How do I start working from home?
Here’s the quick answer: Determine your core skills, sign up for online job marketplaces, build a solid profile and portfolio, start looking for work that suits you, craft and send strong cover letters and proposals, do an outstanding job once you get the project, rinse and repeat.
The goal is to get a feel of how to work from home via these job talent sites. As you get enough experience, you can eventually “graduate” and move on to better opportunities outside of these websites.
Since launching Homebased Pinoy, I’ve received a couple of inquiries from readers asking for guidance on how to start working from home.
Here are some of the questions:
- Do you have openings for online part-time jobs?
- What are your hours?
- How to apply for online jobs?
- Do you offer data entry jobs?
- Do you provide part-time home-based jobs?
- How do I start working from home?
- What type of computer do you recommend for working at home?
I clarified that Homebased Pinoy is a blog for helping Pinoys figure out and succeed in work-at-home jobs. This is not a job site.
But those questions apparently were no mere inquiries. Without intending it, it gave me some insight into the kind of questions HBP readers have.
I realized that a significant portion of HBP’s readers doesn’t have a clue about how to start working online from home.
So it gave me an idea, “Why not build a super-detailed guide with the goal of showing them the ropes and at the same time answer their most common questions?”
And this right here is the result. Note that I will be updating this post accordingly to include the next couple of steps in the process.
When I look back at how I started, I can summarize what I did in 3 simple steps:
- Determined what type of skill or service I can offer to clients
- Created an account at oDesk (or other job marketplaces)
- Started sending applications to job posts that interested me
From a bird’s eye view, the main steps are actually quite simple.
However, things will be harder if you do not have a solid understanding of the following:
- What you can offer (your skills)
- How to market yourself (how to bid for jobs)
For this guide, I’ll share the 3 steps that I use for getting new clients and contracts:
Step 1: Self-Assessment
Step 2: Make Your Profile Grab Their Eyeballs
Step 3: Go All-in When Bidding for Work
Most people don’t put much thought into step 1 due to a number of reasons. For example:
- They will simply look for online jobs similar to what they currently do
- Look at what’s popular right now, or look at which ones are paying generously
- Look for jobs that are easy to do
- They don’t want to stray too far off their current (full-time) job
All of these are valid reasons. However, it will really help you get started faster if you can identify your core skills first.
And that’s going to be our first step.
Step 1: Self-Assessment
Identify your core skill
When asked with “Paano ba mag-work from home?”, my typical response is, “Well, what are you good at or ano ba gusto mo gawin?”. Most replies won’t answer my question directly. Instead, I’ll hear the following:
- “Gusto ko yung walang calls”
- “Yung pwede day shift pre”
- “Yung parang mga chat support, ganun”
- “Yung di nakaka-stress masyado”
These are fine and all, but these are merely personal preferences, it doesn’t really pinpoint the type of job itself.
Most people don’t reflect on their personal skills and think that the most important step is to learn where to look for and how to apply for jobs.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Before you do those things, it’s important that you determine your core skill first.
Doing so ensures that you’re leveraging your expertise and experience to get the most out of them. By aligning your strengths to the right job path, you’ll have better chances of succeeding early and in the long term.
So how do you exactly determine your core skills? How do you know which job niche will be perfect for you?
It’s time for a little self-assessment.
To begin with, I’ve listed down a few questions that can help you determine your core skill.
- List your strengths, experience, and things you’re good at.
- What activities excite you?
- When you were younger, which skills did you use the most?
- What types of compliments do you usually receive from others?
- Look at actual job posts, see what type of skills they are looking for and see if yours matches or you think you can do it
The point of this exercise is to come up with a laundry list of actual skills that you use on the daily. Nevermind coming up with some silly ones. We just need to get your brain juices flowing to get to some pretty good answers.
Once you’re done, I promise you’ll have at least 1-3 things that you can honestly identify as freelance-able skills.
- Proficient in both verbal and written English = can get jobs where English mastery is crucial like ESL teaching, virtual assistance, chat or voice support,)
- Knows how to code = programming jobs, building apps, etc.,
- Knows how to build websites = front or back-end developer jobs
- Great at client management = virtual or executive assistant
- Good at writing = content writer, email copywriter, academic writer, etc.
- Fast-typer = transcriptionist
- Knows how to make or edit videos = video editor
In my case, I considered myself lucky in the beginning because I didn’t really have to think hard. I wanted to write. Even if I didn’t have any idea back then what types of writing jobs await a complete newbie like me, I was dead set in earning some money on the side as a freelance writer.
If I wasn’t keen on getting a writing job, I’d probably lean towards digital marketing or virtual assistant types of jobs based on my experience or credentials.
I would’ve probably started learning about those two paths, learn the essentials, then pick a subspecialty under each.
For example, (if I didn’t like writing) I can start learning more about SEO or FB ads under digital marketing. Or learn how to become an Amazon e-commerce or dropshipping specialist virtual assistant (I was interested in these things back then).
Your interest and strengths should be your main compass.
I find coding cool but it just isn’t for me and too far off my skill set.
I know how to get a website up and running from scratch but I don’t find it pleasurable enough to be steady work.
And that’s how I would do it. I believe you can achieve a couple of good results using this quick self-assessment method.
Step 2: Make Your Profile Grab Their Eyeballs
After signing up for these job sites, the next step is to create a winning profile.
Let’s start with your title + description.
It’s that short byline that appears right after your name indicating what you do.
A strong personal description highlights what you can do for (a specific) client and how.
Why does it have to target a specific client or market?
Because if the person looking at your description is your target market/client, then you’ve won half the battle.
Imagine someone peddling cold, bottled water. Now imagine him walking around U.P Sunken Garden on a hot Saturday morning. With all the people jogging around, how many bottles do you think he can sell?
He’ll sell them all.
A good profile description is like being “there at the right place, at the right time”.
You’re positioning yourself to be that one person who has what they need.
For example, if running FB ads for small business owners is your thing, you can use that particular skill/experience on that particular market as your unique selling proposition (USP).
So that when you market yourself or apply for jobs, you can position yourself as:
“I help small business owners get more customers through Facebook ads”.
Notice how your description is very specific and results-driven?
This distinction sets you apart from other generic descriptions from other freelancers who merely copy+paste their credentials and simply write their job title.
In this example, if a small business owner is looking to leverage Facebook to get more customers stumbles upon your profile (or see it after you submit your application), what do you think his reaction will be?
“That’s it. This is exactly what I need!”
And this advice applies to ALL types of jobs.
Your description should be on-point and specific.
Here’s a quick formula:
“I help (your target market or client) + get (Results and Benefits) + using (your skills + expertise)”
When you position your services like that, you anchor the customer’s reaction to the results they want—with you being the person who can get that result for them.
Instead of reading a typical “bio data-like” profile (where you simply write: FB Ads Specialist), this method lets you “spice up” your profile and entice potential customers.
Build a Solid Portfolio
This next step is not strictly required but advantageous to have. In most cases, you’ll be asked for a sample or previous work if you are in the creative niche, like—illustration, design, web design, writing, and other similar markets. If you are looking to get hired for jobs like virtual assistance, chat support, and other administrative-type jobs, clients are less likely to ask for it, though it would still be great to have (if you can).
If you belong to the first group, make sure to post your previous work on free portfolio websites for the client’s viewing. Sending it to them directly also works. If you’re a complete beginner freelancer, you can make some from scratch. A writer can write a sample piece similar to what the client is looking for in terms of topic. A web designer can show mock-up websites, an illustrator can make artwork and other similar stuff—-you get the point.
When I was starting this site, I asked a friend of mine if he could make me a logo. He said he’s not really good at it and instead recommended a buddy of his. He sent a few samples and when I asked how much he’ll charge for them, he said it’s free if I’ll provide my consent instead to add this particular project to his portfolio.
This is a great way of building up a portfolio. For example, you can make a post on FB asking anyone if they know someone who needs your service (logo design, social media post, email copy, video, etc.,—and tell them you’re willing to do it for free. In most cases, they will link you to someone willing to test your services.
Go All-In When Bidding for Work
Every time I send a generic, copy+pasted application email (I simply copied my old emails) I almost always fail to get a response.
But when I take the time to craft a well-thought-out email, my success rate shoots up and the more likely I get a favorable reply.
Note though that this is from what I experienced and learned personally, from actual bids I sent to potential clients, so your mileage may vary.
So what do I mean by a well-thought-out, personalized email?
It’s something that shows your genuine interest in the job post while showcasing your expertise at the same time.
For example, when the job post mentions the actual website, I check it out and try to understand what it’s all about. I read the most popular pieces and try to get a feel of the site’s overall vibe.
I then mention this in my application/bid email, usually at the beginning.
Here’s an actual opener I used once when I was trying to get a writing gig for a relationship/personal development coach:
Love the content on TRS’s site (read a few blogs and listened to a Nir Eyal interview)!
That’s it, just one sentence to break the ice and show my genuine interest in the job.
With just a single sentence, you can make yourself stand out from the dozens of other bidders who always start their bids with a generic, “I’m a (insert expertise) with (mention years of experience)”.
Well duh, clients already know that. You wouldn’t be applying for the job if you didn’t know squat about it right?
Express your interest and be lively with your tone. Your goal is to have the recipient move from the first sentence to the next.. and to the next.. and to the next… until they finish the whole thing. And to do that, you have to hold their curiosity through engaging writing.
The problem with most of us Pinoys is that we’re too polite in both written and verbal exchanges with foreigners. In reality, clients abroad prefer being called by their first names and not with “ma’am or sir”. Sounding too polite will be disadvantageous in this case.
On to the next sentence of my email:
“Would love to share my experience and expertise to help spread TRS’s message to a wider audience through relevant and engaging content that stays true with the brand’s mission and voice.”
I’m pitching here. I’m basically telling her that I want to work with them.
I’m the lead writer for a local blog that gets around 300,000 views per month. (I’m trying to show expertise + proof)
While our niche is entrepreneurship and personal finance, I love writing about self-improvement and personal development, topics that are closely linked to building meaningful relationships. As a married guy myself, I found myself nodding in agreement with the insights shared by Jayson on some of his blog posts. (I was making sure that my expertise/experience remains aligned with their goal/what they’re looking for)
I’m a big podcast fan as well, I love taking notes and reflecting on crucial points when I listen to my favorite shows (The Tim Ferriss Show and The Knowledge Project, to name a few). (I saw on their site that they have a podcast, so I mentioned it to let her know that I like listening to those) I can’t remember the number of times I was able to come up with ideas for blog posts from key points I learned from a particular podcast. Here are a couple of published articles of mine inspired by insights heard from podcasts:
I then added links to some of my published articles that are relevant to their target audience (important for showing you match their needs)
I then proceeded with a final pitch to close the email:
I’d love to get the chance to join the TRS team and use my skills to help it reach a wider audience and help more people. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
It might have taken longer for me to write this email versus copy+pasting one of my scripts but it was sure worth it because I was able to get a favorable response from the client.
Should all job bid emails be like this? Well, that depends. When I was just starting out, I remember sending multiple emails in a day. I was using a script with minor edits to match each client. Since I didn’t have much time then (I had a full-time day job), I went with this route because I wanted to send as many bids as I could.
But if you can, try to come up with a well-thought-out email that’s tailor-fit for that client.
It’s really up to you how you want to do it. Just make sure you’re not sending generic emails copied from some random person or website.
Try to make each email unique and catch the reader’s attention by showing genuine interest and willingness to help. That’s what will make you stand out from the rest.
And that’s it—my 2,000+word answer to the question, “How to start working from home?”.
Don’t stress out too much if you don’t find success right away.
Apply the principles you learned here, observe the results, adapt as you go, and be consistent.
With a little luck, you’ll land your first client and be on your way to freelancing success.
And that’s it for now. Hope you found this useful.
Wishing you the best on your journey to successfully work from home.
See you out there, ka-HBP!