There was a time when Romarico “Roma” Villablanca, a 30-year-old freelance graphic designer, would string together sampaguita buds into a lei and sell them off on the streets in order to buy uncooked rice and food. This was his only source of income. So dire were his circumstances that he chose to stay over at his friends’ place because he felt there was nothing he could do for his family. He had debts to pay and constantly sought the assistance of his relatives from the province. This, despite having a small personalized T-shirt printing business. “Business was seasonal,” he recalls. “It wasn’t enough to meet my family needs.” His stress began to affect him physically, with bouts of headaches.
That was nearly two years ago. Today, Roma enjoys a steady stream of income, thanks to the advice of his brother-in-law: try online jobs. After overcoming his initial hesitancy due to the prevalence of fake employers and scammers on the Net, he decided to give it a go. What else did he have to lose? He chanced upon Freelancer.com after a futile month-long search. So began the change that would leave a lasting impact on his life.
Within one hour of registering, he was hired by his first employer and before the same day ended, he had three that entrusted their projects to him. They are now his regular clients.
Most of his projects are T-shirt designs but once in a while he gets encoding and illustrations. “I get most of it by bidding,” he shares. “After building a good reputation on the platform, I am directly hired.”
He recalls one of his earliest experiences: “I was just starting back then. I found a project on the site and the employer had this rush job that involved drawing. I didn’t have a pen tablet at that time. I drew manually and went to a computer shop to have the drawing scanned and sent to the employer. He was so amazed and so generous. He gave me a huge tip (US$100 for the US$1,500 project)—said that’s his appreciation of very skillful work. With that I bought a pen tablet and a scanner.”
“Being a full-time freelancer requires patience and patience and more patience,” he gushes, “because you work with different employers with different personalities. They are the boss; they want to be prioritized. I mean, they want to be the first on your list.”
Despite the challenges inherent in freelancing and even more so doing it online, Roma continues to persevere in order to reach his goals. He also now has a mini computer shop that transforms into an encoding hub when he has other projects to gain extra income. He also wants to finish the construction of the second floor of their house, which has just started. And within the year, he hopes to buy his own car.
For Roma, Freelancer.com is more than just a venue from where to find work: “Freelancer.com is a blessing—it helps individuals like me to find jobs. It also gives you hope, that even if you’re jobless but have the skills, you can earn while at home. It gives you freedom and you earn more than the salary of a casual employee.
“I want to share my blessing. I hire my neighbors for the simple projects I get. I inform them how freelancing works, too.”
Perhaps there’s no bigger reward for a hardworking man such as himself than to see him spend quality time with his kids. “I can take good care of them and watch them while I am working.”