As someone who was forced to turn her back from her precious and very hectic office job as a Human Resource Officer in a big Corporation, to be a stay-home Mom and an Online Freelancer, I can say that, taking the first step was very hard. I struggled to learn how to divide my attention between my three kids, household chores, school activities and work. I had to buy a cork board, white board and a wall clock to manage my time and schedule,and make sure that I don’t forget anything. And after 6 years, I can now confidently say, that I got the hang of being an Online Freelancer mom.
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It was in the year 2011 when my life as an Online Freelancer started, it was when I got pregnant with my second child. I had a very sensitive pregnancy, and I needed to stop working. The commute and stress from work, made me bled and almost lost my baby. My husband needed to step his foot firmly on the ground to make me agree to stop working. And just after a couple of weeks of not being able to work, I started feeling depressed and useless, I cried a lot which led me to be rushed again to the hospital due to frustrated miscarriage. I know deep inside, I really wanted to work but I had to stop for our child. At this point, my sister, who was actually the one who introduced me to “home-based online jobs”, was the one who helped me set myself up for the big changed in my life and career. She introduced me to her Client who was at that time looking for an additional Virtual Assistant. I was scheduled for an interview soon after I was released from the hospital. Fortunately, I got hired and everything was set up immediately for me to start working.
My first job as an Online Freelancer was as a Customer Service Representative for a company based in China. My client back then, have multiple Brands ( Online Shops) in amazon.com. I was assigned to answer inquiries, concerns, process orders and give refunds to customers who have complains or have not received their orders. I was actually required to work 40 hours per week and had a rate of $3/hour. I was hesitant to accept the job, for I honestly did not believe that working at home is actually considered work. But since,it was my big sister who explained everything to me, i just chose to trust her words. And I am very happy that I listened to her.
At first, I honestly have no idea, how to start working, yes there was a training for how to process orders and how to answer customer emails and concerns, but I really had a hard time, i was struggling how to work at home, my eldest kid was 3 years old then, and would not leave my side, he would ask me to fix him milk, take a bath, and play and scream at the top of his lungs whenever i start working. I also needed to clean the house, go to the market and cook, plus I needed to do the laundry and go to the bill payment center to settle our bills The fact that I was also pregnant that time, made things worse. My body was heavy and sore, I felt dizzy almost all the time and all the pregnancy related issue that I can think of were reasons enough for me to not work on the Contract that I already have. We tried to hire helpers and Nannies, in the hopes that things may become easier, however none of the 5 helpers we hired lasted. 3 of them got pregnant,and we needed to send them back to their provinces,while the other two,have other plans for coming to Manila.
I was so depressed, until one day, I was hungry and I have nothing in my fridge that could satisfy my cravings. My husband was out of town and won’t be home until the next week and my in laws were also at the province attending to their business. All the money that I have was enough for the usual meal for me and my son. I was so angry at my situation, and thought to myself, if only, I can work, I will be able to buy whatever I want to eat. Then it hit me, I actually have work, all I needed to do is fix myself and turn my laptop on. Everything was already set up, I already have my ODesk account, Contract and ODesk Time Tracker, (back then UpWork was called Odesk), all my VPN Accesses and excel files are ready, all I really needed to do is move and work. and so from that moment on, I focused myself and work on the contract that my sister and Client entrusted me. I started fixing and telling myself that I can do this. I will work and earn and save from this work. I will use this work to learn new things and be able to apply what I already know.
I started reading and watching the training manuals that my Client gave me. I got myself a simple planner,where I jot down all the things that I needed to do. I also categorized the chores and work that I have. My husband, supported the steps that I took. He helped me come up with schedules for each activities and appointments that I needed to attend to. We made sure that while I work on the contract, I still have time for rest, our Son, for our family and medical check-ups.
I started taking things slowly, small steps while I am getting used to my new schedule. Since I was having a hard time waking up in the morning because of my pregnancy, I started working in the afternoon, when my kid is asleep and all chores are finished. I took note of how many hours I am able to work in the afternoon and evening. Back then I remember, I can work alone for around 4 to 5 hours in the afternoon, and 3 hours in the evening. My older sister also gave me tips on how to handle my time more efficiently. She made sure that I always have my tracker turned On,so all my rendered work are properly tracked and paid. She also reminded me that it is alright to turn OFF my tracker in the middle of work, if I needed to rest or attend to my son.This also allows me to be fair and honest to my Client, since my tracker is OFF, my Client won’t need to pay me since I am not working. Due to this practice, trust was built between me and my Client.
I also started making a list of the things that I needed to do for the day, to be sure that I did not forget anything. I bought myself a letter organizer and a cork board and started pinning the bills that we received and highlighted the due dates to avoid not paying our bills. i made post its that serves as reminders for one time activities that I needed to attended to.
My To Do space; cork board and white board
I also started upgrading and updating my systems,such as my Windows OS, Microsoft Office, Skype, Firewalls, installing all necessary apps and extensions, like Google docs, Last Pass, HangOuts, Batch Purifier and more. Installing LastPass extension actually helped me save time, this app lets you store your PASWORDS, so you don’t need to reset your PWs every time you forget a PIN or PW for an account.
Photo by: http://www.undercosideration.com
From this small steps, I was able to build a schedule that worked for me and my family. By the time that I was in my 8th month of my pregnancy, my body was actually making it hard for me to work in the afternoon and morning, so I adjusted, and learn to follow my body clock. I was wide awake at night to wee hours of the morning, I took advantage of this change in my body and I was able to communicate faster with my Client, since he was in the USA that time. I also made sure that I stay in touch with the other Virtual Assistants of my client, so if I have questions that my Client can’t accommodate, I can still ask them for information that they might know, since they were working for our Client even before I was hired. I also pushed myself to learn new skills and internet knowledge. My Client,even started giving me new tasks like managing his Company’s Social Media Accounts, Outsourcing New talents, Market Research, even Basic Bookkeeping.
Because of this changes, I was able to learn how to work as a “Home-base Employee”. I have learned a lot of new skills, at the same time, I was able to apply the skills that I already have. By the time that I gave birth to my second child, I already learned the basics of Image Editing, Bookkeeping, Marketing and Virtual Accountancy. I was also able to adjust and be more productive. My Client was satisfied with the work I am rendering and even increased my Work Hours allowance. They even gave me a a higher rate in exchange of my service. And because of the new skills I learned, I was also able to close new Contracts and meet new Clients.
I still continue to work as a Home-based employee, even now that I have 3 kids.. I continue to learn new skills and meet new friends who also work as VAs. There are times when I still want to go back to working in the Office, but I know its still not my time for that. But, I am very thankful, that even though I can not work the way I want to,yet, I am still able to learn and work home based. I am thankful that I was given the chance to know this work and able to save and earn from it.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to work at home, for it gave me the best of both worlds. I am able to learn and be good at it, while being able to spend time with my kids and family. I am also very thankful that when I was starting as an Online Freelancer, I have my Big Sister to support and teach me how handle the change that I was encountering. I was very blessed to have a husband who helped and supported me.
So, if you are a mom or someone like me, who is starting to take that big step and choosing to be a Home based Freelancer or Virtual Assistant, and is struggling to to find a Client, or is having a hard time juggling your time between your family and home based work schedules, hang in there. I know, in time, you will also get the hang of it.
Just be positive and remember, that, that big step you took for a change, will be the first step to having a better life.