about her experience with collaborating with friends who have started small businesses amidst COVID-19. “I think your friends will forgive you for changing and making mistakes. And you’re learning together since they’re also making a small business and you have your own small business,” Chincuanco pointed out.
With so much uncertainty due to the pandemic, it is only wise to say that now is the best time to start and invest in freelance. There are now so many opportunities one can take now with many companies going online. Even the government is now trying to promote and safeguard digital freelance careers through the Senate Bill 1469 or the National Digital Careers Act. As long as there is a passionate commitment to translating their skills and talents into services for clients, then anyone should go for it.
“Make sure you discipline yourself in matters of health and finances. Get some exercise and save up. Remember, skills can be learned. Things like marketing can be Google’d or learned through online courses,” Balsomo advises.
Photo by Butch Balsomo
Website by Harvey Sison [sine-historya.netlify.app]
How You Can Support Freelancers
Oftentimes, freelancers may get misunderstood because they are not working on a regular hourly basis but instead through projects. What needs to be clarified however is that freelancing is more than just putting their skills and passion to practice through services but it is their livelihood. “So we do almost all the groundwork, the admin stuff, the handling, the art part, and then the self-promotion. And I think people should be a bit more forgiving and try to understand that they have to charge more because it’s how they earn, they make a living,” Chincuanco expressed.
“So we do almost all the groundwork, the admin stuff, the handling, the art part, and then the self-promotion. And I think people should be a bit more forgiving and try to understand that they have to charge more because it’s how they earn, they make a living,” Chincuanco expressed.
Once they do everything in their means to make their work and talent known, it is the job of the general public to be supportive of these individuals whether it’s liking and sharing their social media posts that showcase their work or simply offering them projects to do. No matter the odds, whether it be a pandemic or a surge of competition, it will take a lot of sheer willpower and support from a community to start and continue freelance.
Portrait of Nala Chincuanco
Shannon resides in Quezon City, Philippines, and is currently a fifth-year Marketing Management and Communication Arts student at De La Salle University. Her role is to apply her learnings on marketing and media in organizations that leave a positive social impact on the student body. She feels strongly passionate about sustainable living, press freedom, women empowerment, mental health, and inclusivity in the workforce.
Martine is a freelance graphic designer and an undergraduate Physics major in Metro Manila, Philippines. Her line of work is both in traditional and digital media including creative illustrations, typography, social media posters and UI/UX designs. She is very passionate about science communication, gender inclusivity in STEM and astronomy through public outreach.
Ewemiz resides in Iloilo City, Philippines and is a student of Philippine Science High School – Western Visayas Campus. While a science student with a love of physics and computer science, she likes to make art and fight against oppression on the side.