The freelance industry in the Philippines has been growing steadily over the years, along with the rise of the digital economy as well as the business process outsourcing industry.
According to a recent study by PayPal, the country has an estimated 1.5 million freelancers, with women making up around 65% of that figure and around 75% of freelancers being 24 to 39 years old.
There are several reasons an employee may choose to become a freelancer: You can have flexible work hours, you can be your own boss, you can work from anywhere—whether from your home, a coffeeshop, or a co-working space—and most importantly, you can earn according to your capability.
The basic tools you need to be a freelancer are simple: A laptop/PC with microphone and web cam, and a reliable internet connection. However, as in any major transition, planning and preparation are key to making the move from an employee to a freelancer as smooth as possible.
Before jumping into freelancing
There are things to remember before taking the leap to self-employment: Do your research and plan your course of action, such as what service you will freelance, how much the market rate for your service is, and where you will look for clients.
Before you leave your employment, you also have to make sure that you have adequate savings in reserve—normally up to six months of your monthly salary (assuming it’s enough to cover your living expenses)—to tide you through the months that you are setting up and building your clientele.
Sasha, who has been working freelance as a graphic artist and art director for 10 years, also shares, “When transitioning [from being an employee to being self-employed], you should be ready for unsteady or unpredictable income. Compensate for periods with lesser income by saving up during periods when you earn more.”
Finding those projects
In order to get started on projects, though, you have to find them first. You will need to increase awareness for your skills and promote the services you offer. Put together a portfolio and let people know that you are available to do projects through your professional connections and of course, social media.
Make sure to update your CV on career sites like LinkedIn. Upload samples of your previous work on your personal blog. Many websites target freelancers such as GetCraft, where clients look for content creators, or Kalibrr, Upwork, and Freelancer which have listings of jobs and projects that you can search through.
Being a pro about it
Freelancers, or those “who pursue an art and make their living therefrom,” are considered professionals, as is the case of writers, bloggers, web developers, graphic designers, and those who provide specialized or home-based services.
As a professional, you need to fill certain requirements such as registering with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), paying your taxes, filing your returns, and issuing invoice and/or receipts. Visit your Revenue District Office (RDO) to find out the process and bring the BIR registration requirements. Once you have submitted the requirements, you will need to attend a taxpayer’s briefing at the RDO. For bookkeeping and filing, it would be best to seek the advice of an accountant, if possible.
Once you are self-employed you would no longer be able to avail of company benefits, but as they say, wish for the best but be ready for the worst. Have a contingency plan in case of emergencies: Get your own health card or medical insurance, as well as continue to make your SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-Ibig fund contributions. Visit their respective offices nearest you to find out how you can make voluntary contributions.
In the freelance industry, reputation and professionalism are very important to set yourself apart and maintain good working relationships with your clients. Make sure to follow-through on your commitments so you build a reputation for being reliable. Continue your education, whether by attending seminars, short courses, or networking events that can help enhance your skills, knowledge, and connections.
More and more Filipinos are considering the benefits of freelancing to outweigh the benefits and security of working as a company employee. At the end of the day, it depends on your own goals for the future and your plans on achieving them, to help you make the best move toward leading a meaningful, enriched life.