My Unexpected Journey As An Online Freelancer

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Truth be told, the thought of making a career shift – from the office cubicle to my home desk – as a freelancer/cyberpreneur has always lingered in my mind ever since I learned about the concept some years ago.

I’ve felt that working from home was an ideal setup. At least for me though, a shift that’s not in the immediate future, but after x number of years. With that in mind, I had a plan – not properly drawn out, but all there nevertheless.

I am sticking to my new job title as a freelancer and cyberpreneur as I look forward to where this will take me in this new phase of my life.

Building the foundations

For the past 3 years or so, I began to establish the foundations of that possible next career phase. I looked for writing contributions, both unpaid and (especially) paid ones. I completely overhauled my old blog, as I migrated the site to a new domain and a new hosting service. I did so, for my site to have ads for some additional revenue.

Then early this year, I made the move to get myself registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) as a part-time freelancer. Or as the BIR would classify freelancers, a professional. It was originally intended to fulfill the requirements of some publications that freelancers like myself should have official receipts to issue. But I was mindful at the same time that I would find it beneficial for my eventual future transition to a full-time freelancer – a future that I thought would happen after a year or more, at least.

I wouldn’t have thought that transition would happen sooner than I expected.

I thought I had it all planned out…

I have been working in an office for some 10 years, half of which was spent in the call center environment. So I’ve been through it all, from shifting schedules that could start at an ungodly time to the hellish commute I go through each working day.

I felt that commuting hell especially when I moved out from the capital city of Manila to the growing suburb of Taytay, east of Metro Manila. Most especially, one can feel this hell during Monday mornings when traffic going to the metropolis is more “challenging” than usual. Nevertheless, I survived it. You have to live through the situation and make your way around it, is what I say.

However, even the patience of the most patient persons has a limit. Thus, I had been on the lookout for a new workplace, ideally in a location easily accessible and/or more commuting options from where I am.

My original plan was two-fold: short-term which was to transfer to a more convenient workplace, then medium-term which was to eventually shift to freelance and online work.

By then, I thought I had it all figured out.

Then circumstances say: screw those plans!

Those plans in my mind were conceived at an interesting point in my life, when I felt so restrained and stagnant where I was. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but good things to say for that work environment I’ve been part of. But if you’re someone – who after many years of service – yearns for something beyond what the environment has to offer…I suppose you know what I mean, and where this may lead to.

So yeah, I was planning on leaving, though I did not have a specified date in mind as it would depend on the status of the job applications I filed. Almost each week, I filed one application after another online, hoping for that opportunity for me to open and start anew, so to speak.

As I look back at it now, 3 months from making that fated decision, I’ve come to realize that life sometimes has a way of accelerating even carefully drawn plans into action…

The farthest I was able to go was a final interview in a couple of applications I did. But unfortunately, the opportunities I was hoping did not come. I don’t wish to speculate on the reasons, since they never disclose it anyway. But I tried still.

What about the call center environment? I don’t have anything bad to say about it, and I am thankful that I got to work there where I learned so much. But I felt it was enough experience for me, and I don’t see myself going back. After five years, I just felt what I could do deserves a wider playing field, something the call center environment sadly cannot provide from what I see on my end.

For months, I was on stealth job hunting mode while I was still employed, looking for that elusive break that I need. I wanted to stay at my job as long as I can until that time came. But it came to a point that the mental fatigue and stress that adversely affected my performance led me to make an important decision. And it was a heartbreaking one.

Some would say that decision to leave at the moment was kinda daring and foolish. I could have fought to stay on actually, but I felt a continued stay would only worsen things for me. I had to do myself a favor at that moment even if it meant jeopardizing those plans I long crafted to make.

As I look back at it now, 3 months from making that fated decision, I’ve come to realize that life sometimes has a way of even carefully drawn plans into action. It changes what you’ve initially plotted, as you find ways to go about in light of the new state of things. You may not understand it now (in fact, until now, I still don’t understand it), but all you can do is trust that things will be alright.

Screw it! I’m making that shift anyway

With the decision to leave, I felt a sense of relief. Finally, I can be more active in pursuing job applications I’ve been eyeing. While I would no longer have the security of regular pay for now, at least I would be more available for the job opportunities that I would encountered. But after a month of sending applications, interviews, and exams left and right, there was still no clear opportunity for me.

Optimistic as I was, I admit that at that moment, I was beginning to feel hopeless and in despair while my saved funds were beginning to dry up. Suicide was far from my mind, but I felt I wanted to give up and just be a worthless bum.

In that state of limbo, one of the dwindling options that I have was to eventually go full-time as a freelancer and online worker. So, with little idea how things would go in this new field, I tried my luck first as a part-timer to see how it would go. By a stroke of luck, I got hired as a part-time researcher for a short-term project on an online gaming site. It was the most informal job applications I had. Just an exchange of messages of Skype, then I was in.

The weekly pay I was getting from that job was enough to replenish dwindling funds for my needs, as well as for my continued job hunting. At the same time, I was getting comfortable in the new setup I found myself in.

So finally, having been fed up with the frustration of those applications that don’t seem to want to consider my capabilities, I finally snapped and said to myself, “Screw this! I’m going online now!”

As that project was nearing its end, I submitted my application to a number of freelance and online job opportunities I could find. Fortunately, I got a job as a writer and researcher, where I currently work now at this time of writing.

Still getting used to it, but getting the hang of it

Looking back at it now, I find myself amazed that I managed to make it through this particularly challenging point in my life. For the most part at least. As I look back, there are things I wish I could have done differently to smoothen the transition. Nevertheless, I am thankful for those hard lessons I learned along the way.

After more than two months in this new job environment, I admit there are things that I have to get myself used to, not to mention improve on my work ethic. I’m still feeling my around the way of things in this new setup, but I would say it is something I’m becoming comfortable with, being spared from worsening traffic and the increased expenses I tend to have.

Looking back at it now, I find myself amazed that I managed to make it through that challenging point in my life.

With that said, am I shunning the office work environment completely now? Not really actually. In fact I have some applications filed and if the opportunity is meant for me and the benefits are good, I will consider taking that opportunity.

But until that comes, I am sticking to my new job title as a freelancer and cyberpreneur as I look forward to where this will take me in this new phase of my life.

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Note: A version of this article was originally published in Medium.

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