I took up Bachelor of Fine Arts in Advertising Arts, so the world of graphic design, illustration, layout, and visual arts were the most common career plans. Like many, I went on the journey of finding a job a couple of months before I graduated from college. Since there were lots of zeroes at the end of the checks sent biannually to the school for four years, it made the most sense to look for a career in one of those fields to get that ROI. So I looked for opportunities within that realm.
I found a job near my home as an in-house Creative Artist for a marketing firm, and those were the longest months of my life. I had 9 working hours 6 days a week; and even though my workplace was a good 10-minute walk from my house, it was exhausting and I dreaded every day. Aside from having only one rest day, design wasn’t really a passion I had nor have developed in those four collegian years. It was just something I learned to do (albeit, poorly, especially for those illustration and painting classes). I knew I had to leave because it was eating me up. So I did.
An ex talked me into considering freelancing. Something he did as a student to help send himself to school. I did earn while writing part-time starting high school, so it sounded like a plan. Did my research online with varying keywords such as “How to be a freelancer”, “How to start freelance writing”, and “Where to find clients as a freelancer”. I consulted this ex for tips and ended up in Elance, oDesk (now merged as Upwork), Guru, and Online Jobs PH. I wanted to be everywhere. After a couple of efforts to pitch my services to clients alongside many other applicants, I scored one who wanted me to ghostwrite a novel. Now that time, I had a stable tailoring business, Alshain Coser, so doing that alongside freelance writing while doing everything in my time was a worker’s dream freedom.
I was fortunate during the time because not everyone can and will take the leap of faith in freelancing. After all, there are many known issues that most of you probably have heard at one point or another. The first one being the instability of income. When you’re starting, that’s one of the first hurdles to conquer.
After I got my first ghostwriting project, the momentum began. I started pitching here and there and was able to take on projects one or two at a time at a pace that worked for me. I started with slightly lower rates than I would have accepted normally, but doing that made it easier to get initial clients who can leave me good feedback on my Elance profile. Ratings are a form of currency and credibility in freelance job posting sites. After all, strangers are taking up their chance with you and they need someone else to test the waters.
In a few months, I was steadily ghostwriting in different niches, from reviews and eBooks to fiction and SEO. I was earning more than I was when I was in a full-time job. The best thing was that I can do it whenever I want, or take a break whenever I want.
One day, I was able to score a client who needed some short 5,000-word fiction piece and wanted to pay me $300 for it. For something I can do in 3 days while watching movies, sipping coffee, taking naps in between, and attending to my business, I knew freelancing may be where I should be. That went on for a couple of projects and did sustain my hobbies during the time.
When an opportunity in the form of a freelancing contract with monthly retainers presented itself, I decided to give it a try to get some form of fixed income. It worked well for my setup as I had some weekdays free from work where I can run errands for my business. There were times I was also idle, so I was able to take on other projects in between. Maybe I was lucky or maybe I was skilled enough to get opportunities that fitted my scenario, but outside of my fortunate experience, freelancing is not all fun. I experienced getting scammed. I got indecent proposals here and there. And I get judgment from people with traditional expectations on what one should be doing when they graduate.
I remember I was running an errand for my business when I came across a neighbor in the hallways of my apartment. The conversation went like this:
Neighbor: Graduate ka na? (Have you graduated?)
Me: Opo (yes)
Neighbor: Hanap hanap din ng trabaho ha? (Why don’t you look for a job?)
In. the. most. passive. aggressive. way.
Needless to say, I was pissed off. I didn’t want to be rude as that will reflect on my upbringing so I just politely said that I have work. I’ve since moved on (Read: not, still annoyed when I see this neighbor), transitioned to a full-time job, and freelance writing on the side. This happened a total of three times with three different gossipmonger neighbors, and I had to keep composure. They thought I was feeding off my family.
The same neighbor caught my mom one time and initiated a conversation with her. He asked if I already graduated, if I have work and if I am helping with household expenses. My mom, of course, answered and did the clap back for me. When she asked if his kids were helping with expenses at home, they weren’t. Woop.
Anyway, freelancing has been good to me for the most part. Right now, I only have one freelance client with projects amounting to the same as my full-time job with a quarter of the effort and time. Once I finish my pending comprehensive exams to get my Master’s degree. I might become more aggressive again with getting more freelancing projects as it helps me spend on things I want instead of everything going to bills.