It’s Time We Stop Slaving Ourselves Over Conversion Rates

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As a freelancer, you’d think that we have gone past the colonial times, that we’ve matured enough to not have everything we do pitted against the foreign counterpart.

This is because freelancing signifies a global acceptance. Anybody can hire, anybody can work on a project with anyone, you just need to find the right person with the right skills and who fits your budget.

And yes, the setup isn’t always driven by a one-way path. In our case, it can be the West hiring the Asian, or the Asian hiring the West. Empowering, isn’t it?

Moans Over USD 1 = PhP 39.89

sad face sign boardThis is why I’m saddened whenever I see rants and cries of devastation over USD-PHP conversion rates. These days, I see posts on my social networks about how low PayPal’s conversion rates are, followed by sad smileys, aarghs, ughs, etc.

Why the long face?

This is not to say that I don’t notice the changes. I do react to the plummeting dollar, considering that it means a less amount will be deposited to my bank account in 3-day’s time.

But I am quite happy with it as well, because if my stock knowledge about economics serves me right, it’s a sign that the country’s economy is progressing. But whether this is the case or not, I honestly think it’s time for us Pinoy freelancers to stop allowing ourselves to become slaves to foreign currency.

Leave the Conversion Rates Behind

We are so used to the idea that freelancing means working for dollars, and so equates to a lot of money or higher income potential. Because of this, we become sorely affected by lower conversions. We’d even balk at the idea of catering to local clients because they’re paying in peso, and so the transaction doesn’t bring in as much.

Now, I know that we can’t do much about conversion rates at this point since the freelance marketplace—the primary pool for online work—uses the US dollar or some other foreign currency to determine one’s hourly rates and how much funds will be withdrawn and converted into our respective currencies. But again, these are just numbers and they will rise and fall overtime. It’s much more productive to work towards building a solid freelancing career than to worry about how much we’ll be getting if we withdraw today or next week, next month or the month after that.

We’re forgetting that the primary benefit of freelancing is being able to work according to our own terms: we decide when we want to work, where to work, what we want to work on, and who we want to work with. We don’t have to let the conversion rates affect us so much. We don’t have to stress ourselves over lower PHP equivalents. If the amount coming in isn’t as high as what it was three months ago, better to focus on keeping your current clients happy and in establishing a stable flow of income than to rant and sulk.

The way I see it, we may all need a change of mindset, a renewed sense of love and loyalty to our country, imperfect and damaged as she may be. Then maybe, just maybe, we’d achieve the kind of success that fulfills us inside and out, financially and emotionally.

Happy birthday, Andres Bonifacio. 

About Stef Gonzaga

Founder of The Freelance Pinoy, Stef is a freelance copywriter and blogger who loves writing great content and helping fellow freelancers in their journeys toward success. You can follow her on Twitter @stefgonzaga.

29 Comments

  1. Guilty!

    I regularly share Paypal conversion rates on my page and one of the reasons why I do that is because it really gets high engagement rates, which is always good.

    And yes, a stronger peso is good for the economy and the freelancers I know are aware of that. Unfortunately, if you compute “losses” in forex rates and Paypal fees, that sums up to a really good meal for the whole family — and many Filipino freelancers think about that.

    Will I keep obsessing about forex rates. Yes. Because I use that to adjust my rates accordingly.

    • Thanks Nica. You always bring more insight into the discussion. ;)

      I do understand that money is always important to the Filipino freelancer and we can’t avoid the sting of loss whenever rates go from P41 to P39. In fact, I would go on to say that as consumers of the global economy, we inevitably keep our eyes on the forex rates since some of the products/services we need are priced in foreign currency.

      What I’d just like to stress out in this post is to be more optimistic about low conversion rates, to see it as a sign of progress for us as a country. And maybe, we should diversify ourselves in terms of the clients we cater to. Finally, instead of worrying about losing money to conversion rates, it’s better to think about how to sustain your freelance businesses and ensure the stability of our income streams.

      • OH MY GOODNESS!! Steph, I am so glad that people are responding to ths. I posted it on a group and a page that manage.

        But I do get what you mean. I guess what I am getting at too is that just because some people check and rant about forex rates, it does not mean that they’re not totally focused on improving their freelancing career. We gotta blow off some steam and that usually happens when we talk about Paypal and its depressing forex rates.

        On that note, today’s PayPal exchange rate is 1 USD = 39.8291 PHP .

    • Hi nica,
      That is why I quitted using Paypal or even the bank. Right now I use Xoom home (door-door) delivery (deliver within 6-12 hours. I receive my payments whole. Because it is the client who takes care of the charges. I just get the exact amount I expected. So far soo good!

      • HI Maribeth,

        I was planning on asking my clients to use Xoom for payments. However, there’s been reports recently of Xoom deactivating accounts of those people sending remittances to people other than their family members. A fellow VA actually forwarded me a copy of the email sent to his client to prove this.

        Now, I am thinking of Ko-Kard (Stef has written about this before) or Ntrust, whichever responds to me with more explanation on how it benefits me.

  2. Goodness, i needed this today!
    Although I’ve resigned myself to the fact that we really can’t control those rates, it still annoys me when they are low as most of my income comes from US clients. But whenever this happens, I turn to my “I’ll take one for the team,” because Nica is right, a stronger peso is good for the economy.

    • Hi Glori!

      Actually, I used to be a worry-wart as well over forex rates back then. Later on I realized that it’s better to just leave those rates be and just focus on improving my freelancing career. :)

  3. I think it’s not being immature to always check the conversion rates especially when it’s time to withdraw :) I usually just see that when it’s the day most people withdraw their earnings.

    For me, i just set a fixed conversion rate that is lower than the average so I’m good for quite a few fluctuations of value of dollar although if the articles I’ve read are true and that we may reach 35 PHP to 1 USD, it might be hard to set a rate based on that as it might be too high for the clients. My only wish if that’s the case is our economy is really getting better and lower prices of basic commodities.

    • Hi JFJ! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

      I completely agree. If our peso does manage to go down to USD 1 = 35, I’d want to see lower, more affordable prices for basic commodities like groceries or water supply.

  4. Hi Stef!
    Thank you for this post! I have actually thought of the same thing – but you have put everything so eloquently in written form – well, that is to be expected from you. :)
    The thing is – I also feel a little sad when conversion rates go down but as one who has a degree in Economics – I should know better that. As you said, that means progress for the Philippine economy. Still, since I have a big family, it can be a bit difficult to look at things that way. But then, when I recall that ten years ago, I was already a stay-at-home mom trying to get a job (a low-paying one at that) – unsuccessfully – a light turns on in my brain. I am reminded to be grateful for what I have and that I am so fortunate to have been blessed with this opportunity. On top of that, I have two clients who continue to give work, no matter what state their economies are in. Perhaps, this is because I have “kept them happy” all these years.
    Again, thank you for this post. I see this as another reminder of all the blessings my family and I have today. Keep up the good work Stef!

    • Thank you Grace! Your comments are always very encouraging.

      You hit it right on when you mentioned gratitude. We tend to get so caught up with how much we’re earning as freelancers that we feel frustrated when the conversion rates turn against us. But really, it’s having work to begin with and how to continuously land good-paying work that are more important.

      Thank you as well for sharing your thoughts and I’m glad to hear that you have two clients who are giving you steady work. Keep up the awesome work and many blessings for you and your family as well. :)

  5. I started my freelance career way back 2009 when the conversion rate is still P46-P47 = $1. I too complain at first but in the long run ranting/whining won’t get you nowhere. One thing I do is increasing my rate year after year, basing it to my improvements and added skill set also minding our economic growth. This kept me and my family prepared for the whole year.

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for sharing. That’s an excellent way to prepare yourself for whatever may happen to the forex rates. And yes, ranting about how low the rates or how little one will receive won’t do anyone any good.

  6. It’s very difficult to control oneself from feeling some form of disappointment when the conversion rates steadily go down. This is especially true when you’re not seeing the prices of basic goods and services not going any lower than how they are today. Analysts say that the Philippine economy is on the rise, but I don’t see that being true because I don’t feel it one bit. The prices of my bills haven’t changed so it seems like a bunch of hoolabaloo to me. I hope I’m wrong though.

    • Hi Mark, I completely understand as I too would wonder if we’ll ever see retail prices go down. Let’s see what happens and hope for the best. But in any case, there’s really not much we can do about low conversion rates except to come up with a plan on how to sustain ourselves.

  7. I admit I’m guilty with this one. I just can’t help but think about how will if affects our weekly budget. I do agree with some of the comments here that we must be grateful for all that we receive. And I totally agree with you about making performance better than before, to nurture you working relationship with your employer.

    Additionally, online freelancing jobs nowadays are hard to come by and we should make sure that everything we do, even our mindset, should not affects how we work, or else, we’ll loose our job.

    Let’s keep our hopes high, especially since it’s holiday. Instead of ranting over conversion rates and delayed transactions, I think it’s about time that we should be more thankful.

    Thanks for being optimistic, Stef! Same to Grace for that reminder to count our blessings and see what we have earned compared in the past .

  8. Hi Stef,
    This one really hits home. As a full-time employee who freelance on the side, I know that conversion rates (especially on PayPal) really suck big time. But just like what you and other freelancers have mentioned, the benefits of working on your own terms still outweigh the drawbacks. For me, instead of looking at this issue as a road block, freelancers should take it as a stepping stone. So who cares about the conversion rate? It’s something beyond our control anyway. Focus on the things that we CAN control.

    Does the conversion rate hurting your take-home pay? You can start raising your rates and stop working for peanuts.

    But how? Easy: Upgrade your skills, go the extra mile, never stop learning and be as reliable as you can be.

    Freelancing is becoming more competitive now but if this is really your passion, nothing, not even unfair conversion rates, can ever stop you from reaching your goals.

    To sum it all up, here are two principles that freelancers should learn from this incident:

    1. Never work for money; Let money work for you! In other words, learn how to save, invest and create multiple income streams. So if crisis hits, you won’t use “poor conversion rates” as an excuse for earning less.

    2. Do more than what you’re paid for and sooner or later, you’ll be paid more for what you do. Again, this is a wake-up call that freelancing is not just about the FREEDOM we embrace day in and day out. At the end of the day, being a freelancer is all about working hard, staying positive and overcoming challenges.

    Thanks Stef and I hope conversion rates won’t ruin your Christmas:>

    • Hi Lui! It’s good to hear from you again.

      “…instead of looking at this issue as a road block, freelancers should take it as a stepping stone. So who cares about the conversion rate? It’s something beyond our control anyway. Focus on the things that we CAN control.” — indeed! Better to spend our efforts overriding the losses than to rant and feel bad about them, and the tips you added are great ways to do that.

      Thank you as well for the great insights. Knowing how to work hard, work smart, and implement strategies that would secure your income as a freelance are important if one wishes to succeed. Once you’ve reached that point in your career or business, money won’t be an issue any longer.

      Thanks again Lui and happy Christmas! And don’t worry, they won’t so long as I still have money in my pocket to buy presents for the loved ones. ;)

  9. This is an interesting point of view, Stef,. And I do agree with you. Your work performance is after all, so much more in your control than the economy so it only makes sense to work harder and be wiser in managing your time, workload, and finances.

    My problem at the moment is that I work part-time on a fixed monthly salary. So a lower conversion rates means a lower salary for me. *tears* Of course, I can’t just go right up and tell my employers “heya! forex rates are down the drain, you need to pay me more!” oh my. I shiver at the thought. lol. My focus would have to be to make myself indispensable to them so that in maybe 3-6 months I can start negotiating a raise. In the meantime, I would really need to work harder on the job and with my other gigs (when I’m not mourning over the electric bill I could have paid with the amount PayPal cut off, that is.)

    I am loving the discussion here. It’s wonderful hearing what everybody thinks on this issue. Great job! ;)

    • Naomi! Thank you for sharing your thoughts as well!

      I guess there are different situations, and so different opinions and experiences with regards to conversion rates. But again, you pointed out something important, and that’s moulding ourselves to become indispensable and valuable to our long-term clients. That’s exactly what we freelancers should be doing and striving for.

      In any case, I know and I’m confident that you will be able to raise your rates. Ikaw pa, you are one of the most reliable and talented writers I know!

  10. The bottom line here is if the prices of basic goods and utilities like food, electricity, internet, etc. also ‘adjust’ with the status of our economy which is as they say ‘improving’ as evidenced by Peso getting stronger none of us freelancers, ofws and even people who are working at a call center or ‘sari-sari’ store will complain. :) Jolibee chickenjoy cost like 75pesos now i think? How can people with 400 pesos a day afford that? 2009 US to Peso is about $1=P47. Instead of prices going down, it just keeps on getting higher and higher. I just feel sad with what’s happening. I hope things would really change for the better here in our country. Oh well…

    • I have to agree with Alex. Currency growth is NOT a clear indication of economic development. Especially in third world countries. In our case we have many foreign investors who use dollars to pay for everything. If the dollar continues to weaken, there will be less investments and massive cost-cutting. For example. The average salary of a call center agent a few years ago was 24,000 pesos. Now its only 16,000. On a smaller scale, dollar earners like us are also investors. We have to put in more to compensate for the exchange rate. Yes, we can work anywhere, anytime but it also means we have to put in more hours. Hours we can spend with our families. Believe it or not, hindi lahat ng freelancers habol comfort ng pagtratrabaho sa sofa.

      There is nothing we can do about this but surely the solution is not as simple as “time management”. Moreso, the solution is not to stop complaining. A good solution is to raise your rate. You, me and everyone else should start creating a new standard. Risky, yes, but you know how this is. Freelancing is also business. :)

      • Thanks for your comment, EcoODesk. I agree with the facts presented, but I would argue that complaining about the rising and falling of exchange rates, or to factor in our status as a third world country won’t do anyone good either precisely because of your last statement: that it’s in raising one’s rates and bumping the quality of our work that will help us override these things.

        If you don’t want to put in more hours, think of other ways to build stronger and more stable income streams. Freelancers, as you said, are entrepreneurs, so they can innovate to overcome the per-hour strain that they are in.

  11. Pingback: Use These 2 Profitable Tips Instead of Worrying About the Peso-Dollar Exchange Rate

  12. I like this article for very reason that a higher peso is good for the local economy. I do believe that if you charge based on your cost of living, then exchange rates become less relevant. The focus would then go towards the market where you try to get business from. But the unforeseen advantages of a higher pero-to-dollar rate forces a lot of Filipinos to shift their mindsets towards building a better product to compete in the market especially when low cost becomes less of a selling point.

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