Category Archives: Advanced

For Filipino freelancers who are already charging premium rates, but still want to “level up” their game by creating alternate income streams, scaling up their practice, or productizing their service.

5 Simple Strategies to Get More Freelance Work

Today we have another guest writer, Stef Gonzaga, founder of The Freelance Pinoy. You might know Stef from her blog, or from the webinar we did together last year, or from her various writing work.

Or you might know her from “Better Work” – a podcast that I co-host with her. It’s for Filipino freelancers who want to do better work, get creative, and make a difference. If you haven’t tried listening to the show yet, you might want to start with our episode on 6 simple ways to increase your freelancing income (no need to change your services or learn new skills) or our episode on the things we wish we knew when we started freelancing.

For her contribution today, Stef shares 5 ways you can get more projects from your current clients. Take it away, Stef:

Continue reading

How much do you want me to reveal?

This is going to be an unusual update since I won’t be sharing any tactics and strategies with you today. Instead, this is a personal appeal. I want to hear what YOU think.

See, something’s been bothering me a lot lately. It has to do with transparency.

As many of you know, I am a freelance writer and marketer. I’ve been freelancing online since 2003, when I was 20 years old, initially as an effort to support myself through college. It didn’t become a regular, stable thing until 2004.

Since 2013, and a little bit before that, I started helping out other Filipino freelancers. At first, informal yung attempts – someone would hear from a friend of a friend that I was freelancing online and they wanted to learn how to do it. But by March 2013 my mentoring efforts became a paid 6-week course, Pinoy500 PRO. Since then I’ve relaunched the course a couple of times, and also created a new course on negotiation (Negotiation Toolkit), which I’ve also launched twice.

The tricky thing about being a mentor or sharing knowledge with others is that the mentor should be held accountable for the advice he or she gives. Madali lang maghanap ng information online – whether it’s about freelancing, starting your own business, how to diagnose your medical symptoms, or how to train your dog. For each topic you want to learn, there are hundreds of web pages out there giving you answers.

Pero papaano natin malalaman kung reliable ba itong information na ito? Do they come from specialists who have studied that field for years? Do these specialists have practical real-world experience? For example, there are many ebooks or courses out there that teach you how to train your dog – but how many of the people who offer these courses have actually trained dogs? How many dogs have they trained? How many of those trained dogs succeeded with the training?

So that’s what’s been bothering me, especially since I don’t really like talking about myself or my personal life and experiences. As someone who is selling information and training to other people – information that’s supposed to work and help them achieve concrete goals – how much of what I teach do I actually apply? How much of it has worked for other people? How can you know that I’m really walking the walk and not just talking theory? Has freelancing made me as happy or as free as they said it would?

That’s what I want to learn from you. How transparent do you want me to be?

If I were to send you a monthly update of the details of my freelance work, or even my courses, what do you want included in those updates? For example:

  • What facts about my work, clients, or courses should I mention?
  • What doubts do you have about my character or my work as a professional, and how can I help you confirm or clear up those doubts?
  • Which details of my professional and personal life would be useful to you?

Let me know. Because if I can find a good balance between keeping my personal privacy (for safety reasons, of course) and giving you full transparency, I want to do that for you.

There are two ways of letting me know the level of transparency you want from me. 1) Hit “reply” to this update if you’re reading it via email, 2) Leave a comment on this blog post.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Do you ask these bad questions?

Did you know that people can read your mind just based on the questions you ask?

Anyone who’s part of the Pinoy500 insider list knows that in the first email they get from me, I ask them to submit questions. Here’s what I say:

“If you could spend 30 minutes over coffee with me, talking about your freelancing career, what are the top 2 questions you would ask me?”

Why do I encourage readers to ask questions? Why not just go straight to giving them tips about freelancing?

First, before I give any tips, I want to know what you need from me. Second, it helps me read your mind better so that I can figure out the mindset and worldview you are coming from.

See, a person’s questions reveal more about their mindset, barriers, and personality more than statements do. This is because it’s easy to lie or change your image using statements. It’s difficult to lie when you’re asking a question.

Let me illustrate by deconstructing a few common questions and uncovering the hidden assumptions lurking beneath.

“What is your recipe/strategy/tip for success?”

Hidden Assumptions: This tells me that the person asking this very generic question thinks that success looks the same for everyone. It doesn’t. I know some people already feel happy and successful getting paid $5 per article for SEO articles, while for other freelance writers that scenario sounds like a nightmare.

In my experience, people ask this question for either of the following reasons a) they don’t know enough about the field to ask better questions or b) they assume that the person they’re asking can easily outline the steps to success.

Also, most successful people probably don’t understand why they are successful, so this question is very hard for them to answer tactically. Try asking a successful person this question. Most likely they’ll give you generic answers like “disiplina” or “focus” or “passion” or “lakas ng loob”. Does that tell you what you should do next to be successful?

Better Questions to Ask:

  • “What do most beginners/newbies get/do wrong?”I asked this question in a gardening forum online, when I was learning how to improve my gardening skills. The answers saved my garden, which was already suffering from my stupid “black thumb” – the opposite of green thumb, I suppose. (Most common answers: overwatering plants and planting things too close together.)
  • “What’s the #1 challenge/problem that you didn’t expect when you got started?” This tells you exactly what to avoid or be worried about. Many new freelancers are worried about the wrong things – business cards, where to look for jobs, how to accept payment – and this makes them blind to the more immediate issues they have to address (what skills/services to offer, how to talk to a client professionally).
  • “When did you know you finally ‘made it’? What were the concrete signs?” Follow this up with “How did you achieve that?” for each concrete sign the interviewee mentions. Rather than vaguely asking for “success tips”, you are asking the interviewee to define success into CONCRETE examples. For example, rather than answer “Focus led me to my success”, your interviewee can answer “I knew I was successful when I finally earned enough to quit my full-time job.” Then you can ask them how they got to that point. That stuff is easier to measure and analyze, unlike things like passion and focus.

“How can freelancers ensure a steady income or survive from one month to the next? Should they have a quota of jobs?”

Hidden Assumptions: Someone asked me this during an interview. Notice that the question is very leading, “Should they have a quota of jobs?” This tells me that the person asking this thinks that more jobs = more money. And that’s just not true. A freelancer with one $50/hour job can easily make more than another freelancer with three $2/hour jobs.

Plus, the person asking this also equates steady income with survival. Getting $100/month is steady income, but is it enough to survive on if you’re the sole breadwinner of a 5-person family? What this person is really asking is “How do I make sure that my freelancing income covers my living expenses?” Notice how different the answers will be:

“How can freelancers ensure a steady income or survive from one month to the next? Should they have a quota of jobs?” Yes. You should always have more than one client working with you and paying you regularly.

vs.

“How do I make sure that my freelancing income covers my living expenses?” First, you have to know what your living expenses are. Compare that with you are earning per hour or per output (like an article or a website project). This will tell you how many hours you have to work or how many articles you have to write or how many websites you have to design each month to make ends meet.

Which one is better? The answer that’s just either a Yes or No, or concrete steps that are informative?

Better Questions to Ask:

  • “How do I make sure that my freelancing income covers my living expenses?” We’ve already covered why this works.
  • “Which decisions had the highest returns for your freelancing business? Why?” True, this is a completely different question, but since you’re asking about money, it’s best to learn which decisions or actions will lead to maximizing your income. This also doesn’t box in your interviewee into thinking about just one thing.

“Does anyone know of any gigs/jobs out there?”

question2

Hidden Assumptions: I found this question in a Facebook group. The fact that this person is bringing up age requirements tells me that in his or her mind, age is a factor in hiring. Unless you’re in an industry where your appearance is important (acting, modeling, etc.), it’s very very rare that age in itself matters. If it’s a barrier, it’s likely that it’s a barrier in your mind first. Most of the prominent social media and marketing professionals out there are at least 40 years old.

Better Questions to Ask:

  • “I’m a freelance ________ looking for work. I specialize in ___________. Do you know how someone with my expertise can find more work quickly?” Let others know what your forte is. Otherwise you’ll get generic tips and are losing the opportunity to connect with other professionals who are in the same boat. The asker should’ve been more specific about the type of writing he/she does.
  • “I’m a freelance ____________ and I think that age/gender/experience/nationality is a barrier for me to get jobs. Do you know of any examples who are ___ like me and still find work in this industry?” If you think that something is holding you back from getting a job, the best way to destroy that barrier is to find people like you who have “made it”. He/she could’ve said “I’m a freelance writer and I think being 55 years old prevents me from getting jobs. Do you know of any other freelance writers who are 50+? If so, where/how do they get work without age being a barrier?”

“I want to become a _________. How do I start?”

question3

Hidden Assumptions: What this question tells me is that the person hasn’t done any work beforehand to figure out how to start. My impression is that they just thought “Uy, ok ata maging web developer” and just assumed that it was the right path for them, without figuring out what it means to be a web developer.

Also, here’s a bonus assumption: the person is assuming that skilled web developers will actually take the time to PM him. If you’re the one asking for free advice, MAKE IT EASY for the person answering you. Maybe someone did PM him. But he would be getting better and more responses if he just asked for replies in the comments or Googled for web developers and emailed them directly.

Better Questions to Ask:

  • “I’ve tried __________ and __________. Here’s what happened: _________. What am I doing wrong?” In the case of our aspiring web developer, he or she can get better answers by framing it this way: “I want to become a web developer. I’ve tried reading programming books and looking up videos online. Here’s what happened: It was very hard for me to understand the lessons. I just don’t get any of it. What am I doing wrong?”
  • “I’m interested in becoming a ______________. My impression is that this job involves ________________. Is my impression right? How does it compare to your actual work?” A common issue with new freelancers is a mismatch of their expectations with reality. For example, a lot of people claim they want to be freelance writers. But what they really want is to be paid to write about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. So when they find out – the hard way – that freelance writing requires more skills and business savvy, they easily give up.
  • “I’m interested in becoming a ___________. My current skills are __________________. I’ve done ___________________. Given my background and experience, what would be the best next step for me?” You’d be amazed at how many times people ask me “I want to be a freelancer. How do I start?” WITHOUT telling me what their background is. How should I know how you can start? I don’t know what your skills are!

Also, notice how these better questions tend to elaborate what you’ve already done, studied, or tried. This is CRUCIAL when asking for advice, because it tells the person you’re asking that you take action and any time they spend on you will not be wasted.

How to Ask Better Questions

We’re lucky that the internet allows us to connect with other professionals from all over the world. This makes it easier to find opportunities, mentors, and new colleagues.

BUT it would be a waste of our time and effort if we don’t ask them good questions.

So how do you ask good questions?

First, let go of all assumptions. Don’t try to predict what the answer will be about. You’ll get more interesting and more specific answers that way.

Then, be specific about your endgame. Why are you asking your question in the first place? Do you need guidance? Do you need to achieve a very specific goal? Or are you just looking to confirm what you already believe/know? Understanding why you’re asking the question can help you phrase it better so that you can get the answers you want.

The next time you try to ask a question, write the question out and think:

  • What assumptions are hidden in this question?
  • Why am I asking this? What do I want to get out of it?
  • If I try to answer this question. What would my answer be like?

Being more reflective about the questions we ask helps us get better answers, and may even improve the response rate we get. Go ahead and try it. Try copying and pasting any of the “Better Questions” examples above. Post it on a forum, group, or email it to your mentors. See what happens 🙂

Do You Really Need To Blog? How Jovell Found the Answer

The following is a guest post by Filipina freelance writer Jovell Alingod. As a writer, Jovell assumed that it was important for her to have her own blog. She saw that many other freelancers had blogs, and she thought that having a blog would be a great way for her to practice writing, SEO, and social media strategies.

Still, she had her doubts. Pay attention here because while her findings are very important, her process is even more so. She didn’t just ponder things internally – she looked for evidence.

And she’s sharing it with you here today:

“Do I Really Need to Blog?”

This question has bothered me since I found out I can get paid for writing blog posts. That was 3 years ago. Since then, I’ve started more than 5 blogs – but I’ve also unpublished all of them.

You see I thought that to get high-paying blogging gigs, I have to have my own blog to show:

  1. My blog writing skills (especially since English is not my first language)
  2. I understand blogging as a whole
  3. I can write engaging posts
  4. My online marketing skills (which is also one of my services)
  5. I understand how SEO works

But in blogging, if you don’t have time for marketing, even if you write great content, your blog will be a ghost town, silent. And the posts, dusty.

That’s what I don’t have enough of – time. Like most Pinay freelancers, I’m a one-woman show and client projects and family come first. So marketing my blogs got the backseat.

Yet it was a roller coaster I rode for several times. Because at the back of my mind, I thought, “As a freelance writer and marketer I needed to blog!” Even if I know time will come again that I may need to close it because it has become a bad entry in my portfolio.

Recently, I was in malaise. I just unpublished another blog and the question popped again in my mind. But this time I need a concise answer.

Since I’ve gone through Celine’s course, I also wanted to be tactical about my approach. So here’s what I did:

  1. I went through Lesson 1 again of the Pinoy500 course where Celine teaches about “The 3 Limiting Misconceptions” (and how to crush them).
  2. I searched for posts discussing this topic via Google and a writer’s forum of which I’m part of.
  3. I also voiced my concern to Celine and 2 other writing mentors. Their advice was great and eye-opening.

But stubborn me was still torn.

To better weigh things, I reviewed 17 professional websites by freelance writers from all over the world, 2 of which are Pinoys.

And here’s the information I got:

  • All 17 writers use pitching, cold calling, and applying to good job boards to get blog writing and marketing gigs. They have no complaints about it. They all say they got good paying clients from these direct approach strategies.
  •  4 of them use guest posting as seen on the social proof they show on their sites.
  • Only 5 have successful blogs. By successful, I mean social shares of at least 5 per social network per post, more than 2 comments per post, and Google PR 2 and above.
  • 4 out of the 5 who have successful blogs offer marketing services upfront
  • 3 offer a free download and their writer sites also have a Google Page Rank of 2 or above.
  • The other 11 have un-updated blogs with no engagement of any kind.
  • But again all 17 show writing clips.

This was my personal conclusion after this review:

  1. The direct approach strategies are still the best methods to get good paying clients.
  2. Having a writer website and providing at least 1 form of freebie for potential clients helps.
  3. Guest posting also helps build a writer’s portfolio, credibility, and online visibility.
  4. Having a personal blog doesn’t even seem to fit in the picture, even if you’re selling marketing services.

Celine and the other writing mentors advised me the same thing – you can always show your marketing skills by providing a case study, an ebook or evergreen articles you wrote with tips on this topic, or offer the service behind the scenes.

Creating blogs still helped me improve my writing skills and test marketing strategies. But as a solo professional, it’s vital to know where it’s best to focus our time and energy, especially if the goal is to get good-paying clients. In the end, my personal blogs just ate up my time and sometimes, my self-esteem as a writer.

My takeaway for you: being successful at freelancing is not only about working hard, it’s also about doing what has been proven to work.

jovell

Author Bio
Jovell Alingod is a freelance writer who writes to help both entrepreneurs and freelancers. Get more from her via her website and Google+.