Teen Freelancer: How He Found Clients Without Going to College – Interview with Erik Ocaya

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In the corporate world, every applicant needs to have some college degree or diploma to present to a potential employer.

But in the freelancing world, these college degrees and diplomas are not even required for you to get the job.

And this got Erik decided to skip college and head straight to freelancing!

He believed that it’s a greater opportunity to learn, get experience, and earn money all at the same time!

In this interview, you’ll learn the following:

✅ Why He Chose to Freelance Instead of Going to College

✅ How He Got Work Experience by Learning While Earning

✅ How He Was Able To Rise Up Despite The Challenges of Freelancing at a Young Age

And a whole lot more…

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Be inspired by Erik’s experience. His decision to choose to freelance instead of going to college. How he improved his mindset by investing in himself. How he soared high and reached his 6-digit income goal in just 10 months.

Notable Quotes:

  • Ang pangit talaga na hindi yung passion mo yung kinuha mo. Kasi parang nasasayang lang.
  • Yan talaga yung ‘silver lining’. Kasi nandiyan hindi lang yung ate ko nagsuporta sa akin, andiyan din yung buong pamilya ko.
  • Pinaulit-ulit ko rin naman. Kasi hindi din naman natin makukuha agad. In one time lang, kailangan din natin i-review all over again. Kasi kapag i-repeat mo yung isang course, Like ma-shock ka din kasi mayron pa palang parts na hindi mo nabigyan ng attention.
  • Parang isang aklat diba, like bumasa tayo. Hindi talaga 100% yung makukuha natin. Kailangan mo pa i-repeat pa.
  • Akala ko before pa ako nag-enroll sa VA Bootcamp, madali lang ito. Pero pag-learn ko sa course, marami pa pala talaga akong hindi pa natutunan.
  • Sa mga people diyan na malaki talaga yung confidence sa sarili. Huwag masyadong confident sa sarili! Huwag mong sabihin na alam mo na talaga lahat. Kasi hindi naman tayo perpekto. If meron mga magandang courses diyan, invest ka talaga. It’s for our own knowledge. It’s for our own future din.
  • If wala tayong na-take na course… if tayo lang mag-freelance… by ourselves, in 365 days marami tayong matutunan. Pero 365 days pa. Pero sa VA Bootcamp, yung 365 days na masasayang natin, yung ideas naka-compile na dun lahat and matatapos mo din siya in 30 days.
  • Mag-invest talaga tayo kasi yung pera na nilabas natin para niyan, maibabalik din naman yan agad.
  • It takes a lot of time talaga. Sa VA Bootcamp, andoon na talaga lahat.
  • Naka-program na kasi sa ating isipan na yung degree lang talaga yung pag-asa na makapag-trabahao tayo. Nakalimutan na natin na… Kasi yung ibang tao parang na-abuso din nila yung degree. Kasi yung iba nagche-cheat na lang para magkaroon ng degree. Like nang ma-face na nila yung corporate life, nakita na lahat yung totoo na hindi talaga sila proficient. Kasi they are relying hundred percent sa degree. Yan ang na-program sa ating isipan. In real life, hindi talaga yan dapat.
  • I’m not trying to encourage everyone na hindi mag-college. Ituloy niyo pa din yung college pero depende po sa skills.
  • Hindi ko naman gusto na palaging ganito na lang. Sila na lang palagi ang nag-contribute sa akin. Kasi bunso daw ako. Hindi naman excuse yun. Acceptable na excuse ba yun? ‘Diba hindi. I tried to do my best na ako na naman yun makapagbigay sa kanila. That’s one of my Whys.
  • I’m so proud of my parents and sisters kasi pinalaki talaga nila kami ng mabuti. Ganito yung mindset ko hindi parehas ng ibang bunso.
  • Huwag niyo lang po na i-try to push them to spend more time sa mga online games ngayon. They couldn’t do their passion just because na-stuck yung  progress nila dahil sa mga online games. Totoo naman kasi gamer din ako noon. But I decided to sacrifice my life and stay away from them just because I want to discipline myself. I want to be different. Bahala na yung sasabihin ng kaklase ko. Basta ang importante I’m making progress.

Erik’s Journey to Freelancing:

  • He started dreaming of a career where he could work from home when he was in sixth grade.
  • He thought by doing research work and other tasks at home were just a daydream because it was a common notion that after graduating from college, you’d get employed.
  • He planned to simply take IT or Civil Engineering in college because his passion/ the courses he liked weren’t available in the Philippines.
  • In March 2017, his life changed. Her sister shared their (her sister & Sir Jason’s) business ideas and introduced freelancing.
  • Her sister showed her the first-ever Work from Home Roadmap (former name of VA Bootcamp) page. She showed the website and the skills needed in order to become a freelancer. She asked him what he can do. He saw admin task skills like data entry, transcription, and social media. He said he can do everything.
  • Her sister offered him and gave him two weeks to decide whether to enroll in the WFHR Course to improve his mindset.
  • Despite hesitations and lack of funds, he decided to enroll. He just borrowed money from his sister.
  • He did not waste his time. He finished the WFHR Course in 20 days. He was able to improve his mindset and learned basic Virtual Assistant skills.
  • After finishing the course, he already started creating profiles on different platforms such as Upwork, OnlineJobs, Hubstaff.
  • He created a wonderful Overview, applied everything he learned from the course like the proper format (AIDA) and submitted proposals. However, no one responded.
  • In May 2017, he found a job post from Ms. Bong Isleta to transcribe a 1-hr video of Ms. Althea Sagayno.
  • He was the first to comment so he got the job. Ms. Bong then became his first-ever client and got his first-ever feedback on Upwork.
  • In June 2017, he decided to stop and focus on his studies. He was an incoming Grade-12 Senior HS Student.
  • To his shock, he still got job invites. But due to his busy schedule and school commitments, he declined all the job invitations.
  • To save up for his allowance, he continued working as a part-time WordPress assistant and graphic designer to Sir Jason and her sister, Holly.
  • It wasn’t all good. He also dealt with conflicts at school because he officially announced he’s not going to college.
  • He was even questioned by their School Principal about his decision. He tried to discourage him but he told him he set himself an income goal. If he could achieve half-a-million income in one year, he won’t go to college. If he couldn’t, he would continue college.
  • Finally, in March 2018, he graduated from Senior High School.
  • He decided to take a one-month break as he’s trying to transition from the ‘school’ environment to ‘working from home’ environment.
  • During the break, he tried to get rid of his childish activities like his being a ‘gamer’.
  • In May 2018, he again refreshed his knowledge and reviewed the courses on VA Bootcamp. He also updated his profile.
  • That time, he decided to become a Web Designer as a lot of people encouraged him to do that because it’s a well-paying job and it was what he did for his OJT.
  • He felt self-doubt so he tested all his skills to eliminate the feeling. He did design, video editing, and graphic design. Video editing and graphic design stood out so he chose those technical skills.
  • He pursued and started sending proposals seriously.
  • He became an official part of the VA Bootcamp Team.
  • He started taking simple projects at $5/hr.
  • He decided to give his all and send five proposals a day. After weeks of trying, in June 2018, he got a 100-dollar rate for a rush project.
  • Along the way, he had some troubles with clients but eventually, he got long-term clients too.
  • He read comments and watched YouTube videos and found an Indian client doing business in the US.
  • He tried to send him a proposal using the AIDA/ ROPE format via email. It was effective.
  • In just 10 months of working, he already reached his income target.
  • Now, he’s on his way to achieving more.

Q&A Highlights 

Hindi po ba nakaka-affect sa account natin sa Upwork ang pag-decline ng invites?

That time parang wala lang. Parang nag-reset lang yung connects. Hindi naman nagamit yung connects kasi invite lang yon, hindi naman ako nag-send ng proposal. So yun, in 24-hrs time, decline agad. Response agad.

Is it really necessary to enroll sa VA online course?

Well, of course! Kasi yung mga nandoon na sa VA Bootcamp. It is only worth 365 days of learning. Meron tayong dalawang options, pipiliin ba natin na tayo lang mag self learn for one year. Sayang yung one year natin or magtake na lang tayo ng online course na nandoon na yung lahat ng matutunan natin in one year. Package na siya eh. Maginvest talaga tayo kasi yung pera na nilabas natin para niyan, maibalik din naman yan agad.

Nung 30-days na yan, na convince mo ba rin yung parents mo at mga kapatid mo na ‘uy, after nitong graduation na hindi na ako mag-enroll?  

Yung parents ko. They are very supportive 100%.

Ilan na ba ang clients mo ngayon? And pwede ba i-reveal yung rates?

Ang masasabi ko lang is four digits sa dollars. 

Yung goal mo na sinabi mo sa Principal mo na-reach mo na ba? So ano babalik ka pa ba sa college? Or na-reach mo na yung goal mo kaya hindi ka na babalik?

Gross income ko in one year time. Na-achieve ko siya in 10 months.

Afford ka pa ba ng VAB? Afford ka pa ba namin?

Ok lang naman. Of course! Yung VAB naman nag-educate sa akin. Kung wala yung VAB hindi din mangyayari ito. 

Masasabi mo ba talaga na ito na? Naging successful ka talaga pagiging freelancer? Hindi naging wrong move or wrong choice ang hindi pagpatuloy ang kolehiyo?

Never. Never siya nagiging wrong choice sa akin.

Idol mo daw ang ate mo? None other than Ms Holly Ocaya? Totoo ba? Idol mo ba ito?

Lahat ng mga ate ko. Idol ko sila. 

Na identity verification ka na ba sa Upwork? Nakareceive ka na ba ng email?

Kasi noon nung pag gawa ko pa ng profile. Naka secured na kasi lahat. Yung mga important information nilagyan ko na para wala ng problema. 

Ano na ang pwede mong tips sa mga kagaya mong teenager na gusto din i-pursue ang freelancing?

Just don’t give up. Andun na talaga sa share magnet yung tips ko. First of all, marami talagang discouragements na ma experience mo, so only thing na masabi ko is just do your part and dont’ be discouraged agad. Ikaw lang yung nakaalam sa iyong path and yung mga discouragements ng iba they’re trying to act na na-experience nila yan, diba hindi? Just continue  yung passion mo. Just go for it. As long as yung passion mo ay with good intention. Wag yung passion na with bad intention. 

Second tip, please avoid negative people kasi yan kasi yung social life ko noon, puro negative yung mga tao kaya like honestly lang noh, sa school parang hindi ako masaya talaga kasi puro discouragements lang. Basta yung pag iisip ng mga negative side ng millenials ngayon kasi millenials din ako. So yun, never spend time, just try to avoid negative people.

Then, third  and final tip is just always pray to God. Pray na i-guide tayo Niya all the time and also tip ko din na ‘di lang po tayo mag pray sa kay God just because meron lang tayo favor sa kanya. No, we should also pray even though maraming failures na dadating sa ating buhay. Kasi It depends on how we perceive failure kasi ang failure negative talaga na word yan sa iba. Pero yung failure kasi if iibahin mo yung perception niya, failure is actually a positive word para sa akin. Kasi yung word success, hindi yan maaachieve kung walang failure. Failure is a part of success, yan talaga yung definition niyo. So please basta wag niyo po i-put sa mind natin na negative yung failure. Basta yung failure… What’s inside failure? It has a lot of lessons na galing sa ating mga mistakes. It depends on how we handle it and how we treat failure. Either i-ignore natin yung lessons na nakuha natin sa failure or i-fix natin yung mga mistakes na nakuha natin. It’s how we perceive failure lang talaga. 

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Jason Dulay

Jason Dulay

Jason is the founder and CEO of Work from Home Roadmap and VA Bootcamp. Aside from teaching Filipinos how to succeed working from home, he likes traveling, playing board games, and drinking coffee.

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