The state of freelancing in the Philippines

Christopher Jan Benitez
Christopher Jan Benitez
October 12, 2016

Freelancing is a booming industry in the Philippines—and it’s not hard to see why.

Make no mistake, the Philippines has a big pool of world-class talent. The only problem is the lack of good opportunities that will fully utilize or fairly compensate them. Filipino jobseekers are also required to fight tooth and nail for competitive positions despite the fact that they could end up being underpaid and overworked. As a result, thousands of young professionals turn to freelancing and make their services available to the international clientele.

However, the lack of local employment opportunities is not the only reason why Filipinos choose the freelancing life. There are also numerous benefits freelancers enjoy such as flexibility, bigger earnings, and the opportunity to leverage English fluency.

The Advantages of Being a Filipino Freelancer

Here is a breakdown of the main advantages of being a Filipino freelancer:

1. Flexibility

In 2015, Payoneer’s VP Marketing, Jonny Steel stated that there are already over a million freelancers in the country. Most of these freelancers enjoy the privilege of working at home unsupervised. This is a big deal for Filipinos given the burgeoning traffic problems in urban locations where most of the white collar jobs are.

According to a global evaluation done by Waze, Metro Manila—the capital city of the Philippines—has the worst traffic in the world. Home-based freelancers, on the other hand, are safe from the everyday stresses of commuting.

waze-manila-infographic

Source: Waze Blog

Without worrying about being late or a 2-hour commute, freelancers can focus more on their work—thus, improving the overall quality of their output.

In addition to their choice of workplace, a lot of freelancers also have full control of their time. This gives them the flexibility to take on multiple projects or maintain a full-time job as they do freelance work on the side. Work-at-home parents, in particular, enjoy this privilege since they can spend more time with their family.

Interestingly, some foreign employers may encounter more stay-at-home Filipino moms in freelancing marketplaces. By freelancing, these women can balance home life while providing financial support for their families. Research conducted by Fast Company states that 53% of all full-time freelancers are women.

2. English Fluency

Being one of the “best English speaking countries in Asia”, it’s no surprise that content writing and customer service are some of the most active freelancing avenues for Filipinos. Today, some of the high-demand industries for Filipino freelancers include content writing, technical support, customer service, data entry, and translation. There is a growing demand for home-based English tutors in the country as well.

According to data cited on TechInAsia, the top three skills being listed by Filipino freelancers include data entry (30.89%), Excel (13.89%), and copy typing (11.77%).

techinasia-infographic

Source: TechInAsia

English fluency also means better communication with the international clientele, which is one of the reasons why Filipinos can stand out from the global pool of talent. Being competent in English also encourages more Filipinos to seek online work, which is why the Philippines is ranked 5th in the international rankings based on the growing number of accounts in Freelancer.com—as stated in this post by TechInAsia.com.

3. Bigger Earnings

Freelancers based in the US or Western Europe may have income just as high as full-time employees—if not higher. That’s part of the reason why many foreign companies opt to work with Filipino freelancers, who are still capable of delivering competitive work at mother-tongue level. Despite being paid less than a US or UK-based freelancer, Filipino freelancers can still earn significantly more income than the average Filipino hired employee can.

For example, over 20% of Filipino freelance writers are getting paid $11-$15 per 500-word article. That means they can earn roughly Php 30,000 per month for a workload of 10 articles in a 5-day workweek.

An experienced freelance writer could potentially produce 3-4 articles per day working full-time. Even if situated in the lowest salary bracket (earning $3-$5 per article), he or she can still earn around Php 18,216 per month (Php 759 per day)—nearly 55% more than the national daily minimum wage of Php 491.

When paid by the hour, Filipino freelance writers can earn as much as $17-$19. Filipino freelancers in other industries also enjoy bigger earnings than the average rank-and-file worker. For example, a freelance web designer earns an average $22 per hour—based on statistics reported by Upwork. Since a Filipino freelancer typically works 34.2 hours per week, he or she could still earn as much as $752.4 per month.

According to the 2015 Freelancer Income Survey conducted by Payoneer, the field of IT & programming has the highest level of income satisfaction for freelancers. Despite this fact, the field of freelance writing is more prevalent due to lower barriers to entry. Incidentally, freelance writers have one of the lowest income satisfaction level. On the flip side, they are usually required to work less hours than fields such as programming, graphic design, engineering, and consulting.

4. Increasing Demand

Aside from flexibility, the increasing demand for freelancers is one of the key advantages of the industry. Some of the main reasons behind this include corporate downsizing, the rise of startups, and the growth of platforms that connect enterprises with independent contractors.

Take note that in order for new companies to grow, they need manpower that can help fulfill key objectives without breaking the bank. With freelancing, these businesses have access to professional talent at more competitive prices. Filipino freelancers, in particular, are favored by foreign companies due to their English fluency and the innate hardworking nature.

“The Philippines can become a hiring country soon, with its ‘working hard’ culture that easily attracts employers around the world,” says Elyssa Christine Lopez of Entrepreneur Philippines.

The Role of Freelancing Platforms

Of course, finding work as a freelancer is not necessarily easy, though it is less tedious than finding “real” work from a local employer. Thanks to freelancing platforms like PeoplePerHour, Upwork and Fiverr, it is easier for professionals to tap into the demand for their skills. Whether you’re looking for content writing or graphic design jobs, all you need to do is create an account and look for job openings based on keywords.

According to a survey conducted by Payoneer in 2015, 46% of freelancers work through online marketplaces like those mentioned above. As of last year, there are more than 1.4 million Filipinos registered at Upwork alone. Freelancer.com, another freelancing platform, clocks in with over 730,000 Filipino professionals.

 

 

 

In comparison, 28% of freelancers work with clients through direct means (email, phone, in-house, etc.) while 15% are recruited via professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

Many Filipinos also rely on local websites like Raket.ph to find short-term freelancing gigs. One advantage of this route is that freelancers can get to know their clients on a personal level.

Other Channels of Client Acquisition

Most freelancers leverage multiple sources of client acquisition to build their portfolio. A common strategy is to start with a freelancing platform and build referrals from there. However, Filipinos can also leverage websites such as Indeed, Craigslist, and LinkedIn for more remote working opportunities.

Outside of freelancing platforms, remote employment exists mostly through emails and Skype. Although the communication is more direct, this setup requires a freelancer to take on responsibilities such as tracking their productivity and billing their clients. Most freelancers settle with a payment gateways like Payoneer for sending online invoices and receiving payments, which was recently found to be the most affordable and recommended option for cross-border payments to the Philippines by Let’s Talk Payments.

Final Words

With a world that grows more connected every day, freelancing continues to be a flourishing industry in the Philippines. Aside from honing your skills, you also need to leverage the right tools and seek the best opportunities to succeed as a freelancer. After all, with a bigger pool of talent, you should expect job-hunting to be a lot more competitive.

 

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