From oDesk to Upwork: What do I do exactly?

Digital Advantage

The weirdest task I have ever gotten through UpWork was to write a love letter. Well, it’s not that weird, and it was my first job. I think I was paid about a dollar for this, but my effort was well worth it because I learned the biggest lesson of my career: you can be any offer any service you want in any digital marketplace. I just wish that people around me would understand what I do as work.

There are two things that usually happen when I tell people what I do for a living: 1. They respond with an “Ah…ok” and 2. They tell me that I must be rich because I earn dollars.

Mea P – Online Freelancer for 7 Years and Counting
From oDesk to Upwork: What do I do exactly?

The “Ah..ok” response makes me think that the person I’m talking to doesn’t really know much about online freelancing and the “You must be rich” response makes me think that the person I’m talking to knows as much about freelancing as I do with HTML coding – tip of the iceberg, basic.

Neither response is offensive to me. After all, it’s not really the problem.

Because my line of work is unconventional, I find it hard to explain to people what I do, exactly, and I end up with the not so usual responses like:

  • “You should be a nurse.” (because I did graduate as one and I do have my license)
  • “Canada is hiring nurses non-stop, you know.”

Sometimes, I even get the feeling that some folks think my work is a scam or they give me this vibe that tells me they think I “entertain” male foreigners via video conference (seriously!!).

From oDesk to UpWork & a Clear Definition

From oDesk to Upwork: What do I do exactly?

FREELANCER – noun – a person who works as a writer, designer, performer,or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer. ( couldn’t have made it more clear. From oDesk to UpWork, I’ve been working as a freelancer for 7 years. I was a former Head Teacher of an online English school before I decided to take the leap.

What do I do on UpWork?

Because I am a freelancer, I can pretty much do whatever I want. As long as I have knowledge and experience with a particular skill, clients can hire me for it. I call myself a “Jane of all trades” because I do anything and everything. Here’s a peek into my skill set:

  • Writing, including blogging and article optimizing for SEO (strong suit)
  • Social media management (strong suit)
  • Content management (strong suit)
  • WordPress management
  • Videos and voice-overs
  • Team management (strong suit)

The rest I can’t really describe clearly as it involves a lot of personal assistant stuff like waking up a client at a certain time and reviewing his (or her) schedule for the day. Think Andrea from the movie the Devil Wears Prada but with limitations.

Am I Really Rich Because I Earn $$$?

Freelancer Quote

I must admit that my earnings are higher compared to that of a BPO employee but it doesn’t come without sacrifices. To answer the question, I am not rich. I can, however, say that I am close to being financially stable. I believe that any white-collar job can give you a certain degree of financial freedom as long as you know how to handle your expenses.

What Sacrifices Are You Talking About?

Upwork Freelancer at Work
Working in my PJs like a Boss

Believe it or not, being a freelancer is not all that it’s cut out to be. A few of the things I battle with every day are:

  • Mindless eating
  • Procrastination
  • Carpal tunnel (in my case because I type a lot)
  • Boredom
  • Isolation from social contact
  • Did I mention procrastination?

There’s a big chance that you might just let yourself go since you’re in front of the computer the entire time, and you really don’t have to take a shower, change into work outfits, commute to work or answer to anyone (well, not unless your deadline for a task is up).

My Two Companions
The two family dogs supply my need for interaction on a daily basis.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m good at what I do, and I love being an UpWork freelancer. I just wish that I didn’t have to explain my work to people (especially my relatives) in detail so they don’t misinterpret what I do as a scam or something that involves an indecent proposal. Recently, so I can avoid all the drama, I just say that “I’m a writer” which gets me the usual responses of “Ah…ok” and “You must be rich”.

If you’re an online freelancer like me, what do you tell people when they ask you what you do for a living?

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About the author /

Mea Pabiona is a Bacolod blogger who works as a fulltime online freelancer, specializing in SEO, content writing, and social media marketing. She's a beauty and skincare enthusiast, a dog-lover, a foodie, and a mother of one.

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  1. Krystyna Quimpo

    I like the amount of control that you have with your time and the work that you do. Pero yeah, true that you sometimes let yourself go. The re are days that you don’t want to get out of the house and there are days when you are dying to get out.

