The early years of my freelance programming journey was very tough for me personally not because I can’t find clients or projects to do, but due to the general perceptions people have on what I am doing. My relatives, friends, and former co-workers think I am crazy. Well, I guess I am.
If you are a freelance programmer in the Philippines, I’m sure you also share the following external factors that have become the greatest conceptual enemies I have faced.
Every time I meet a former co-worker or an old classmate, the first thing that gets asked after the usual “How are you?” is “Where are you connected?” Now, depending on his background or the last time you saw each other, that question can be very difficult to answer. I can either be honest and admit being a freelance programmer, or joke on my reply by saying I am currently “disconnected.”
Freelancing = Unemployed?
The concept of employment is deeply ingrained in the minds of the Filipinos that they have no idea that one can earn a living without being employed. For them, one has to be either employed or be in business to have an income. Freelancing is a very strange idea; not in their dictionary. At worst, telling them that you are freelancing is like painting in their mind a picture of an unemployed young man namely YOU.
Programmer — The Misunderstood Animal
Try telling your friend aged 45 or up that you are a programmer and he would mistake you for an encoder just like the clerk sitting next to him in the office. For him, programming is just a modern word for typing.
Try telling your ex-girlfriend that you are a Freelance Web Programmer and she will ask you to make her a nice-looking Wedding Invitation in Corel Draw for her up coming wedding. She will even ask for a discount for printing a total of 500 copies of your fancy creation.
Don’t be surprised if the HR Manager of your former employer will call you to fix his printer at home. And when you go there, don’t ever forget your pack of installers just in case he asks you to install the Internet in his computer so his kids can do their school assignments on time.
As a freelancer, I have learned to use self-discovered weapons in fighting these so called conceptual enemies. One is to simply ignore them and go on with what I am doing confident that someday somehow they will come to understand. Another is to try to explain it taking an anology from the things they are already familiar with: the on-call physical therapist taking care of their neighboor’s grandpa; the interior designer they can consult with to have an attractive home environment; or, the home-based lawyer who charges so much for his remarkable ability in tweaking the law.
If you are a freelance programmer and have experienced being misunderstood, I’d like to hear from your experiences.