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How to Survive Brownouts as a PH-based Freelancer [19 Tips]

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“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” says the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

This speaks to the inner framework we maintain as world-class freelancers. In this spirit, we don’t let manageable obstacles like brownouts get in the way of providing great work for our clients. 

Sometimes in life, there are things beyond our control. Staying work-ready during brownouts is not one of them.

Check out these few tips you can use to become a brownout-proof online professional.

Brownout or Blackout?

But before we get into it, let’s talk about the term “brownout” and how it relates to Filipino culture. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a brownout is a period of reduced voltage of electricity caused especially by high demand and resulting in reduced illumination. 

Technically, what we mean when we use the term ‘brownout’ is blackout which is in part defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a period of darkness (as in a city) caused by a failure of electrical power. 

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Language behaves this way: it sways to the will of culture. Brownout is the term that caught on in Filipino culture and it’s what we’ll use here to connect and build upon the perspective that’s already there. 

In the Philippines, power outages are brownouts. Everywhere else, they’re blackouts.

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What to Do Before Brownouts

Tip #1: Pick an alternative place to work beforehand.

Are there any co-work spaces, coffee shops, and internet cafes within reasonable traveling distance from where you work? Which one of them maintains a power supply during brownouts? Take note of them ahead so you’ll be ready to work there when you need to.

Tip #2: Follow your Electricity Service Provider’s public channels.

Do you know the name of your Electricity Service Provider? Mark it. Follow them on their social media profiles. Sign up to their email list if they have one. Find out how your Electricity Service Provider provides updates regarding brownouts to their customers. Don’t just rely on third-party sources for updates on power outages.

Tip #3: Compile important contact numbers (and keep non-digital copies).

Keep contact numbers of your family, electricity service provider, and emergency service numbers. It would be even better if you can make sure your list of contacts are backed up to an internet account, like Google Contacts, so that you have more ways of accessing them in case your smartphone dies. Also, you should keep a hard copy (on let’s say a piece of paper) of your important contact numbers as well for extra peace of mind. 

Tip #4: Prepare your “Brownout Survival Kit”.

Concerning power outages, we ought to consider three things: alternative lighting, backup power, and internet connection. The specific devices/services/packages you need for your specific line of work and way of working may vary from others’. We’ll talk about this further below.

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What to Do During Brownouts

Tip #5: Make use of alternative light sources.

Keep at least a flashlight or two at home and a stock of candles, too. Placate a practical arrangement of emergency lights suited to your budget. You may also take advantage of external light sources like sunlight, moonlight and/or streetlights in your setup.

Tip #6: Turn off appliances that are vulnerable to power surges.

A lot of high-powered appliances being used, like air conditioners, are still vulnerable to damage from power surges that can occur when the devices are still turned on when the power comes back after a brownout. Make sure to turn off these devices in event of a power outage.

Tip #7: Don’t let your UPS run out of battery [Turn off Desktop Computers].

A UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) is another handy tool you can include in your “Brownout Survival Kit” to give your desktop computer an extra 20 minutes of power during brownouts. This is enough time for you to shut down your desktop computer to avoid losing unsaved work, in the process: avoiding hardware damage also to your CPU.

Tip #8: Use a fuel-powered power generator set.

This is high up on this list of tips because it’s one of the easiest to use. A standard generator set will provide you around 7 hours of power with 1 tank of gas (around P200) for a few appliances which should cover your computer, fan, and lamp at least. Blogger James of jamesdevonshire.com recommends the POWERGEN 1kVA Digital Inverter Generator / Generating Set which you can buy for P5,999 from Lazada through this link. He also talked about managing brownouts as a freelancer in his related blog post here.

Tip #9: Use a 5000W power inverter with a car battery.

photo by Ronskie Phoenix

If using a gas-powered generator set is a bit too noisy or smelly (from the smoke emissions) for your preference, a 5000W power inverter paired with a car battery might be better for you. SEO & Web Design VA Ronskie Phoenix recommends this combo as it powers his work setup for more than one day of a full power outage. He uses this 5000W power inverter being sold for ₱2,848 by the seller with username smileface in Lazada. He then pairs that with a Motolite car battery which he was able to buy used from battery shops at around P1500 pesos. Brand new car batteries usually cost around P5,000+.

Tip #10: Use a power booster cable with a power bank for your internet modem (only works with smaller modems so far).

Did you know that you know that you can make use of your current home wifi internet connection during brownouts by powering your existing modem using a standard power bank? Yep! You can do that by using a standard power bank with this power booster cable from Shopee recommended by Social Media VA Mitch Olaer. It costs only P175 from seller Bern Online Market. Power banks cost as low as P59 now. Crazy. 

Anyway, you can stay connected to your home wifi during brownouts by attaching both a power bank and this power booster cable to the power connector on your internet modem. NOTE: this only works on modems with an output wattage of 12V/.5A. As an example, check below for which internet plans from Globe At Home and PLDT Home provide a 12V/.5A modem by default:

Globe At Home: everything under broadband plans but before Xtreme Home Prepaid Wifi 

(Prepaid Wifi, Plan 1299 LTE Go Big, Go Unli Plan 1299, Go Unli Plan 1699, Go Unli Plan 1899)

PLDT Home: everything that falls under Home DSL (PLAN 1299, PLAN1,699, and PLAN 2,899)

Tip #11: Use your portable wifi hotspot device.

Another thing to consider with regards to maintaining an internet connection during brownouts is simply using a portable wifi hotspot device. You can read more about these devices in VA Bootcamp founder and freelancer mentor Jason Dulay’s blog post here.

Tip #12: Use your mobile phone’s hotspot as an alternative source of internet connection.

Also, you may use the data connection capabilities of your smartphone as a source of internet connection for your work setup during brownouts. Using mobile data is burdensome to your phone’s battery life, but this should be remedied with a power bank. If you’re considering using your phone’s hotspot as your main or backup work internet connection, you can also check how Jason Dulay managed that in his related blog post here.

Tip #13: Use a power bank for your laptop.

Speaking of power banks: there are power banks for laptops, too. Did you know? Damn. This selection of laptop power banks from Lazada include a standard AC plug, so it’ll work with any laptop and I recommend them. Prices start at P3,950 (just…wow). You can also check this list of laptop power banks from Yugatech that don’t include an AC outlet. Just make sure the laptop power bank you purchase is compatible with the laptop with which you intend to use it when the laptop power bank doesn’t have an AC port.

Tip #14: Avail of solar power options.

To avoid brownouts from the mainstream power grids altogether, you may invest in an alternative power grid for your home using solar power. Freelancers Analiza Caldito Darao, Jojie De Dios-Dumagat, and Mona Liza Ibarra are happy solar power customers who have been quick to endorse it. You may ask them about their experience with solar power in relation to brownouts by contacting them in their respective freelancing profiles.

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What to Do After Brownouts

Tip #15: Clean up.

So after the power comes back, put everything back where it needs to be. Return your flashlights and/or candles. Store your extra cables, power banks, generator set, inverters. Don’t forget your hotspot device, too if you’re using one. Clean up! You don’t want to lose your stuff just because you’re messy.

Tip #16: Turn on needed appliances.

Turn the needed lights back on. Air conditioner/s. Anything that needs to be manually turned on after a power outage, flip it on. Perhaps you have a security system (CCTVs and all) that needs to be rebooted. Go boot it up again. Also, confirm that your modem is now taking power from your wall plug instead of draining the battery of your backup power supply.

Tip #17: Charge/refuel your brownout kit.

Get your batteries and power bank charged again and refuel your generator set if you have one. You could also invest in a dedicated charging station device to make this whole process as quick, efficient and effective as possible.

Tip #18: Stay thankful.

You survived another brownout. You’ve already made sure everyone in the household is okay. Remind yourself to be thankful for another set of opportunities to share your inner light to others and to the world with the help of online freelancing. You’re friggin’ awesome. Don’t forget that.

Tip #19: Share your knowledge.

Something even more unstoppable than a determined soul embodied by a world-class freelancer like you, is the divinity within us and around us that allows for the wonder of generosity in shared knowledge passed on from person to person as well as community to community. We didn’t start the fire. But I’ll always be glad to keep it burning with you. Never extinguish your flame. Brownouts are temporary.

Did we miss anything? Share what you know about managing obstacles like brownouts in your online professional life. Put it in the comments below and let’s keep our bonfire of shared knowledge aflame.

Speaking of sharing, I’d love to share how I and many others got started working online. 

I started by enrolling in the VA Bootcamp.

Want to know more? Consider this a sign. Check out their awesome courses here.


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Emmanuel Tecson

Emmanuel Tecson

Emmanuel "Doods" Tecson is a compulsive tech tinkerer and future inventor. As a freelancer, he specializes in copywriting, content writing, and admin support. Freelancing makes him so happy he bursts into song at any given moment (like a true Filipino would!). He is looking to connect with more people who have earth-shattering enthusiasm. Follow his freelancing adventures at emmanueltecson.com.

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