Monday, December 24, 2012

One Busy December

I thought that everything will slow down towards the end of the year. Unexpectedly, opportunities came one after another. I had a hard time letting go great opportunities especially  when it means money and perfect job that matches my skills.

Later did I realize that  I've committed myself to too many tasks. Though I can still manage my schedule, I am simply too busy right now to do my usual household chores, shopping and movie-watching. The worst part is, I just made myself a mountain of laundry.

Lately, I've been working for 10 hours in some days. And you know what that means in freelancing--10-hour work in freelancing is pure work. Mini-breaks, meals, phone calls, and some distractions do not count. Simply put a 10-hour work is purely work. In an office, whether you do quality work or not, as long as you are present, you get paid for that day. Not in this kind of business.

With all of the opportunities and my busy schedule, I am looking forward to a more productive 2013 in freelancing business. That makes me happy and excited.

As this year ends, let me take this opportunity to thank all the visitors of this blog. It's been an amazing journey for me. And I thank you for being part of this blog. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Networking and Socializing With Other Freelancers

Regardless of what your niche is, networking is without a doubt a very important thing. Not just networking with people per se but connecting yourself with the right people in business is essential.

I maybe new to the freelancing business—it’s going to be my second year by the first quarter next year—but I've learned so many things that I feel I am going to explode if I am not going to spill it out. My hands are itching to share some of my experiences and the lessons I've learned. It is not necessary to be a veteran in order to share something. It's always been my belief that people have their own experiences and strength; when shared, we can always learn something out of it.

Today, I would like to briefly discuss about networking in the freelancing business and how important it is to connect ourselves with the right people.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Freelancing Dilemma

Let me be upfront, freelancing is not for people who wants guaranteed salary. It is not for people who finds security in having health insurance and other perks offered as benefits by companies.

In a letter published in The Guardian, a freelancer expressed how she become increasingly worn out because of the nature of the business, which requires endless application, the requirement of being flexible all the time, and the little separation between work and home. She longs in working in a team and being part of an organization.

In response, Jeremy Bullmore advised: "I think you feel trapped and tired. I think you need not so much a new job, as a new way of doing your existing job. Relieved of some of the loneliness and administrative burden, I believe you'd soon regain your appetite for work that, even now, you know you can not only do well, but greatly enjoy."  I don't entirely agree on Jeremy, I'm sorry. I always believe that freelancing simply isn't for everybody. Just like, everybody can't be a doctor. Freelancing simply doesn't work out for some people. You may read the entire letter and Jeremy's response in Dear Jeremy – your work issues solved.

If you are a freelancer and you are having some dilemma whether to continue the career or work in an office, freelancing may not be the path for you. I suggest to weigh things, know your priorities and know what makes you happy. If you are happy with what you do, you won't be having that dilemma.

If you have read my post on Read the Mind of an Independent Contractor, I shared some of my insights about this business and also posted the infographics from Mashable that shows the many things that occupies the mind of a freelancer. People who are new to this business (who are a freelancer for a year) are more likely of looking for permanent employment than those who who've spent years in freelancing.

Most of us are wired since our childhood to work as full-time employee in a company after our graduation. We believe that working in an office secures our future, which isn't really the case for everybody. Hence, working as independent contractor or as an entrepreneur makes it challenging because it is like going against what we were taught to do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ODesk Contractor Appreciation Day in Quezon City

Networking is very important in any type of business or industry. So, when I received this invitation from ODesk for the Contractor Appreciation Day in Quezon City this November 6th, I am compelled to attend.

If you are available by then, I suggest you go too.  ODesk emailed invites with your unique promotional code for registration.

One of the things that I hope will be discussed during the event is pricing among contractors. Though contractors have the freedom to set their own pricing, I think there should be some sort of standards or measurement we need to follow.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Future of Work

As I am nearing my second year anniversary as a freelancer, I looked at my future with excitement for more years of learning experiences and great business relationships with my clients. Freelancing as a business has been profitable for me. And I am hoping to a more productive years to come and more growth as an individual and as a freelancer. There is literally no room to get bored or idle. It's a busy and exciting world in freelancing.

Odesk has been keeping my hands tied on some virtual projects, which I'm pretty happy about.

It is anticipated that in less than 10 years, the landscape of employment or work would change as more people would be working online rather than on-site. Though this may mean competition among freelancers, this also mean more online work or projects.

Let me share some videos to orient you about freelancing or online jobs and ODesk.

oDesk - Changing How the World Works

Interview of Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk by Leena Rao of TechCrunch

Monday, October 8, 2012

Freelancing Business Requires Self-Discipline

Earlier today, I've posted this quote in my Facebook page by ‎Sir Alexander Paterson:
‎"The secret of discipline is motivation. When a man is sufficiently motivated, discipline will take care of itself."

I've never taken discipline seriously until I've become a full-fledged freelancer. I am not saying that I don't have self-discipline before that. However, because of the nature of my business now, I've become more aware of how I use my time and other resources including electricity.

The saying talks about two intangible human virtues: discipline and motivation. A person can be disciplined but not motivated. This made me think of working in an office where you come to work on time and perform your job function. Nevertheless, you are doing things without your heart to it because you are not motivated.

When you have the passion on what you do and you have the drive for excellence, that is a manifestation of motivation. The goal could be material in nature or simply a sense of fulfillment.

In the freelancing business, self-discipline is a must. You have to fight against so many distractions especially when you are working home-based. To name a few--the television, social networking, cellphones and household chores. It is really different when you are working without a boss. You tend to be less conscious about everything knowing that you have the liberty,

When you are motivated to provide quality service or present your deliverable that meet or exceed the expectation of your clients, you won't be so much concern about self-discipline because it will happen inevitably. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Upgrading Your Freelancing Skills

Once you've decided to take on the freelancing route, you have assumed the responsibility of being the entrepreneur of your freelancing business, an employee to your own company, a marketing specialist and an HR person. This route of independent or self-employment make you in-charge of everything. Your success and downfall is all on you.

In this kind of business, complacency should be the least of the things that we want to achieve. What we want is to be competitive and to be marketable. The only way to do that is to learn or upgrade our skills.

Many of us in the freelancing business come from different industry. We are already equipped with the knowledge and skills in  the specific niche, save for the fresh graduates who learn more from the academe; plus, the confidence to market our services to different clients throughout the world.

Dogs need to learn new tricks to please the master. We are not dogs but we definitely need to learn something new or else we get limited projects or we get left behind in the competition.

With the advent of internet, most of the information we need is online. So, basically, what we just need is time to research for great resource and learn. Easier said than done. With our busy schedule, it is quite tough to allot time solely for studying. Nevertheless that is the only way.

A blog post in Freelance Folder on How to Beef Up Your Freelancing Skills identifies the different online opportunities that can help you build your freelancing skills. Some of them are free while other opportunities requires monetary investment.

Six free opportunities to beef up your skills:
  • Blogs
  • Email newsletter
  • Free Teleseminars and Webinars
  • Library Books
  • Internship, Apprenticeship, On-the-Job Training
  • Online Forums

6 Paid Opportunities to Help You Build Your Skills
  • Books & Magazines
  • University/College Courses
  • Live Training
  • Home Study Courses
  • E-coaching
  • Mastermind Groups

Education and training are investments. These are extremely valuable in our business. So, if we wanted to be successful at something, we should spend time and money even. Sooner or later, you'll be able to use the skills or knowledge you learn and earn money from it. You'll realize that it is all worth going through it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Importance of Rest for Productivity

I've been extremely busy these past few weeks, juggling a couple of online projects and business. Nevertheless, despite of having my hands full of stuff, I make sure to be well-rested. I tried to get enough sleep, which means not less than 6 hours. And I take a break typically every 2-3 hours. A little diversion--watching TV, eating, social networking, and sometimes some power nap--seems to energize me a bit.

I can feel my energy level declines as I work continuously; hence, it is very important for me to take that short break between my working hours. And if I feel really tired and sleepy, I don't deprive myself of it.

We don't have the same energy level and we have different coping mechanism with stress. In my case, my body and mind seems requires resting after 2-3 hours of straight work. Afterwards, I can work for another 2-3 hours with the energy level that doesn't compromise my productivity.

I came across this timely article 7 Things Highly Productive People Do in Inc. One of the tips given is to work in 60 to 90 minute intervals.  Furthermore, it states that:

Your brain uses up more glucose than any other bodily activity. Typically you will have spent most of it after 60-90 minutes. (That’s why you feel so burned out after super long meetings.) So take a break: Get up, go for a walk, have a snack, do something completely different to recharge. And yes, that means you need an extra hour for breaks, not including lunch, so if you’re required to get eight hours of work done each day, plan to be there for 9.5-10 hours.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Online Marketing: Hubspot's Free Webinar On Leveraging LinkedIn

300x250 Take the First StepNo one can argue the importance of social media for business today. Entrepreneurs and business owners should understand that their social media presence can drive prospects and clients to their business, thus, increasing their profitability.

Social media is making marketing easy in the sense that the resources are readily available, but it can be tricky. Come to think of it, internet is widely used. The only issue is how to tap the right market and drive them to your business. Google has around 1 trillion unique URLS. The question is how do you get your business to be found? It is like literally looking for a needle in haystack.

To help out marketers, entrepreneurs or business owners, Hubspot provides free webinars that aim to educate about social media marketing and inbound marketing.

For this month of September, Hubspot scheduled a 3-part series workshop specifically about LinkedIn. Register now! Simply click the link below.

Join our three-part series to learn how you can leverage LinkedIn to attract new leads for your business.

Also read my previous blog posts:

How Social Network Marketing Can Boost Business Growth

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Security Breach Alert: Change Passwords Now!

"Computer Hacker" by chanpipat
Just this evening, I read an email sent from Nuffnang, a blog advertising community, urging bloggers to change their Nuffnang passwords due to hacking issue. Whether you receive that email or not, if you are a Nuffnang member, take the time to change your password.

Several years ago, I find hacking cool. But now, I realize that there is really nothing cool about it. It's plain act of theft that should be punishable by law. I'm sorry Mat Honan but I totally disagree with you for letting those hackers go. They have wrecked your life! They deleted the photos of your daughter--those years of treasured memories, accessed your Twitter account and deleted your Gmail! Oh, com'on, man!

Last June, we've heard of LinkedIn's stolen passwords. Almost 6.5 million passwords were said to be hacked and posted in a hacker site. Though most of the passwords were undecoded, "small subset of the hashed passwords was decoded and published." LinkedIn locked down those accounts they believed were compromised and notified those members to change their passwords.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Trust Your Gut Feeling: Spotting A Fraud Or Delinquent Client

Photo by David Castillo Dominici
Call it gut-feeling, intuition or instinct, you got to trust on it especially in our kind of business. As freelancers or independent contractors, we need to hone this skill of "knowing" to spot a potential scammer or delinquent client/employer.

I came across this post: One the best things a freelancer or sole trader can posses is sharp senses that made me realize how stupid I once was. I have to admit it, I was lured and victimized by a notorious client who left a project with all the freelancers unpaid. I won't be divulging the details of the project nor the company (it looks like a big company and a subsidiary of a much bigger company). It is very unfortunate that I had to work with an employer with terrible business practice. I filed a complaint through oDesk, whose staff were very helpful. But I guess, I should be taking matters into my own hands now. I'll give one more push before I totally rest this case.

Always remember that as freelancers, we choose whom to work with. We have the liberty to say NO to a project or a job.

Be wary of these type of clients:

  • who refused to pay a 50% escrow or upfront payment
  • who keeps changing his or her instructions
  • who doesn't communicate often

Before starting any project make sure to be clear with your terms. If a client is really serious of getting your service, he/she will agree with your terms. If not, then move on. 

If a client is offering you a job that is too good to be true, follow your instinct--it's not true.

What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to comment or share your experience. Thank you!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Virtual Assistants, Sub-standard Homes and Climate Change in the Philippines

Photo Credit:  REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

The Philippines made it to the international news again as millions of Filipinos are affected with the onslaught of nearly 2 weeks non-stop monsoon rain. Many areas in the National Capital Region and the nearby provinces were flooded. Forty-nine people were reported to have drowned and died as of August 9, 2012. It’s a sad plight of the Filipinos—really sad to see this happening again.

All of these happened while I was inside my home barely going out due to the strong rain and because I was doing a research paper for a client. It was so timely because the research was all about building passive design homes. In simplest term, it means building homes with consciousness about human nature and the climate.

I experienced a momentary black out while doing my paper. But that was about it. The rain didn’t affect my work. I thought of other virtual assistants who are affected by this weather—those who are flooded or doesn’t have electricity. I wonder if some of them were able to communicate what’s going on to their clients who are in different parts of the world.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are You Actively Linking on LinkedIn?

Several months ago, I had this research project that required me to look up for some decision makers in US-based companies (private equity firms, to be precise). I rummage the entire web only to find out that I could have taken a shorter route and went straight to LinkedIn where most of the DM's profile were there.

It surprise me a bit because, honestly, I never expect that majority of my searches would be coming from LinkedIn. That project has changed how I viewed Linkedin. I need not read articles that justify how significant Linkedin is for marketers and business, I know it as a fact--first hand experience.

Since then, I updated my LinkedIn profile. Though, I must admit, I am not well-versed with the social media site because most of the time my focus has been in Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How To Manage Stress
I have known myself to be a person who, under stressful circumstances, releases tension through binge eating. Usually, it is such time I crave for something sweet like ice cream, chocolate and cake.  Because I know myself too well, I purposely never buy and store any of those food at home lest I will be tempted to eat it when I'm stressed. The only sweet I could find on the dining table is banana.

According to, stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Exploring The New PeoplePerHour

PeoplePerHour, a job marketplace for freelancers, launched its new and upgraded version of their website. The homepage shows a video, infographic, featured Hourlies, and search options. The design is pretty impressive. If you have an account here, you will immediately notice a big difference.

The featured video presents famous people who get things done in just a matter of hours--the finest hours. This is the video introduction to PPH's new feature called Hourlies.

Hourlies promotes professional services offered by freelancers for as little as one hour. These are ready-to-go jobs that allow freelancers to list their services as small packages for clients to buy instantly. Some of these hourlies include making 3D video, Facebook design, tutorials, professional logo design, website content, and so much more--and these are done in just few hours or less.

The freelancer's profile page looks nice. The professional level and per hour rate is highlighted.

Basically, I'm looking at the website barely scratching the surface. I need to warm-up a bit with this new website design. Though I'm not an active part of the community, I usually take a look at some opportunities here too. You'll never know where you'll find your next project.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Online Auction Marketplace for Used Heavy Equipment and Vehicles

If you are currently looking for used heavy equipment or vehicles, whether it is for your business or personal use, you've come to the right blog post. IronPlanet is an online auction marketplace that helps you find the heavy equipment or the vehicles that you need.

I am making this information available to you to cut you from all the hassles of searching from different places and asking different people.

Heavy Equipment and vehicles that are sold in IronPlanet have undergone rigorous inspection process. Their staff personally do the inspection. Back up with their IronClad Assurance, IronPlanet posts items with photos and detailed reports, which could include information about general appearance through oil sample analysis. Since the staff provides the inspection reports, sellers do not have the capability of embellishing or omitting information.

Heavy equipment like backhoes, bulldozers, farm tractors and commercial trucks are available in

IronPlanet Agriculture

Vehicles including cars, pickup trucks, motorcycles, powersports, RVs, trailers, golf carts, jet skis and other consumer vehicles are available at IronPlanet Motors.

IronPlanet Motors Motorcycles

IronPlanet takes a hands-on approach in every transaction, before and after transaction and assures that both buyer and seller are satisfied.

And to make things more easier, IronPlanet launched their mobile application that allows you to buy used heavy equipment and vehicles from your mobile device.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Winning a Job: Writing a Freelance Job Proposal in 5 Easy Steps

"Lady Working With Laptop" by akeeris
I've been writing proposals to clients for dozens of times. Perhaps, out of familiarity of the task, I  unintentionally ignored certain things that are valuable to writing freelance proposal, which is definitely unforgivable. Just earlier today, after I hit send, I realized that I haven't included the time frame of getting the job done in my proposal.

As freelancers, writing our proposal is the first and crucial step of showing our prospect clients that we are the right person for the job. It is therefore necessary that your proposal should be comprehensive enough so your client would understand how you plan on doing the job. It should also be concise, straightforward and convincing.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Speed Up Sales Conversion With Hubspot Inbound Marketing Software

200x200 Marketing EvaluationObjection or outright rejection is very common for sales people. I can attest to that because I used to work in a sales company. I do cold calling and email blast. Sometimes it works but a lot of times those prospect clients would shrug me off even before I could do my sales pitch.

Cold calling, email blast, print ads, TV ads, and trade shows --these are forms of outbound marketing. These traditional marketing strategies are becoming less effective as people are becoming more and more dependent on the internet technology for their shopping, researching, networking/socializing, and other tasks.   Many people see outbound marketing as intrusive. In fact, in 2010, 200 Million Americans was said to have registered on the Federal Trade Commission's "Do Not Call" list.

Internet has revolutionize how people do business. Hence, marketing has to adapt to the changes. This is where Hubspot comes in.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How to Reasonably Price Your Freelance Projects

"Businesswoman Working On Desktop"
by imagerymajestic
I took the oDesk Market Research Test today, which I successfully passed and got certified as a research consultant. One of the advantages of taking the test, any skills test, is finding out your ranking and knowing how much certified contractors are charging their clients. For the test that I have taken, it states that qualified contractors who passed the test have average hourly rate of $12.45, which is twice the price I give to my clients. This made me ask myself, should I raise my price now?

Pricing is one of the challenges that many independent contractors face especially the new ones. As a one-year old contractor, sometimes I still experience that hesitation. But at the end, my decision would always be base on number of factors. To answer the question how to reasonably price your freelance projects, we need to look into these:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 Acquires Canada's Scriptlance

The acquisition of Scriptlance this month makes as the world's largest freelance marketplace with over 4 million enterprise and professional users, which Freelancer proudly says it's more than twice the user base compared to its nearest competitor. This development means a wider pool of freelance talents for employers and more projects or opportunities for freelancers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Win Your First Project in Odesk

You wanted to be an independent contractor, so you've decided to register in oDesk. Welcome to the world
 of freelancing!

Before starting to apply for a job make sure that you've passed the oDesk Readiness Test and read the site's FAQs and  policy. You need to read the resources presented to you, these are all important. It is kind of overwhelming at first; you may feel that you don't understand a thing. I know because I've been there. But don't worry, you will learn quickly as soon as you apply what you've read.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What's Your Facebook Marketing Strategy?

I open Facebook and socialize with friends once, thrice or even more every day. It's not just a hobby, it's part of my daily routine. Funny way of putting it but that's how social network is nowadays--it seems that we can't live without it. Often, it becomes a way, if not the only way, of connecting with our friends and families.

Facebook was initially launched in 2004 for Harvard students. Seven years later, it has over 901 million users. And they are looking at reaching 1 Billion this year. If that is going to happen, Facebook will have three times the population of United States, ranking behind China and India. If you are an entrepreneur, business owner or marketer, what does this statistics tell you?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Read the Mind of an Independent Contractor

It's been over a year since I started my freelance career. The only regret I have in my decision was starting out later in my life. I could have started it couple of years ago.

The reason why I left the corporate world was because I felt I no longer belong. I was unhappy, bored, and tired. I was unproductive. It would be unfair if I stayed being a useless employee to a good company. I was seeking for something else that would give me that sense of pride and joy. While money was important, it wasn't the motivating factor of making that career move.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Contractors' Pricing War

While browsing some online projects today, I felt bad against those employers who set a very low price on their projects. And I felt a lot worse against those contractors who bid so low just to win it.

In my previous blog post: From Caryl's Desk: My Thoughts on Freelancing, I mentioned about the pricing war among freelancers, which I believe is inherent in globalization.

I do understand the need for jobs but I wish contractors wouldn't lower their standards. I don't understand why contractors would bid for a job that cost $1 per hour, to think that they would spending on electricity, time, and effort--is $1 truly worth? I mean, hey that is simply not just. $1 is around Php42. You can definitely buy one kilo of rice, but that price is completely absurd! The only thing I can do is shake my head in disbelief and rant about it. I wish contractors wouldn't devalue themselves that much.

Elance and PeoplePerHour are the two job marketplace for freelancers that set pricing benchmark. And that I think is a smart way of controlling the price bid among contractors. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Odesk's Time Tracking Capability

Independent contractors in Odesk can choose between hourly jobs and fixed-price jobs. Hourly job offers more advantages. Time tracking and billing is automated, and it has guaranteed payment. The contractors are assured that they will be paid for the job.

Now, I just wanted to cover Odesk's time tracking capability because I have couple of friends who are asking me how it works. This information is also important for employers who are thinking of contracting services via Odesk.

Odesk requires freelancers or independent contractors to download the team application. The application records the contractor's activity (mouse clicks and key strokes), takes a screenshot of the monitor, track the active application running, the description of work, and camera images (if enabled). Contractors can actually turn off the application anytime allowing them to work at their own time and pace, as long as they reach the employer's requirement for the week.

I intentionally blurred the images below to protect the identity of the contractors.

Odesk team application

The work diary provides the detailed summary of the work. If for some reason the screenshot captures certain images that you do not want to include in the work diary, contractors can delete that screenshot.

Work diary sample

If you want to learn more on how it works, feel free to visit Odesk. Just click the Odesk ad below.

Monday, June 25, 2012

How to Increase Your Web Traffic

This blog post contains valuable information on how to increase web traffic to your website. which I believe every blogger or website owner in this planet should know. However, if you don't want to be found in the World Wide Web, this blog post won't be an interest to you. 

I've been blogging since 2009, it is only recently that I took it really seriously. The web traffic in this blog has pretty much accelerated since I've incorporated some social media strategy. However, I could do much better.

I watched a video today on 10 Proven Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Affiliate Website. This was presented by Evan Weber during an Affiliate Summit Webinar. The information is valuable to me, so I am sharing this to you and hopefully you will also benefit from it.

For some readings on how to leverage social media in your marketing efforts, feel free to download these:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How HubSpot All-in-One marketing Software Can Help You and Your Company

HubSpot All-in-One marketing Software is a web-based marketing solution for small or medium sized businesses that provide the necessary tools for them to succeed in business. 

How well are you doing in your marketing campaign? This is one question plaguing business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers. Sometimes, you feel disappointed because you are not getting the web traffic you desired or you are not receiving more inquiries.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you've probably build your company from the ground up and you've exerted a lot of effort. Your company deserves a great marketing tool that is capable of tapping the right market and exponentially increase your revenue.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

From Caryl's Desk: My Thoughts on Freelancing

A freelancer is define as a person who offers his or services to employers without long-term contract or commitment. With the help of the internet, freelancers easily find virtual jobs or online employment and gives employers or companies the opportunity to search for qualified candidates worldwide. The only downside of this, which I guess is inherent in globalization, is the "pricing war" among freelancers. For the same set of skills or capabilities, freelancers from the Americas would charge say $10/hr while those from other region would charge like $3/hr, even lower, of their service. In writing projects, some freelancers would agree on a $1/article while others find that price absurd.

Friday, May 18, 2012

SlimKicker Your Way To A Healthier And Better You

"Successful people are simply those with successful habits." ~ Brian Tracy

True enough, to be successful in our mini goals and to be successful in life as a whole, we must have the winning attitude and possess the habits that could take us to where we want to be. The same principle applies to our health. 

SlimKicker aims to help us form good habits to improve our health.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Back Up Your Files"

It is mandatory to back up our files. Failure to do so can wreck your work and your life. Take it from me , I know the feeling. Such indiscretion is unforgivable because it causes time and money that can never be retrieved. 

Most of us live our lives with too much dependence on computers and the internet technology. It is simply unconceivable to spend a day without sitting in front of the computer - unless of course if your browsing via your phone. Since this is pretty much how we spend our lives in a daily basis, we know how important it is to back up our files --especially very important ones.

"Back up your files" is like an old adage that every responsible computer owner and user should know. It's embarrassing to write about my stupid mistake but I thought it is worth documenting and learning and sharing valuable lesson. It happened couple of weeks ago. I woke up with that excited feeling. I stretched and said to myself, "Today is a good day." I had my breakfast, heavy one, and told myself that nothing in this world should disturb me from a good breakfast. So, that's basically how I condition myself everyday. However, the unforgivable happened. And my day was shattered by a message that flashed on my computer screen.

"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt...."

Because I am not really a techie person, I couldn't seem to decipher what went wrong. All I knew was, I couldn't open my files and this message was glaring in front of me. My initial reaction was to go back to sleep and perhaps, when I wake up I will realize that everything was just a bad dream. That was stupid, of course. I repeatedly turned off the laptop and turned it on again only to be welcomed with the same message. Okay! I was doomed. The report that I need to submit by weekend was in Drive C and I had this feeling that I could no longer retrieve it. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Why didn't I made a back up file! I didn't see this coming!

To cut the drama short, I brought my laptop to the technician. I almost collapsed when he said that he couldn't retrieve my files in C and the laptop had to be reformatted.  "Are you really really sure that you can't retrieve all my files?" I thought I got him annoyed because I kept on asking the same question over and over.

Obviously, the lesson learned here is: Back up your files. I learned this lesson the hard way. This is nothing new to me. But I guess, the familiarity of my daily tasks made me ignore a single yet indispensable habit that I should have adhered ever since the beginning I touch a computer.

The necessary information to back up files are available online. Windows provides a helpful guide on how to do it.

Back up files doesn't necessarily have to be in the external hard disks, CDs or DVDs. If you just want to  copy certain files like spreadsheets documents, and presentations; we can maximize the use of Google Docs, which makes it easy to share and access your documents via computer or smart phone.  DropBox looks good too. A 2 GB of space is free.

I am sure there are many softwares or applications to help us create back up files. I would like to know about them. Any inputs? Feel free to share.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

7 Tips for Freelancers

Freelancers are busy people. Their schedule can be so erratic or complicated that it is important to plan ahead or to anticipate for things. I've been a freelancer for over a year now. I couldn't consider myself a veteran because I know that there are so many things I have to learn. It was a tough start for me and there was no such thing as a honeymoon stage or something like that. Nevertheless, there are things that I learn and these I am sharing it to you.

Many companies, mostly small and midsize, do not just maintain their brick and mortar presence but also take their business operation online. These companies outsource workers, experts, or independent contractors for their virtual projects. This change in the business landscape make it easier for moms, freelancers, and part-timers find jobs online.

Odesk is one of the websites that I am getting my online projects. This site alone offers many opportunities and can keep you busy infinitely.

1.   Create a good profile

Opportunities doesn't just land on your table, in this case, on your email. Something should attract opportunities to you. And for sure, it should start with a good profile. So, what does a good profile looks like?  It should be comprehensive enough, but not too lengthy,  to include your career history that highlights your strength, skills and experience. It must be specific of the services that you provide or the type of projects that you want to work on.

2.   Search for the most recent job postings

You don't want to apply for a 2-week old job posting. It is either there are too many applicants already or the employer was caught up with something else and will eventually cancel the project. If the employer is really in need of an extra hand, he will make recruitment his top priority and get it done quickly.

3.   Read

Typically, employers who are looking for freelancers would provide a brief outline of the project, the services that they need, timeline, and sometimes budget. Serious buyers are clear with their job posting because they wanted the right applicants. If a job posting doesn't have enough information, I would say, that it could be a scam.

It is very important to read the job description. If something isn't clear, you can always email and ask the employer.

Read comments from freelancers that the prospect employer have worked with. Investigate if you have to, so you can be sure that you are working with a reliable buyer. Sometimes, I even take the time to research about the company and browse their website. If something doesn't feel right, obey your gut feeling and don't apply for that project.

4.   Be specific with your terms and your cover letter

Projects in Odesk can either be fixed-price or hourly. When it is fixed price, as a freelancer you will get your payment until the project is done. Hourly pay means that you charge an employer with your hourly rate. When you apply for a fixed-price job, never hesitate to ask for an upfront payment for your security. Requesting a 50 percent upfront payment is fine. Never start a fixed-price project until you see the upfront payment in escrow. I have learned my lesson the hard way before I faithfully ask for escrow payments.

Cover letter shouldn't be treated differently with the cover letter you send together with the resumé. Practice the same courtesy and professionalism. Indicate your previous working experience relevant to the services that the employer needs. If the employer needs researcher, then you should share your background on some research projects on your cover letter.

Other information you could include on your letter would be the working hours you can allot per day or per week, your expectations about the project and your employer.

5.   Communicate

So, you got the project. Congratulations! It's time to show what you got. However, some employers would request for a trial period first, say one day to one week, before they will hire you. They wanted to test your skills and they wanted to see how well you work.

Always remember that the secret to a good relationship, which applies to a buyer-freelancer relationship, is  healthy communication. When I say healthy communication, what I mean is when you ask question or clarification you get an answer in a timely manner. It is also important to ask for feedback to make sure that you are on the right track and to know if the employer is happy with your service.

6. Work on a schedule

Some freelancers juggle several projects. Some who are at home moms have to take care of the kids before they can work with their projects. Others have business to attend while doing some online projects. It helps to calendar your activities and work on daily and weekly schedule. Be wary of all the deadlines. If you are using Android, the Google calendar comes in handy. And please, though "the more, the merrier" saying can be true, it doesn't apply when you are loaded with too many projects. Only take projects that you are sure to finish.

7.   Freelancers are not slaves

I spotted an interesting job while I was browsing for some projects in another website, not Odesk.  I decided to linger on that page, read the job description and the comments from freelancers. As I recall it was a research job with a $3/hour pay. Many freelancers from the Philippines and India would want that job. However, freelancers from UK and US were simply insulted. One of them said, "We are not slaves!" Another pointed out, "The employer is from the Philippines. No wonder!"

So, what's the point here? Well, okay, freelancers from the Philippines could be a lot cheaper. And many companies are looking for services and pay them for a bargain. However, if the pay is not just, simply do not apply for the position.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Smartsheet: Making Collaboration Easy

I got an opportunity to use Smartsheet in one of my virtual projects. Though I haven't totally explore its functionality, I can say that this online tool is commendable as it makes collaboration and management of projects easy. 

For most of my virtual projects, documents or file sharing is being done via email or message centers. Sometimes, me and my employer/client would make use of Google Docs so we can update the files and see the changes in real-time. I don't have any complaints with Google Docs. In fact, I stored most of my files there even my personal stuff including some ebooks.

When I got the chance to use Smartsheet, it simply wowed me. For first-time user like me, the dialogue box and the tip sheet guided me on what to do. Video tutorials and the help library are great resource guide for all Smartsheet users.

If you are the project manager or the owner, Smartsheet provides template gallery for you to choose from. Templates for Project Management, Task Management/Productivity, Team Management, Marketing, Sales, and among other specific tasks are available for you. That means, you don't have to create from scratch, making your job easier.

Sharing files to your online collaborators is easy as 1-2-3. Just few clicks of the mouse, and it's done. Smartsheet could even send an email notification, informing the other people of the files you've shared. As an owner you can also provide certain level of access to the files.

For users that are granted the editing capability, you can do a little customization which includes changing the font, font size, colors, create conditional formatting, adding rows and among others.

Definitely, Smartsheet is a smart choice! With globalization, where jobs are virtually exported everywhere (and I don't say that in a bad way), an online tool such as this will definitely help business owners especially small business and mid-sized business owners. With Smartsheet, it is easy to manage projects and collaborate.

About Smartsheet, a leading Software as a Service (SaaS) company, offers an enterprise-ready cloud app for project management and collaboration. The award-winning tool is trusted by more than 10,000 subscribing organizations in over 100 countries.

Regarded for its online project management, collaboration, and file sharing features, Smartsheet's intuitive spreadsheet-like app is used broadly to track and manage diverse types of work including: team projects and task lists, customer information, sales pipelines, event schedules, and business processes.

Smartsheet Online Project Management
Photo Credit: Smartsheet Project Management Software by, Inc. @ Find the

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Goals, Goals, Goals!

I worked in a sales company for over 6 years. Among the many things I learned was to be conscious about my monthly goals and knowing how to play the numbers--dividing the goals into small and daily targets. That way, a sales person like me won't be cramming in meeting the goals toward end of the month. So, if I meet my daily target, and try to work exceeding that, for sure I will end the month with flying colors which equates to receiving monthly bonuses and recognition. That also means that I have to know my database or the territories very well. And that means I really have to break my leg.

I was conscious about the goals. I understand the principle in working as an an employee. Every hour in my desk was being paid, and I know that the company has to get the amount of work they paid for me. Nevertheless, I wouldn't be dwelling about my past working experience here. What I want to talk about is goal-setting.

It is just the start of the year. Some people say they have made their New Year resolutions. Some refused to go with the bandwagon as resolutions are often being broken even at the first day of the year--the same with vows and promises.

I personally don't like the word "resolution". It sounds weak to me. But I would want to hear the word GOAL.

Even if I am not working in a sales company, I work with goals. I have a daily target. I always try to schedule my time the day ahead. So before I go to sleep, I try to visualize the things I need to accomplish for the next day. I even try to plot my calendar with my blogging schedule (Yes, I always try. Today I am within my schedule, but sometimes I just couldn't make it.)

Most of us would probably agree that goals are very important, not just in our career but in our lives. My goals maybe different with yours; however, often the end result are the same--like success, happiness, and wealth.  And the goals are critical to help us attain the things that we want.

The bible says that: "Where there is no vision, the people perish." That is so true!

Without goals, I am seeing myself as a wood drifting aimlessly in the ocean.

Attribution Some rights reserved by lululemon athletica

I am not a child anymore who just play around and treat life like it is a game. Though there is nothing wrong to enjoy and play, we need to apply a little science.

But what does it takes to make a goal?

As a Filipino, with the "bahala" ("come what may") attitude imbibed in our system, it takes a lot of effort to set goals and the courage to be patient and to persevere. It may also requires a paradigm shift (that's what I learned from Stephen Covey) or changing the way we perceive things.

Goals shouldn't be too general. Some goals like "I want to be successful by 2012", "I want to be rich", and etc. are too general. Breaking it to a smaller goals or simplifying it into small steps or strategies would make it achievable.

Remember that goals has to be SMART. That means they have to be SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, RELEVANT, and TIME-BOUND.

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