Being a freelancer can be both a blessing and a curse. The most obvious advantage is that as a freelancer, you manage your own time and income isn’t limited to the salary you used to receive from your 9-to-5 job. But challenges to Filipino freelancers can make it difficult for those managing their own business a miserable one.
Poor Internet connection
Broadband speeds have been improving across larger cities where upgrades have made browsing the web more bearable. However, Internet connections remain slow in many parts of the Philippines, if available. The Philippines is ranked 93rd as of August 2019 Speedtest Global Index.
For Filipino freelancers, this can be a costly disadvantage especially when their job efficiency depends on web connection speeds. These jobs include database administrator, IT support, online research, or freelance content developer.
Unclear client requests
In many cases, companies or individuals make hand-out verbal requests and lack clear briefs. Self-employed Filipinos wishing to please clients get on with the job quickly without making further clarification.
Vague requests are a recipe for an inefficient workflow and will likely waste a freelancer’s time, with extra efforts to go back and forth, and redoing a finished job. Worse, it could also lead to arguments and companies backing out from deals, leaving finished jobs unpaid.
Clients backing out of deals
Speaking of companies or individuals reneging a deal, the Philippines does not have an adequate legal platform to protect freelancers. Although Senate Bill Number 35 was put forward to establish the rights of freelance individuals and protect them from unfair practices, this was never been enacted.
This means that if you have had a prior agreement with a client to perform certain tasks, you as a service provider could have a tougher time chasing after unpaid invoices or clients backing out of initial agreements.
Distractions beyond the line of duty
Just because you handle your own time doesn’t mean you can do things at your desired time. There are other commitments and responsibilities that you’re insulated from doing when you were a full-time employee.
Looking after the kids, doing household chores, or buying groceries are some examples. As a freelancer, you can be working just after waking up in the morning or deep in the night. This prevents you from establishing rhythm at work as you perform tasks at irregular intervals.
Associating Filipino freelancers as a low-cost option
To win a client, sometimes freelancers resort to offering lower rates. This is especially true for newcomers, those who lack a network of clients or belong to an industry with cut-throat competition.
Foreign clients often seek after Filipino freelancers because they offer low rates from an international perspective. But Pinoy freelancers also serve local clients. Signing up new clients looks like a win, but if a freelancer exerts more effort with less compensation, the quality of his or her service will likely suffer. Also, offering low rates might create an impression of lower quality of work.
Late payment of invoices
In a society where debt comes in many forms — pautang at sari-sari store to lenders targeting ATMs of school teachers — unpaid work for self-employed Filipinos also exists. There are cases when work has been delivered, but clients appear unsatisfied and use this dissatisfaction into delay or non-payment of service.
This puts some freelancers at the mercy of clients who take advantage of their vulnerable position.
Sadly, Filipino freelancers who decide to look for new clients and spend less time chasing for invoices might decide to write off the deal as a loss. The use of escrow accounts minimized this problem, but the challenge remains for those who rely on an old-school payment system.
Poor client communication
After a deal has been made, a freelancer normally commences the job at hand. But along the way, open communication must continue. Examples include freelancers asking for clarification or change in delivery date or clients changing the scope of work or reduce the budget.
Working for international clients may involve adjustments due to timezone differences, and dealing with local clients may involve multiple parties to handle payment, project management, and other aspects of the project. But when a client or a designated contact person takes a while to respond to simple questions or lacks interest or professionalism, the project hits a snag and cannot move forward easily.
Clients who micromanage projects
Some clients have very specific requirements, and some freelancers don’t adhere to it. Such a situation might trigger a client to follow every step of the project and makes even the most trivial comments. This might affect more creative jobs like designing web pages, writing articles, or creating logos.
Some clients cherry-pick a specific word or tone of the message in an article, desired video output of wedding coverage, or color and style of a web page. Multiple iterations — a crucial mistake if not laid out in the scope of work — almost certainly consumes more of a service provider’s time. In a challenging working arrangement and longer turnaround times, micromanaging clients are often tough to handle, even if they are paying extra for the stress they’ll cause.
Lack of stability
Unless you are a household name in a certain industry, such as wedding photo and video, architecture, beauty salon or landscaping services, you’ll probably take whatever help you can get to promote your work and establish your name as a trustworthy and efficient partner to get things done.
In the Philippines, talented freelancers are waiting to be discovered, and overrated ones get recommended because of their social connections rather than the quality of their work. So as an unknown freelance worker, you’ll have to work hard to get that next client, showcasing your talent and portfolio and offering competitive rates just enough to get a client’s attention and beat out the competition. Those who find it hard to close out their next freelance gig will be forced to find other ways to make money.
Many Filipinos resort to freelance work because of the relatively low pay they receive when working for an employer, and the lure of managing their own time and opportunities to earn more. But regardless you are in the Philippines or elsewhere, freelance work will always have its fair share of challenges.
Therefore, weighing these pros and cons sounds is a must before even thinking of joining the army of self-employed folks who have chosen freelance careers.