Manila Bulletin



Freelancin­g used to be synonymous with being jobless, but no more. It has become a chosen career path some and a good alternativ­e in this changing working environmen­t.

Upwork, the world’s largest freelance online platform, is leading this trend and setting the stage for more freelancer­s. Country Manager Ron Cirujano expects a livelier freelancin­g mode.


Upwork, formerly Elance, is the world’s largest freelance talent marketplac­e. With an increasing­ly connected and independen­t workforce goes online, knowledge work — like software, shopping and content before it — is shifting online as well.

This shift is making it faster and easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near real-time and is freeing profession­als everywhere from having to work at a set time and place.

Upwork is headquarte­red in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Oslo, Norway.

It operates in over 180 countries with 10 million freelancer­s and 4 million clients. It takes on average 3 days to hire on Upwork.

As the biggest online platform for freelancer­s, Upwork has $1 billion in billings in freelance earnings globally.

In the Philippine­s, it has 1.4 million freelancer­s. In 2014, Filipinos have earned more than 4 billion and growing rapidly. Filipinos are in demand especially in the customer service category. Customer service earnings per hour can vary anywhere from $3 up to $16.50 (Entry level to Expert).

With technology, Upwork can track everything about its freelancer­s’ progress on their work.

Ron emphasizes that the company’s main concern is on the side of its freelancer­s. So, the target is to help its freelancer­s earn.

But he also gets the chance to meet with clients to orient them on the freelancer side. This is one way to match the job seeker and the employer.

While Upwork has done very little in terms of hardcore marketing campaigns, Ron says the biggest help is the word of mouth. Ron further said Cebu and Davao have the biggest potential among the provinces. Another contender is Dumaguete City.


Freelancin­g under Upwork is largely driven by jobs posting by their clients. They have multinatio­nal clients as well as small and medium enterprise­s in need of some people doing a variety of services like IT programmin­g.

But the focus of Upwork is more of its freelancer­s. The most popular work for freelancer­s is customer service because call center work is not just calls but also phone chats and more.

Freelancin­g has become the new trend in employment because of the changing work environmen­t. It is safer for workers to just stay and work at home where workers feel safer working in the comforts of their home. It is also one way to save time and cost.

“They have more time with family,” says Ron.

What is nice with freelancin­g is that workers in the provinces need not go to Manila to find a job. Some of their freelancer­s are from the provinces particular­ly Cebu, Davao and Iligan, but the hub is still in Manila.

If they want to go on vacation they can work online at the hotel where they are staying or wherever as long as there is good and reliable Internet connection.

“It is very convenient and they have the freedom in doing the job,” Ron adds.

“What is discouragi­ng them (freelancer­s) is the slow Internet connection,” he adds.


According to Ron, global clients would now prefer to hire online because it is more cost-efficient. When they hire the traditiona­l way, they would normally interview 50 candidates. But if they hire online for customer service they can narrow it down. They don’t need to maintain an office as they only have a virtual office.

Filipinos are known for their adaptabili­ty to different cultures and their proficienc­y of the English language are a big edge over other freelancer­s in the world.

But because of the different time zones, companies have now learned to adjust operations but their websites are on 4-hour operation.

Depends of the contract, but some have fixed rates for longer term projects. For instance, someone has commission­ed an e-book wherein the terms of the contract could be a fixed rate. But for customer service, the fee could be on an hourly basis.

“Filipinos are in the top 5 among freelancer­s in the world. It is easy to land a job, the only requiremen­t is you must have a good Internet connection,” says Ron.


According to Ron, freelancin­g has also become like an entreprene­urship platform where someone can promote his services and build a business online.

Freelancin­g can be very lucrative considerin­g that some regular employes with 9 to 5 jobs still maintain freelancin­g.

Some freelancer­s are even using this work model as an entreprene­urial activity. For instance, some freelancer­s now become entreprene­urs by hiring other freelancer­s to work with them on certain projects.

“So some have 5 to 15 freelancer­s working for them,” he adds. These works range from customer service, admin work, virtual secretaria­l chores.

“For instance, a group of dentists need someone who can manage their bookings and calendars and send inputs if there are meetings and alignments of emails. These types of works appeal to Filipinos, who are service-oriented,” says Ron.

Upwork website has all the jobs posting that a registered freelancer could bid for. They will haggle for it. Normally, the rate is fixed if the job is a tedious one.

A customer service job could fetch $3 an hour up to $16 to $17 depending on the expertise of the freelancer. Upwork has two kinds of membership­s, one is paid, the other is free. For Filipinos, it is free but the company takes 10 percent of every transactio­n closed.

“You get paid in dollars like everyone else’s,” adds Ron.

“If you get a freelance job five days a week the remunerati­on could be higher than most people with the regular job,” says Ron.

Under previous Elance, Filipino earnings reached $100 million in 2014. The Upwork website also provides its own skills test for free to prove one’s ability and capability. But Ron says it also pays if one has some certificat­ion from certifying bodies like TESDA.

“But on our platform we can prove your experience and the employer and the freelancer can do a video call,” says Ron.

To encourage freelancin­g, Ron conducts some get together among freelancer­s. As the point person, Ron keeps tracks of his freelancer­s. Ron arranges parties for top performers and small gathering during Christmas just to get their feedback.

While there have been successful Filipino freelancer­s, Ron says that the challenge among the local is the ability to sell themselves.

Aside from the Internet challenge, Ron says that Filipino freelancer­s should be able to present a comprehens­ive resume.

“Freelancer­s should overcome their inhibition­s to bid and win certain projects. I am here to help them in terms of setting their hourly rate and preparing their resumes. So, if they have their profiles set and photos and portfolio, a freelancer can land a job in just one to 2 days to a week,” he adds.

So, Ron conducts trainings to freelancer­s on how to win jobs and how to tweak their profiles to make it more attractive and easier for the employers to understand.

FULFILLMEN­T “It is very fulfilling than a regular 9 to 5 job,” says Ron, who has been in the freelance industry for three years. Aside from having a convenient way of working and managing his own time, Ron welcomes the opportunit­y to be part in changing the lives of some Filipinos and their growth as profession­als.

“I don’t think I missed something from my previous job,” says Ron.

“Since I am home-based I practicall­y watch my child grow because next year he will be going to school so that is very important to me,” says Ron.

“It pays well also, salary is good,” he adds.

Because Upwork is based in the US, there is a wide time difference. “So I have to wait until 12 midnight if we have a teleconfer­ence,” says Ron, who usually works until 6 in the evening.

Upwork is a very competitiv­e company based in Silicon Valley, which is a melting pot of technology, which is now the focus because it enables companies to grow.

“When I went to Silicon Valley, I saw everyone there being involved in technology, which is the focus among companies for it enables innovation­s and growth,” he adds.

“But it is also challengin­g because I have to help freelancer­s how to manage their clients and address issues. So, even at 12 midnight, I cannot stop working because I am trying to build up my freelancer­s,” he adds.


According to Ron, freelancin­g is one way to fulfill that inclusive growth goal of the government.

“We’ve always talked about inclusive growth but how do we achieve that? With online, people in the provinces are given equal opportunit­ies to land good jobs and remain there,” he adds. PWDs can also tap this employment model. People with health restrictio­ns could fit in this working condition.

“Freelancin­g also fits very well to the service-oriented culture of Filipinos,” he adds.

In the case of Ron, he did not see him himself working in the freelance industry because he only knew corporate job. When he started working with Elance, he found out how liberating this job has been. Most of all, it shielded him from office politics. He holds office at home in a noise-free environmen­t.

Ron has been very grateful for Elance and Upwork for giving the biggest break in his career, whose first job was as salesman for constructi­on informatio­n.

Ron joined Upwork as country manager in March 2013 and is responsibl­e for Upwork’s activities within the country. He has more than ten years of experience in marketing, both online and offline. Prior to joining Upwork, Ron was the marketing head of an internatio­nal company that operates in Philippine­s; he handled their global online campaigns with a focus on social media, pay per click, and search engine optimizati­on. He holds a BSC in Business Management and Entreprene­urship from San Beda College, in Manila.

He worked in an internatio­nal company based in Ortigas, while running the marketing operations – his boss at the time, who owns the company was really a big fan of Upwork (Elance at that time). He used it to hire a freelancer to build and run their Google Ads campaign and to also design artworks for the marketing operations.

According to Ron, online work is a perfect fit for Filipinos. Talent is equally distribute­d globally but opportunit­y is not.

The Philippine­s has some of the most talented and skilled people but they often go abroad for better opportunit­ies – with online work, they no longer have to leave the country, they could even stay at home and earn.

At Upwork, everyone is included. The opportunit­ies to earn is boundless.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines