The temperature is turning, winter is starting to make itself at home, and dreams of running a business while lying on a warm beach are held by many at this time of year, and who could blame them? So it seems fitting that our 68th Featured Freelancer is someone who has swapped the UK for the Asian sun. Now, go and make yourself a hot drink and enjoy the story of this week’s Featured Freelancer.
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
I’m James, a freelance writer/copywriter who is originally from the UK (Somerset) but now lives on a beach in the Philippines. While I’ve found that I can turn my hand to writing about any subject or topic, I tend to specialise in producing SEO, IT/Tech and Digital Marketing content for both large organisations and small businesses alike.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been freelancing since I moved to the Philippines (2010). Prior to that I was working as an IT Service Delivery Manager for a large professional services firm in London. I guess you could say I had a “great job” – decent salary, benefits, prospects, etc. But I wasn’t really happy. I was 28 and couldn’t resign myself to the fact I’d been doing that same old crap for like the next 40 years or so. That’s when I quit my job, sold up everything, packed my bags and headed to SE Asia.
To be honest, it wasn’t always my plan to write on a full-time basis. However, the money I had initially brought with me to the Philippines was starting to go down fast, so I had two choices: return to the UK and go back to corporate life or make an income here online.
I’ve always had a passion for writing and being creative with words, so doing it freelance seemed like an obvious way to make a living. I haven’t looked back since.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
I actually had little support from anyone and nobody advised me against going freelance. At the time, I was still single and living I guess what most people would call ‘the digital nomad dream’, having quit my corporate job in London.
After almost a year of doing nothing except drinking beer and enjoying the idyllic location I found myself in, the time came to finally get off my arse and get the freelance ball rolling.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
No, actually. The only resources I used in the beginning were sites like People Per Hour (PPH), Elance (now Upwork) and Freelancer.com to try and secure clients. In fact, I’ve still got clients today whom I first met on these kinds of sites years ago.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
Definitely an eclectic and truly international bunch. There’s me here in the Philippines and my clients are spread across France, Australia, Canada, Austria, the UK and the US. They’ve all got totally different businesses and content requirements. I like it that way as it provides plenty of variety.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
Good question! Probably because I provide solid work at a very competitive price. Fortunately, my living costs are extremely low so I can afford to charge less for my services. Moreover, once someone has started working with me, they soon realise that I’m extremely down to earth and genuine.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
It’s everything I expected and more. There is no other way I could sustain the lifestyle I’ve got. I work less hours than I first anticipated and when I am working, I’ve got a view looking out across the South China Sea.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Gmail. It’s where all my email accounts are setup, as well as my calendar and professional contacts.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Get some clients and projects secured before you even entertain quitting your day job. I was in a position where I had to earn money to survive and was fortunate enough to be living in a very cheap country. There’s no way I would have quit my corporate position to start freelancing without any clients secured if I was still in the UK.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
Take nothing for granted. I’ve lost count of how many times a potential client has made all the right noises, accepted my quotation and then gone completely silent. It’s so frustrating, especially when they don’t even reply to emails. Now, I don’t count my chickens before they’re hatched. Unless I’ve got a deposit, it’s still just a lead, not a client.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
The work-life balance. I’ve got three young kids under 5 (we’ve been busy) and I get to spend a lot of time with them and my wife. Also, being a freelancer enables me to literally live on a beach in paradise. Very, very few other jobs would allow me to do this.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
The uncertainty. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a great bunch of clients for many years now, but there’s always that niggling ‘what if’ scenario playing out in the back of my mind. While I could never go back to the corporate world, there’s a lot to be said for having a “secure” job and a regular income each month.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
For myself: continue to hone my writing skills (particularly copywriting). For my family: to save enough money for their future. My kids are dual-citizens and I’d like to think they’ll take advantage of that when they’re older, whether it be living and working in the UK, or not wanting for anything here in the Philippines. My wife and I, well we aren’t fussy. As long as I’ve got enough for a daily beer and she can have some decent chocolate, we’ll be all good.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
I wish I’d have known about the awesome freelancer support services that are out there. I’ve only really started taking advantage of them in recent times. For example, I’ve only been a member of the Freelance Heroes FB group since October 2016 (thanks for adding me Jo Harrison). However, the stuff I’ve learnt and the contacts I’ve made in this relatively short space of time have been invaluable. If I could turn back time, I’d have got involved with groups like Ed and Annie’s at the start of my freelancer journey.
To connect with James, visit: