SFP 003: How to Get Clients Outside UpWork and Other Freelance Websites | Charm Dizon



Another Success story worth watching. Charm Dizon is a former banker who resigned from her 9-year career and ventured into freelancing to be a stay at home wife and eventually a mom. In just 6 months, Charm now has 5 direct clients and charges a 2-digit per hour rate. Want to know how she got direct clients outside Upwork and other freelancing websites? Watch the interview here. Now with a transcript.

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Notable Quotes

  • Before pala ako nag apply I made my portfolio na online. Gumawa ako ng website ko na nandoon yung mga skills na i-ooffer ko. And yung iba pa na details about me para kasi yung sa cover letter hindi ko na masyadong hinahabaan and I direct them to check my website for details. Yun yung start ng ginawa ko non, ganon palang siya. And he responded  naman, so nagkaroon kami ng interview and then actually part-time lang yon, yung nakuha ko with Facebook. Pero it’s okay na kasi ang goal ko lang non is to experience kung paano mag work as a freelancer.
  • Advice ko lang, siguro kasi know your client muna ang risky kasi with direct clients, hindi ka protected with payment like with Upwork. Pero ako kasi parang I’ve been blessed with very legit clients talaga and very generous yung mga clients ko and siguro parang kasi na probed ko din naman sila before ko tinake yung offer nila is inalam ko muna, actually sinearch ko sila sa search engine para to check lang kung ano business nila tapos yung mga LinkedIn profiles binabasa ko yun. Hindi ako yung agad agad na go agad kasi ang hirap kasi yung mga nababasa mo na scams. Tapos di ka pala babayaran after and kung magwowork kayo with direct kasi ako dun sa first client ko hindi ko sya nagawa kasi hindi ako, hindi pa ako confident mag to ask for a retainer fee. Pero with my second hanggang sa fourth client. Meron akong retainer fee with them equivalent to two weeks na pay.
  • Kasi syempre goal natin is to help our clients. Di ka naman pwedeng bara bara lang na work. Kasi nagrereflect din yun sayo kung ano yung work ethics mo. So dapat always give them yung best mo na. So nagpapay-off naman di ba, nag-iincrease nga ako ng rate eh.
  • Kasi ang kailangan mo lang talaga time management eh. Kailangan mong mag set ng kahit siguro one hour a day to plan your day para alam mo kung ano yung mga priorities mo for the day. Do it in the morning.  Kailangan lang kasi maging organized so kasi kung magulo din yung isip mo, hindi mo na-plano ng maayos yung buong araw mo, hindi mo maachieve, di ka magiging productive, kasi baka mamaya gagawin mo to tapos naisip mo, ay kailangan ko palang gawin si ganito ganyan so. Early in the day palang, i-manage mo na yung schedule mo. Kasi kung, si client nga kaya kailangan mo rin siya i-manage di ba, so dapat sarili mo na-mamanage mo din.
  • So kung kayo yung type of person na mahilig magsulat kahit notebook lang. Isulat niyo dun yung mga tasks na gagawin niyo tapos, mag check mark kayo kung ano yung mga nagawa na ninyo. Kasi dun ko na-oorganize yung schedule ko eh, kasi kung hindi ko siya isusulat, hindi ako magiging magulo siya sa isip ko. Hindi ko magagawa kung alin yung priority tapos baka yun, worst is mamaya may deadline pala, hindi ko naasikaso. So ako yung mahihirapan, maghahabol ako.
  • For starter syempre know your goals. Kasi ganon ako nag start. Inalam ko kung ano yung gusto ko  iachieve na like kunwari sa rate meron na akong plano so kailangan gumawa ka muna ng defined plan. Kung ano gusto mong mangyari sa freelancing career mo. Kasi di pwedeng go ka lang ng go, kasi mahihirapan ka kung wala kang planned method, kung paano mo siya gagawin.
  • Umiwas ka sa info overload, like yung nangyari sa akin, kasi hindi ka magiging productive, sayang lang yung mga binabayad mo sa courses kung di mo naman siya naabsorb lahat.
  • Kung meron ka namang natutunan with the courses, so i-execute mo. Hindi ka matututo ng hindi mo siya ginagawa. I-apply mo siya, kailangan mo siyang i-apply, and then syempre isama mo na din yung laging pagbabasa yung mga stories like, kahit yung simpleng pagbabasa sa mga Facebook groups, matututo ka dun kung paano nila hinandle yung ganitong situation. Makaka encounter ka non so pwede kasing mangyari, atleast may idea ka na kapag mangyari sayo, so read lang, and yun lang mga sharings yan manood ka.
  • Always aim to have a relationship with your clients kasi dun nag-papay off yung sa work mo. Makikita mo nalang na unting unti umookay lahat kahit nahirapan ka sa umpisa, okay lang din kasi very worth it.

Charm Dizon’s Journey to Freelancing

  • Charm is a stay-at-home wife and a full-time virtual assistant.  She started freelancing December 2016.
  • She worked as a corporate employee for a local bank around 9 to 10 years.
  • Charm got interested in freelancing in 2014 when she attended a seminar of Genesis Reonico, the founder of online job.  She found out that freelancing is not only for programmers or computer related courses graduates. It has different platforms including admin works and customer support that can be done home-based.
  • Though she got interested in freelancing, she’s not fully decided to leave corporate world because of the following reasons:
    • Income stability;
    • Employee benefits and her employer being one of the generous companies known in the industry when it comes to employee benefits; and
    • HMO benefit as a corporate employee.  This is one of her biggest considerations because of her father, as declared dependent in HMO, suffered a mild stroke.  He needed maintenance medicines and check-ups.
  • In 2016, Charm got married and started a new chapter of her life.  Career-wise, she felt she also needed to move up. She attended again a seminar by Genesis, digital career boot camp.
  • She then enrolled in numerous online courses with three different mentors. She grabbed all freelancing lessons that she can get.  Since Charm is still full-time employee that time, she used to watch her modules at night after work and during weekends.  She’s not applying for any online jobs that time; she’s focused on learning new skills.
  • However, it became unhealthy for her eventually because of too much information she can’t absorb anymore.
  • Last quarter of 2016, she decided to apply what she has learned.  She realized that her knowledge is enough to start the execution phase.  She resigned from the corporate job.
  • She started to browse and apply for jobs as Virtual Assistant on Facebook.  She messaged her client with cover letter and directed him to her website. She created beforehand a website for her portfolio, list of skills she offers and other details about her. She got interviewed and was hired as a part-time freelancer.
  • Charm take her time to study the flow of Upwork and other details like sending proposals and reasonable rate before applying to a job.  When she decided to apply in Upwork, she got hired by her second client for a fixed price job.  After 2 to 3 months their contract ended, the same client hired her again but outside Upwork.  The client emailed her and hired her directly.
  • Currently, Charm has four clients that are all direct clients, outside the platforms.  To avoid scams and payment problems, Charm checks first client’s legitimacy before accepting the contract through searching the nature of their business and company profile in LinkedIn and their websites.
  • She has able to secure a retainer’s fee from her second to fourth client equivalent to two weeks’ pay.  This fee serves as a buffer or escrow payment in case client failed to pay her on the due date.
  • WordPress is Charm’s specialization.  She learned that skill from the courses that she took when she was in her planning stage as a freelancer.  She managed to enhance that skill by creating her own website. She even includes in her cover letter that she has her own website in WordPress.
  • Her new skills and knowledge came from three mentors with different specialization.  One mentor focuses on the mindset, the second mentor focuses on technical concepts of WordPress, and the last mentor talks about the broad concept of freelancing specifically designed for newbies.
  • Her transition from corporate job to freelancing job is worth it because of the following:
    • Freelancing gave Charm the freedom to manage her own time;
    • She has able to increase her rate; and
    • She has able to explore different fields and gained additional skills

Q&A Highlights

What pushed you over the edge that made you decide to pursue Freelancing?

  • Ang gusto ko pag nagkaroon na kami ng baby, gusto ko makakasama ko siya sa buong stage of life niya, parang ang hirap kasi na aalis. Parang di pa rin kaya yata, parang pag inisip ko pa lang, ayoko na. So yun yung pinaka nag-push sa akin. Yun sabi ko gawin ko ‘to for my future family kasi ang gusto ko stable na. Kumbaga, na-gamay ko na yung process habang wala pa yung baby kasi parang ang hirap pagsabayin kapag nandiyan na lahat.

Why would you say that enrolling in many courses is unhealthy? What effect it has on you?

  • One is information overload. Hindi ko siya na-absorb yung mga bagay bagay, yung lahat ng course napanood ko pero parang di ko siya na-absorb kasi kunyare after this module, okay meron pa akong next na papanoorin iba naman. And wala akong execution nung mga natutunan ko. So ‘di ba parang kung puro theoretical ang lahat ng alam mo and wala kang execution, hindi mo rin siya magagawa ng tama.

So if you were talking to a newbie freelancer and they were interested in getting where you are getting clients outside of the platforms. What would be your number one advice?

  • Advice ko lang, siguro know your client muna. Ang risky kasi with direct clients, hindi ka protected  with payment like with Upwork. Pero ako kasi parang I’ve been blessed with very legit clients talaga and very generous yung mga clients ko and siguro para kasi na probed ko din naman sila before ko tinake yung offer nila. Inalam ko muna kung ano business nila tapos yung mga LinkedIn profiles binabasa ko yun.  Hindi ako yung agad agad na go agad kasi ang hirap kasi yung mga nababasa mo na scams. Tapos di ka pala babayaran after.  And kung magwowork kayo with direct, ask for a retainer fee. With my second hanggang sa fourth client meron akong retainer’s fee with them equivalent to two weeks na pay.

