In this place, no one is late. But there sure are deadlines. Bosses come and go, and co-workers? Not so many around. The salary may come in dollars or pesos, and the best thing about it? No daily commute required.
This is the life of an estimated 800,000 Filipino users of Freelancer.com, an online platform for freelancing jobs, and crowd sourcing marketplace for entrepreneurs. Founded in 2009, the Australia-based startup has grown into 19 million users worldwide, with clients ranging from NASA (to the next door BPO (business process outsourcing).
“With freelancing, you are a one-man company. You are the manager, the CEO, and you manage all the work. Your pay depends on the kind of work you put in,” Willix Halim, Freelancer.com’s Senior Vice President of Growth told Entrepreneur.com.ph.
The Freelancer executive sees the number reaching a million by year-end, as the talents they have acquired are “much more than they expected.” The Australian company alone has setup an office with at least a hundred employeesin the Philippines after seeing the robust talent of Filipinos in engineering.
The top five skills Filipinos have been hired for are data entry; Excel; copy typing; data processing; and article writing.
“Most of the companies we’re tapping are SMEs (small and medium enterprises). In a global scale, the most in demand job is app and website development, two factors that these companies would need for their brand,” Halim said.
As more disruptors rise in established industries, Freelancer also wants to get its own piece, this time in the sharing economy with local service-based jobs. Adapting the principle of Uber, an employer could easily call on a worker almost anything from gardening services to running errands.
While the stigma with freelancing as a mere happy-go-lucky phase for some individuals is slowly fading in developing countries, especially in Southeast Asia, Halim believes it can still go more mainstream.
“One of the trends we see is more service-based jobs that are geographically restrictive. We’re building an app especially for that sector and I see the harvest of our investments’ slowly showing within the year,” Halim said.
The company is constantly developing its processes to make it easier for both freelancers and employers to get the job done.
The website’s interface, in Halim’s words, is “gamefied” incentivizing users for each job done, while updating employers on the best talents.
“We are bridging the world where the world is not flat. You have employers from Australia, UK, and the US who are willing to pay this amount of money that could mean a lot from people who are on the other side of the world,” Halim said.
Freelancers usually get the job done as fast as three to four days, with payments ranging from $30 (P1,408) to as much as $200 (P9,387) or more. If the employer likes the output, they could invest more skills on the user, for free.
“It’s a win-win situation for both parties and I’ve seen it enable people, especially in developing countries. It’s humbling,” Halim said.
‘Working hard culture’
A prime example of such is college dropoutJay Batusa, who has served as an Internet café attendant in Davao City for more than a year, in a 13-hour-shift, five days a week.
"We are six in the family. My younger siblings were in school and I wanted to support them," he said.
But for P3,500 (US$75) salary per month, Batusa can only do so much.
Luckily for him, he chanced upon on online ads offering work, and found several platforms citing jobs that could be done online. Skeptical at first with the prevalent scams on in the Internet, he decided he had nothing to lose.
After a few months in Freelancer.com, Batusa has earned loyal clients, where he earns $50 (P2,346) for a few days’ work, almost the same amount of his monthly salary. But what he considers his “biggest break” would be a Spanish client who hired him for a year because of his stellar outputs.
"He even referred me to his business partners and friends. He said I stood out because I was hard working and produced great results," Jay shared. “You have many competitors, but when you show employers that you can be trusted and you can get the job done, you won't run out of work."
A year into freelancing, Batusa finally resigned from the Internet café, and bought his own computer. By that time, he was earning P20,000 ($426.15) a month and providing a steady income for his family.
"My personal life changed a lot. I’m able to relax, travel, and do outdoor activities without counting vacation leaves, and more importantly, I was able to buy things for me and my family and help with the bills and groceries,” Batusa added.
The freelancer tried to form his own team of freelancers, however, after too much workload, he got sick, forcing him to let go of it soon enough.
“I just hire freelancers on the site whenever I get swamped. In the future, maybe I'll try forming a team again, but right now I'm happy with the slower pace," he said.
Halim believes Batusa is an example that the country has the chance to step up from a generally freelancing community to a hiring country in the next two to three years, with its improving infrastructure, English proficiencyand more importantly, the culture.
“Filipinos have the ‘working hard’ culture that makes it click to the employers. I have a personal belief that Southeast Asian countries work really hard, and are willing to learn. I’ve seen Filipinos work long hours and have the sense of accountability and responsibility. Those are traits you cannot teach,” Halim said.
Elyssa Christine Lopez is an editorial assistant/staffwriter at entrepreneur.com.ph. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz.