Monday, May 30, 2011

The Best Things in Life Are Free

I was lucky to be able to participate in 2 learning sessions last week, both for free! It's great that there are individuals and corporations who offer free information sharing sessions, even if only to introduce their programs and seminars or products. We could do well to take advantage of these free offers, because we always learn something new from new people that we meet.

Filipino VA Webinar

Last Thursday, May 26 was the monthly webinar of Jomar Hilario for Filipino Virtual Assistants (VA). Jomar Hilario is an internet marketer and VA trainer. Every month, he invites one or two practicing VAs and lets them share their work experiences. The VAs share their previous work background before becoming a VA, how they started as a VA, what kind of VA work they do, the kind of clients they work with and what their typical working day is like. The VAs generously give tips on what to do and what not to do, based on their own experience.

I have listened in on a number of the VA webinars by Jomar before and they're generally the same stories of people who got tired of the daily hassle of being employed and who now work at home on their own time. What keeps me always tuned in is the message of hope imparted by the featured VAs and Jomar himself. That it is possible to break into and succeed in the VA world through perseverance, continuous learning and consistent good work. Their words inspire me to continue exploring the scary freelance world.

If you want to be a part of the VA world too, start learning about it here.

CIIT's Free Adobe Photoshop Workshop

The following day, Friday, I got into a free 3-hour Adobe Photoshop workshop. I stumbled into this free workshop 2 days before the scheduled date through the blog of Boy Kuripot. The free workshop was conducted by Cosmopoint International Institute of Technology, an ICT (information communications technology) education provider located in Tomas Morato, Quezon City, with headquarters in Malaysia. It was a short teaser of their Photoshop course as part of either the Web Design Specialist package or Multimedia Specialist package. I had expected only a short Powerpoint-powered presentation where the facilitator would feature photos before and after being altered by Photoshop and a few hands-on opportunities. What the participants got instead was a full, although short, hands-on tutorial of some of the different tools used in Photoshop.

I've always wanted to learn Photoshop so I could correct and enhance photos, as well as manipulate existing photos to create a new photo for a particular need. Like making it appear that I've been to Egypt by transposing my photo into a photo with the Egyptian pyramids at the background. This would be a big help in my web content creation tasks, as some clients want pictures accompanying the articles or blog posts that are submitted to them. The workshop gave me an insight of how I could use Photoshop in that manner.

It was also a chance to check out Cosmopoint's facilities, instructors and programs. At the workshop, we used CIIT's top of the line computer equipment and facilities. The instructors are industry practitioners, so you're sure that what the facilitator teaches you comes from actual experience and not just from books or manuals. After the workshop, a Marketing Officer named Cecille briefly explained to me their current programs that include, among others, Multimedia Specialist, Web Design Specialist, 3D Animation Specialist and Game Development Specialist packages. Currently, those career options are in high demand and offer high paying career opportunities.

I was impressed with the staff, facilities and programs. I am seriously looking into the opportunity of studying at CIIT.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Top 12 Quotations from the Book "Do the Work" by Stephen Pressfield

Here are my favorite quotes from Stephen Pressfield's book, "Do The Work."

1. In other words, fear doesn't go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.

2. A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It's only you and I, with our big brains and tiny hearts who doubt and overthink and hesitate.

3. Don't think. Act.

4. We can always revise and revisit once we've acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.

5. Fear saps passion. When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.

6. Good things happen when we start before we're ready.

7. Courage begets more courage.

8. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

9. Your work-in-progress produces its own gravitational field, created by your will and your attention. This field attracts like-spirited entities into its orbit.

10. Resistance is the response of the frightened, petty, small-time ego to the brave, generous, magnificent impulse of the creative self.

11. Our greatest fear is fear of success.

12. Blessed is he who has found his work.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Have a Break, Watch A Movie
(Movie Review: Rio)

Off I go to the movies, and I choose "Rio."

Linda, the owner of a small bookshop in a small town in Minnesota, gets an unexpected visit from an ornithologist (a scientist who studies birds, or a bird freak, for short) named Tulio who is from Rio de Janeiro. Tulio convinces Linda to fly to Rio so that her pet companion Blu, an endangered male Macaw so domesticated he doesn't know how to fly, would get to be with the only other remaining blue macaw in the world, Jewel, a freedom loving female bird who resents being kept inside the aviary.

A short time after arriving in Rio, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by men involved in illegal animal trade. Although they bicker a lot, they somehow manage to break free from their locked cage. With the help of some other birds and one mean-looking non-feathered friend, Blu and Jewel must rely on each other and travel around Rio to escape their hunters while Linda and Tulio try to find them.

The plot is old and simple. Just a light action caper and a romance subplot with a lot of chasing going on. "Rio" does try to be relevant by presenting a real environmental concern which is animal smuggling. What gives life to an otherwise tired, formulaic movie is the visual and acoustic delight that is the Rio de Janeiro backdrop.

The trailer promises a colorful movie at least, and on that note, the movie doesn't disappoint. The movie opens with a picturesque forest scene where birds of varying types, sizes and colors are singing while doing synchronized flying and dancing. The main story is conveniently set during Rio's Carnival time, so fantastic floats and costumes add on to the kaleidoscope of colors and vibrant streetscape as pulsating samba music plays in the background.

I liked Jesse Eisenberg's and Tracy Morgan's voice work. Jesse as Blu wonderfully captures the perceived vulnerability of a domesticated bird who knows he is out of his element when he's out of his comfortable Minnesota cage. Tracy as the mean-looking, disgusting bulldog Luiz is hilarious as always, providing the few laughs I had in the whole movie. Anne Hathaway as Jewel is fine, but she is typecast even in voice roles as the energetic, bright-eyed, singing female lead.

This is a light summer movie worth watching only if you want to just relax and have some mindless fun. Go see it with the kids. They always enjoy movies where there's a lot of flying going on.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Where do you work?

When people ask me, "Where do you work?" I often tell them, "I usually work at home."

work at home

Then I also say, "But sometimes I work in a coffee shop."

work in coffee shop

"Or in a restaurant."

work in a restaurant

Yes, I can work anywhere I want. Anytime I want. And that's what I like best about doing Virtual Assistant (VA) work. I choose the projects I would like to work on. I choose projects where I don't have to log in and out at specified times. I just have to submit the finished product on the previously agreed upon date. For me, these projects are mostly writing jobs that I can work on practically anywhere. I don't even have to bring my laptop all the time. When I already have a topic to write on, I just need pencil and paper, and off I go where inspiration might find me.

Would you want the same kind of work? Learn more about doing VA work from the person I learned it from, Jomar Hilario. He will be conducting another "How to Work from Home" seminar in Manila on May 28. If you're not based in Manila, a more practical option would be joining the online version of the seminar. Read all about it on his webpage.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Twitter Power

Twitter is one of my main distractions when doing online work.

I first tried the service last year, and I lasted for about two weeks.

"Grocery shopping at SM"
"Coffee at Starbucks before going home"

I would imagine someone responding with, "SOOO???!!!" or "Who cares?!!!" Actually, a more realistic fear is not having anyone respond at all at anything I've posted.

I may have posted an original tweet or two, responded to a few tweets, retweeted more. But I felt foolish for not having followers whom I personally know. I just couldn't understand the logic of using the service for non-celebrity people like me. Who would bother to know what I'm doing at any moment? Why would anyone want to announce to the whole twitter world what they're doing or thinking?

So I deleted my account.

Fast forward to January this year. I decided to give Twitter another try because I see that many businesses and personalities have jumped into the Twitter bandwagon aside from having a Facebook presence. Being the news junkie that I am, I opened a new Twitter account and now am happily following news sites, news persons (persons connected with news organizations) and a few celebrities and businesses.

I still don't tweet about boring personal stuff like what I'm currently doing, where I'm shopping or who I'm with at the moment. (Although I do participate in contests and raffles to win prizes.)

Most of the time I just read the tweet feed and reply only to those I have a strong opinion on. I retweet also those things I think should be known by my 5 or so followers. I share my thoughts to those who ask for them. And it feels great when people in the news or others instantly respond to my tweets. At least I know who among those I follow manage their own account, as opposed to having an assistant who take care of their tweets.

News sites or media persons with Twitter accounts often ask for people's opinions on the day's events. I'd like to think that I help contribute to a healthy online information sharing environment. This way too, I get to have my voice heard in public issues. In the Philippines, a couple of issues being hotly debated these days in Twitter is the one on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill and the other, on whether the late President Marcos deserves to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes). People can voice out their thoughts freely. Hopefully, policymakers would listen to all and discern what is best for everyone. Same thing goes for businesses. People who follow businesses share their experiences and opinions on products and services. Hopefully too, companies take note of all feedback and work on making their products and services better.

Now I get the value of Twitter to ordinary mortals like me. I love Twitter because it generates public opinion that brings about change for the better. Long live Twitter Power!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Challenges of Working Women

Society has imposed upon women the full time task of home-making. This has made it very challenging for women who choose to work also on a full time basis. Having to take care of both home and work, working women are faced with difficult choices everyday. One issue that’s being constantly discussed in the workplace is creating work-life balance.

When my siblings and I were still studying, our mom was never active in the Parents-Teachers Association. Sometimes she would not even get our report cards. But we understood that she has to work to help provide for the family’s needs.

At work, there are women who choose not to do extra projects or do overtime work because they’d like to be with their family at dinnertime everyday.

Faced with lots of things to do at home and at work, working women often feel stressed out. Since there’s no extra time for exercise or relaxation, this stress sometimes leads to emotional and/or physical health problems.

To prevent health problems and achieve work-life balance, working women need to prioritize what’s important. As many prioritize family first over work, then women should not feel guilty when not doing extra hours on the job. At home, time management and delegation is important. Make a schedule for doing everyday chores, as well as weekly and monthly tasks. Ask the help of family members in making the schedule because they will also be helping in carrying out the tasks. Also, find time for exercise and some relaxation which can be done with the family too.

For women who have to work and take care of the family at the same time, a good option to consider is working at home. There are a lot of work-at-home opportunities right now. The internet has changed how the world works. We no longer have to be physically present in an office to work. We can work at home and do our job through the internet.

Women are good at multi-tasking, and are able to balance different roles at home and at work all the time. Work-life balance is possible when we consciously make an effort to have quality time for both work and family.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Benefits of Social Security

The name speaks for itself. Social security. Being covered by Social Security means you are securing your future. Having Social Security means less worrying in the future.

Being a Virtual Assistant doing project-based jobs, I currently work on small, multiple writing jobs requiring a few hours of work a day over the course of one to several weeks. Pay is usually fixed, a pre-determined price based on final work submitted. As an independent contractor, I get no paid vacation leaves and no medical benefits.

As a self-employed individual, it is my responsibility to pay monthly premiums to ensure that I continue to have the benefits of Social Security.

Social security is a government program aimed at providing financial assistance to those in need, in instances of loss of income, to be protected against the strain of financial burden. Social security benefits vary from country to country. The usual include sickness, disability, maternity and retirement benefits. Other countries, like here in the Philippines, have death and funeral assistance benefits. In the United States, they also have unemployment benefits.

If I ever get sick and be hospitalized, or God forbid, be temporarily or permanently disabled, my paid premiums will enable me to get a certain amount of money to help tide me over the difficult situation. It’s great to know that while I’m actively working today, I’m also saving up for my retirement. While some people lament that the amount that I’ll be receiving as pension in my retirement years may not be much, I’m sure it will be a big help in paying for everyday expenses. Contributing to social security payments now means lesser financial strain in the future for me and my loved ones.

We all face uncertainties in the future. Yes, let us not waste our precious energy worrying about what might or might not happen. What is important is to focus to do good today so that we will have less worrying in the future. That means we should take good care of ourselves every single day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Low Tech Writing

I find it hard to deviate from old-fashioned writing rituals. I try hard to compose directly on a computer, but my mind blanks out most of the time. I cannot focus. When I use the yellow pad and pencil, it's as if my hand can think on its own, mining all the thoughts in my head, writing away the words inside. I even use an old-style thesaurus. You know, in actual book form, not the online one that you search for in the internet.

Personally, I find the computer a distraction to my writing process. Since it contains most of my work and personal data, I cannot resist clicking on things I'm not currently working on. I love browsing through old photo albums! Once I get connected to the internet, it's hard to disconnect. Email, Facebook, Twitter. In that order. All the information available that might not be important and urgent, but you would like to know at once anyway.

So when faced with deadlines, I don't connect to the computer until after I've written a major draft of a current writing project. That's when I type the document and editing comes in and I use grammar check and spell check and word count.

I know some people might say that the computer offers more convenience to the writer. I say it really depends on your personal style. For me, low tech writing still works.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Sweet Smell of Coffee

Would any kind of coffee keep you awake when you need to be awake?

I've had to stay up late a lot these past few weeks because of online work (and trying to find online work). But because I work at home, and I work on the bed at night, of course I get sleepy most of the time. If I do get very sleepy, I just give in. Before going to sleep, I set up the alarm on my cellphone to wake me up in the very early morning, around 2am. That way, I could resume my work after a few hours of shuteye. At 2am though, the same battle for wakefulness begins. It's so hard to fight your own body clock.

I'm not much of a coffee drinker but I'm wondering if coffee would help me stay awake late at night and very early morning.

At times that I do drink coffee at home, it would mostly be the instant kind (that would almost always be Nescafe). Outside the house, it's a choice between Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, depending on where I am although Starbucks usually wins as they have more branches. And having a sweet tooth, I would prefer coffee varieties to be on the sweet side. But these never help in keeping me awake and alert. On the contrary, these make me sleepy. Maybe because I would usually order iced coffee, with a slice of cake or pastry to go with it. Haha!

Espresso is supposed to be strong, right? Well, I read in the Starbucks website that my usual drink there, the Caramel Macchiato, is espresso-based. So why doesn't it have the effect of keeping me awake?

Maybe drinking the right coffee variety would help. What are those strong coffee flavors? Maybe just plain coffee would do the trick, without the cream and the sugar and all those sweet, aromatic, oh so delicious flavorings? Good luck to me on that! I can't drink coffee without sugar!

Anyways, Starbucks would not solve my present problem because I now work at home, where the nearest Starbucks is in a mall that is a 30-minute ride away. I would have to do research on the available instant coffee varities in the supermarkets. I also would have to learn about coffee, espresso, coffee beans, etc. to know which might help me on this keeping awake problem. Suggestions are most welcome!

Confused over coffee or espresso? Here's a link that tells you the difference between coffee and espresso.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To Use Backupify

If you'd like to back-up your online data, you can use Backupify ( to do this. You never know when you might need to retrieve previous status posts, emails, photos and tweets. I personally use Backupify because it is easy to use, plus there's an option for a free account. I'm currently using this to backup my data in Blogger, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Of course, you have the choice to upgrade to a paid account with many more features.

Here's a tutorial on how to use Backupify:

How to Use Backupify

Friday, March 4, 2011

Got an oDesk Gig!

Guess what?! I got an oDesk gig! The day after my last blog post, I got a message from oDesk saying I got hired for a writing project. It's a small, fixed price job, but it's a good start. Talk about timing! I was feeling depressed the previous day, ending the month still with no work. Mightily trying to stay positive, but sadly disappointed. And what do you know? The very next day, the start of the month, I get to start a new job. Now I can proudly say, "I'm a freelance online writer!" Amazing!

But just because I badly want to work at home doesn't mean I'll sign up with the first employer who will hire me. I got offers from a couple of employers, both for writing projects, which I turned down. One was for a technology blog, the other for a make-up samples blog. I didn't pursue those projects because I don't know much about those subjects. I'm not a techie and I don't think there are make-up samples here in the Philippines. It would be hard for me to write about things I'm not very much interested in. It's only a blog, you may say, but I don't like reading anything where the writer clearly doesn't know much about the topic. So I won't impose my uninformed knowledge or opinion on others.

That said, I'm excited about my first online work. I'm now working on the first batch of the project. And I'll celebrate this good start with an ice cream treat for myself this weekend.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rejections and Affirmations

It's been more than a month since I started an account with oDesk and Remotestaff but I haven't landed a job yet.

I've received a few inquiries from employers at oDesk, but nothing has come out of any of it yet. Worse, at Remotestaff, my resume has not been viewed at all! Since Remotestaff's website shows a Chat function, I try to check what may be wrong with my application. But the chat page isn't working properly.(Sigh.)

I regularly receive notifications from oDesk regarding the status of my applications. So far, all of it are "Your application to the job ___ has been declined." Clicking further, the message reveals the reason for the thumbs down. It may be "cancelled - job posting expired" or "cancelled - project was cancelled" or "closed - job posting has been filled."

It's easy to get discouraged by these setbacks. But I must always be positive. And stay focused all the time. Applying online is just like applying offline. Try and try and try again, until you succeed.

I will let those little affirmations that come my way give me the strength to continue the search for that first job. Those initial inquiries from employers, while not ending in a hire, show a definite interest in my application. After all, how many applicants are there for one particular job? And I don't take rejections personally. I'd like to think that the employer-employee match isn't well-suited at that particular time, and that employer who is the best fit for me is somewhere near.

I received a bit of good news this morning. I got one gem of a comment from an oDesk employer and it totally made my day. Getting ready to go out of the house for the day's errands, I check my email and find this: "I've read through some of your blog posts and your English appears to be at a higher level than your US Basic English score of ___" ... "I believe you should be able to score higher."

And so I happily continue my search for my first paying online job.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Learning Never Ends

I had just participated in another online call / class of Jomar Hilario, via, about Virtual Assistants (VA) where a practicing VA shared to listeners how she got started, and what her experiences are in her current work as a VA.

Very interesting, and very informative 1 1/2 hours of discussion. (For FREE!) What I got from the session were sites where I can apply for VA work, tips to increase one's chances of getting hired, and the importance of having an online presence.

According to the resource person, Eihdra, and other participants, some other sites to check out for VA work are-,,, and To get hired, it's important that you know how to "sell" yourself online. A great way to do that is to have a relevant online presence thru blogging and social networking.

And, with all that, I also learned that I have a long way to go! Wow! Got to work on that online presence...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Odesk and Remotestaff


Two websites dealing with outsourcing are Odesk ( and Remotestaff ( I had come across these sites from Jomar Hilario's VA live seminar and webinars ( These are online job matchmaking sites. From what I have read so far in their respective websites, Odesk contractors (jobseekers) bid for jobs and employers get to directly choose their own contractors, while Remotestaff does the hiring of contractors for their employer-clients.

To have an account with both sites, you need to create an online resume which can be built from their online forms. You can then look at job openings, and apply for positions that interest you. Odesk has an additional feature which lets you take any number of online multiple-choice tests that evaluates your knowledge on a particular subject. Also, Odesk has a mandatory readiness test that one must pass (must be 100% correct) to be able to bid for more than 2 jobs at a time.

I now have an account with both sites and have applied for jobs in both. Patiently awaiting for results.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Jomar Hilario's VA seminar in April 2010 was very educational, and was designed for participants to get started with VA work right away. (

He didn't conduct a seminar just to give us information, but also to help us get into VA work by tapping his network of foreign peers to give us VA jobs! But the job would not be handed to us on a silver platter, of course. We were to complete an assignment to be handed in to Jomar two months from the seminar at the latest. This would gauge our competence to do this kind of work, as it involves learning about different software applications typically used in VA work and knowing how to properly present our research. Most importantly, the assignment would set apart those who really want the job and those still unsure of taking that VA work route.

Sadly, and typical of me, I fall in the unsure group. Life happens, we forget what it is what we want to do, and we keep walking along the same path of familiarity that we're comfortable with.

I had started doing the assignment. I made a list of the applications I wanted to study. I googled them and downloaded them. But somehow I could not get into the next step which is studying them one by one then making a presentation on how to use them.

What kept me from completing the assignment was a nagging fear that I might not sustain the interest to do this VA thingy in the long term. So while reading this and that about VA work and listening in on VA webinars by Jomar, I also looked for traditional employment. But I did so halfheartedly because frankly, I am tired of having to wake up early and take at least an hour of commute just to get to work.

Unfortunately for me, I still don't have a job right now. Neither the regular office kind nor the remote office kind. I don't really think either one is elusive. I just have to focus and intensify my efforts to find work.

And so this is where I am now. With the start of the new year, and the first month of the year just passed us by, I decided to start all over again with this VA work thing. (And hence the blog.) ;)

In the Beginning

I don't remember when exactly, but it must have been sometime late 2009 when I decided to attend Jomar Hilario's seminar for aspiring Virtual Assistants. That time I was still employed, but wanting badly to get out of that particular job. Or it might have been early 2010, and I had already resigned, but didn't want to rush into just any job.

I had read about work-at-home jobs thru internet ads before but most of those were just scams. When I came across Jomar's site (, I was glad to know that a Filipino was willing to share his knowledge on the subject, to be able to help fellow Filipinos find employment. This was something I was interested in doing because it would give me a chance to work at home, hopefully give me more free time to pursue other interests, and be free of the daily hassles of commuting to work.

So April came and I bravely commuted from Novaliches to Taguig to attend Jomar's seminar. It was a one big (conference) table affair, with around 15 participants of varying ages and backgrounds.

Jomar teaches in an easygoing style, conversationally, full of side stories. He is detailed in his explanations of how things work in the VA world and tends to be generous with info that sometimes I feel there's info overload. Everything you need to know, he covered- the attitude you need to have for this kind of work, what software you need to know, the pros and cons of VA work, and what to do to get started.

It was all good. I felt I could do this work-at-home thing. I could feel the same vibe from other participants. But after the seminar I was in a hurry to leave. After all, I still had five rides ahead to go home.