What your specialization kasi you’re doing mostly virtual assistant work. Do you have a specific skill or parang specialized in?

  • Kasi while browsing palang ng jobs ang hinanahap ko na is yung everything na working with WordPress. Kasi yun na napag-aralan ko na technical skill, pero kasi since yung mga research and report making naman is fundamental na so meron tayong lahat niyan. So ang focus ko is WordPress talaga and lucky yung tatlong clients ko is using WordPress naman. So puro WordPress talagang ginagawa ko like yung updating nung website, yung mga page nila, content, yung ano lang mga basic lang naman. So yun yung pinaka keyword ko non, WordPress.

How much yung rate niyo with clients? And you don’t have to answer if you’re not comfortable.

  • With rate kasi iba iba pero meron na akong two digits na ano sa isa kong client. And then yung mga mas nauna kasi mga one digit lang. Pero ang nakakatuwa kasi with my clients, never pa ako nakipag negotiate with my rates. Kung ano yung sinabi kong rate, yun na yung inaccept nila. And then sa dalawa kong clients, both of them sila yung nag-iinitiate ng increase every time na meron silang ipapagawang new task sa akin. So dun sa isa actually naka tatlong late increase na ako, and then dun sa isa ko parang dalawa. Sila mismong nag-ooffer kasi nga alam nila nadadagdagan yung workload na pinapagawa nila. So sila yung nag-seset.

How do you market yourself outside of Upwork and the different platforms?

  • Nag platform din ako with onlinejobs, dun ko nakuha yung dalawa kong direct clients. So syempre nag apply din ako. I applied din sa kanila and then with onlinejobs din kasi direct talaga since ang ang payment sa’yo is through Paypal na diretso.
  • Sa Facebook tapos I messaged him my cover letter yung maii-offer ko na skills, so doon dun mo parin ibibigay yung details mo and yung nga lagi kong sinasama is yung website ko nga which is yung online portfolio ko.

With three initial online mentors, all different specializations or were like the same specializations?

  • Parang magkakaiba sila kasi yung isang mentor is naka focus with mindset, kung paano yung mindset mo with freelancing. Kung paano yung approach mo. And then yung second mentor na kinuha ko is yung in-depth ng WordPress.  So very technical, so yung lahat ng technical related with WordPress, yung lang focus niya talaga is WordPress. And yung pangatlo, syempre very general. Syempre yung parang pang newbie talaga, dun ko natutunan na pwede ko pala ‘to, na pwede ko talagan gawing skills. Kasi parang sayang naman kung kukuha ka ng same specialization lahat, baka  naguluhan ka lang.

How do you manage four clients?

  • Ah okay yung four clients is flexi-time naman kasi. Except lang dun sa isa na I have to be online by 7am tsaka 3pm so yun lang naman requirement pero the rest lahat naman sila flexi so ako nang bahala sa time ko. And since nakagawa naman from the start, meron na akong routine.  Kunyari by this time hanggang this time si ganitong client, yung client na task na ganito yung gagawin ko so meron ako nung routine for the day. So yun na yung nakasanayan ko, kaya nagagawa ko naman sila lahat. Pero I don’t overwork myself kasi pagdating ng gabi, ano naman K-Drama naman tayo.

Worth it naman like the rate increase, the freedom of being able to work from home. Would you say it’s worth it talaga or parang hindi worth it, balik ka na ng bangko?

  • Syempre worth it naman. Kasi ang problem ko nga dati pag nag wowork ka sa office is you’re stuck lang dun sa office for the nine hours. For the whole nine hours tapos pagka na burnout ka na, wala kang choice, dun ka parin mag-stay sa loob lang ng room. Pero with freelancing you have the freedom so kung gusto mong lumabas, di sige pwede kang mag work outside. Or kung gusto mo mag rest muna, nood muna K-Drama, mag K-Drama muna tayo.

Even without the money, if your pay was the same as you were earning at the bank, tapos let’s say compensate tapos free yung HMO. Would you still do it?

  • Yes, iba pa rin nabigay ng freelancing sa akin. Malaking yung difference niya with working sa office. Mas enjoy siya for me, mas importante sa akin yung freedom with my time.

If you don’t mind as a starter, like what would you recommend I  guess for an hourly rate?

  • It depends kasi sayo kasi ako with my case, na compute ko yung goal ko na hourly rate based on kung ano yung expenses namin sa household.  So nag compute kasi ako eh, yung expenses, magkano yung expenses namin within a month. Magkano kailangan naka dedicate sa savings, sa investment, tapos yung buffer, tapos i-divide mo yun with yung hourly with the whole month. So dun ako nag come up with my starting rate ko pero since di ba with Upwork parang three dollars yata yung minimum.

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