    So nice to meet another Upworker. 🙂 Been doin this for 2 years pa lang.

    • Mea P.

      Nice to meet you too Krystyna..In my case, I work late like until 2am. Dinner time is 8pm which basically results to me eating a bag or two of potato chips every midnight or 1am. Today, I felt what you mentioned – I just had to get out of the house 🙂

  2. Hanna Oprins

    Hi Mea,

    Although I’m not a freelancer, nor a Filipino I find your blog post quite interesting. It amazes me that people are this unfamiliar with online freelancing and sometimes even associate it with something illegal whereas it has great potential and offers great opportunities. Besides, I’m interested the downsides of online freelancing which you describe quite well.

    Anyway, I wrote you a Facebook message which, since we’re not Facebook friends, may wind up in your “other” inbox. Let me know what you think. I’d be happy to hear from you. 🙂


  3. almera

    Wow.’ You must be rich!’. (jk)
    I’ve been planning to work as a freelancer as well but I find it hard to look for an online job.. 🙁
    I don’t have any idea what job I should be looking for online, but I am currently searching and searching and searching.. haayyy..

    I’ve tried registering to oDesk as well but then when I saw tons of freelancers out there, I doubted if I will ever have the chance to handle a project. bdw, what online job did you first get at oDesk/Upwork?

    • Mea P.

      If there’s one tip I can give you its this: try and try until you succeed. It’s tested and proved and definitely a must do if you want to work at Upwork 🙂 Don’t worry, you’ll land that job soon enough..

  4. jessica

    hi mea, nice reading your blog it find me interesting and quite surprise that yun pala ang lifestyle ng isang freelancer.quite hard din pala. pero i still want to be like that. yun palagi hinahanap ko sa net.interest ba tawag dun?thanks nga pala kasi nasagot mo yun tanong ko. yun pala yun odesk e upwork na ngayon.clear na. thank you.hope to see more blogs from you.

    • Mea P.

      No worries Jessica..Just be consistent in finding work aggressive when applying for jobs at UpWork and you’ll land ur first gig, guaranteed 🙂 Keep on reading!

  5. Freddie

    Whenever people ask me what do i do for a living i just simply say I work at home as a secretary online. Sometimes iif im lazy to explain I just say I dont have work

    • Mea P.

      I wish I could say that I don’t have work too but I can’t imagine the next batch of stares I’m going to get for being a “bum”..hahaha, life, right?

  6. V

    I live in Luxembourg (small modern country between germany france and belgium), and even though the country is really modern, people don’t see my work (Web dev as freelancer, also on Upwork) as real work! They tell me to get a REAL job!

    Even most of my family don’t think that I’m really working. They think that I’m sitting around at home and do nothing.

    I live with my girlfriend and even she sometimes forgets that although I’m home, I don’t always have the time to do the chores and gets mad because she thinks that I’m just chilling the whole day.

    In addition to my online clients I have a partnership with a local reputable Web Design agency, they sometimes send some work over when they need something done quick and although that work only represents 10 % of my income, I often only tell people about this agency because then they somehow magically think that my job is real work.

    • Mea P.

      Seems like we all have the same plight..(sigh)

  7. Mark

    When asked, I usually answer that I’m a freelancer in a tone that discourages their next question. It always works. 🙂

    • Mea P.

      I wish I could do that with my titas..but I just smile and say that I “write” for a living..They, then, wear an expression of clueless-ness on their faces.

  8. Charisse

    Whenever people ask me what I do for a living and I answer I’m a home-based proofreader, I would get the “huh?” look. And if they ask what am I exactly doing and I explain it to them, they don’t still get it. It kind of gets tiring explaining it over and over again that I’m sometimes tempted to say I have no work at all.

    About being “rich,” well, I love freelancing. I really was able to save and provide enough for the family, which working in a BPO company for a couple of years didn’t allow me to. 🙂

    • Mea P.

      Our work definitely beats working at a BPO company. I just tell people that I write for a living. A “writer”. And they just nod their heads while donning an expression of slight cluelessness on their faces. 🙂

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