I've been working as an online freelancer for almost 6 years now. But before I became a full-time freelancer, I was once a slave in the BPO industry. I started with data entry and research, and later on take calls as well. I didn't have any experience aside from that so when I decided to leave the corporate world and work online, the only option I have is to search for data entry and research jobs. I hate taking calls and I'm a bit quick-tempered so I didn't include that on my option.
The competition in the freelancing industry was too tight. It's not easy to find jobs and get hired. The thing you can do back then is to bid a really low rate to get data entry and research jobs. I remembered accepting as low as $0.70 per hour on Upwork (oDesk during that time) just for the sake of having a feedback. It's a good thing that Upwork has now a defined minimum rate of $3 per hour so the freelancers now won't experience what we've experienced before.
My first online job was not through Upwork (oDesk). I created an oDesk profile August 2011 but got my first job April 2012. Imagine, it took me 8 months to get my first oDesk job! I accepted low rates but I later realized that they're not worth it, so I decided to upgrade my skills to earn more.
My Own Experience
Transition from Data Entry to Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant is someone who do various jobs to help the client accomplish things. When I decided to become a VA, I know for a fact that I may do things that I don't know how to do. But I am too determined and I have my bestfriend 'Google'. I did some data entry and research tasks as well as a VA and then I learned email marketing and some basic SEO in the process. My rate as a VA became a little bit higher than that of data entry task alone. However, when my eyes were opened in the world of SEO and I saw job posts about it with a higher rate, I decided to learn more about it.
Virtual Assistant to Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has a lot of aspects. While on my VA tasks, I just learned email outreach and other white-hat SEO techniques. I started to find jobs specifically for outreach and I became successful with it. Time came that I no longer apply for outreach jobs because a lot of clients were sending me invitations. I even turned down most of them. Later on, I learned that there's more about this SEO thing. I was able to learn keyword research using different tools, other link building strategies, on-page SEO and a lot more. I specialized in SEO for few years and I thought that will be my main career. But then one day, I was asked by a client to design his site. I was like, "Are you sure?" I don't have any background with web design and web development. He told me to give it a try, so I did.
SEO to Web Design and Web Development
Frankly speaking, I hate codes. I had a glimpse of it back in college but I wasn't able to use it until I completely forgot about it. When a client told me to design his website, I was challenged because he entrusted me his site despite knowing that I don't have an experience with web dev at all. To my surprise, I was so enjoyed designing his site (with Google on the side). I constantly search Google what to do and I finished his site in about 3 weeks. It took me too long because it's my first time. The client was also happy with my work so he gave me a good feedback.
Since then, I studied more about the concept of web design, web development and later on learned how to build landing pages and sales pages that surely convert. I've got more clients on this field and I've finally settled with web development. I've also learned website speed optimization and I offered that as a cherry on top for my clients.
Because of these skills, the clients keep pouring in that I no longer need to send proposals. I have direct clients and some are still from Upwork. I became a one-stop shop of some clients who I worked with for long-term. Because of the increase in workload, I've founded KS Web Services in June 2016 and I have several people working for me now.
I considered myself as a newbie in web designing and development. I know I still have a lot to know. Just never stop learning.
How to upgrade skills?
#1 - Have target skills to learn and be determined.
From mere data entry and research, I thought that I should apply to become a Virtual Assistant. So I did. I've got several VA jobs and I decided to upgrade my skills again to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I became successful as an SEO specialist but I thought that it's not enough. Since then, I decided to learn web designing and web development. And it's a success again. As you can see, upgrading my skills is something that I decided and chose to do. I was very determined to learn them so I became successful in what I do.
#2 - Search, read, watch videos, and repeat.
If you've already decided what skills to learn, leverage the use of technology. Spend time searching the internet (hello Google!) about the thing you wanted to do. And when I say spend time, I mean to say that you dedicate that time to learning new skills. Don't get distracted by Facebook, computer games, cellphone or television. Try your very best to understand what you read. You may also search for video tutorials because it's proven to be more effective. If possible, allocate at least 2 hours of your time everyday.
#3 - Don't be too excited and just focus.
You may be too excited to acquire new skills, but please don't. You may say, "I want to do this", "I want to do that". Take it one step at a time because focusing on too many things to learn won't help you. Just focus at one thing. You may choose as many skills as you want but do it one by one. When you're successful with the first one, you can then learn the second one.
#4 - Look for related jobs and apply what you've learned.
When you're already confident enough to accept jobs related to the new skills you studied and learned, it's about time to offer your services. Go to different online jobs platform and apply. It won't be easy at first because most clients look for someone who already has experience in that field. However, be patient and don't lose hope. Learn the art of writing a compelling cover letter and you'll convince a client to hire you in no time. Once you've landed a job with that new skills, do your very best to have a positive feedback. The next thing you'll know is that the clients will be the ones to invite you to apply to their job posts.
#5 - Expand your knowledge and join in forums.
While doing the job with your new skills, I'm pretty sure that there will be stumbling blocks along the way. You will encounter things that are not with what you've studied, but hang in there and find your way around it. Sometimes, Google won't give you the exact answer for your query. If that happens, join in relevant forums and ask in the community where there are professionals in that certain field. Reading in forums will definitely help you grow in that career.
#6 - Repeat the entire process.
Congratulations! Once you've become successful in that field, you may now upgrade your skills to the next level. Just repeat the entire process.