Ascencia Fike Komala
Content Marketer
September 23, 2019

Interview with Ascencia, a content marketer, and avid gig economy professional

A forgotten two-year-old Upwork account allowed Ascencia to become a content marketer—see how the gig economy has offered her an alternative path to success.

How did you get started with remote work?

During college, I was already familiar with the gig economy and the possibility of earning money through the Internet. I had accounts on Gengo (translation service), Fiverr, Zerys (writing service), and Upwork. I did several gigs on Gengo and Zerys, and earned about almost $200 in total.

But making a career out of remote work wasn’t my initial plan. After I finished my bachelors’ degree and a year-long traditional office internship, I was offered a full-time position at that company. But I rejected the offer because I was planning to pursue my masters’ degree.

The exact transition was a blur, but one day I remembered that I had an Upwork profile. It was already approved for two years, and it was just sitting there since I didn’t have time to apply for jobs or do the actual work.

So I decided with the free time I had, I could do one or two projects there. However, I didn’t have any specific experience besides the subjects I learned in college and the internship experience as an IT QC staff. Thankfully, there’s a position called virtual assistant on Upwork.

A virtual assistant, just like its name, does every kind of job you could imagine, virtually. It’s the perfect way to learn new skills while earning money, just like an internship. I started at $4/hour. A meager rate, but a pretty decent one if you convert it to Indonesian Rupiah. With my first two clients, I did English to Indonesian translation and Trello/WordPress content management. I’m still working with them now.

About ten projects later, I realized I was attracted to content marketing. I’ve always loved reading, writing, and languages in general. It’s only logical for me to work in content eventually.

Now, 18 months since my first project on Upwork, I’ve specialized myself in content marketing and quadrupled my hourly rate.

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What are you working on?

For most of my clients, I work as their content manager. So I research topics, assign topics to writers, and format them on WordPress.

But for one client, Caldera Forms (now acquired by Saturday Drive), I work in their marketing department. We’re still transitioning and getting to know each other at Saturday Drive, but it’s been really nice to be able to work remotely in a team.

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What's your typical work routine?

I get up at around 6 or 7 a.m., do Miracle Morning (meditate, journal, say affirmations, do yoga, read a book or listen to an audiobook), have breakfast, brush my teeth, and take a shower.

At around 9 or 10, I start working. I would tackle the job that gives me the most anxiety first. These tasks are typically special requests from clients or questions from a coworker. Every time I had that, I would do those tasks first. I hate to make someone wait, even though it's not urgent and understandable in remote work.

The afternoon is for routine and administrative tasks. I will finish working at around 4 or 5 p.m.

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How has your routine changed over time?

A lot has changed since I started working remote.

The time is on my side now, it almost feels like I can do whatever I like.

I’ve been reading more books. Books like Miracle Morning, Deep Work, and Atomic Habits have changed how I think and organize my life.

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

Not really. I get bored easily, so I usually just keep moving inside the house. I can work in the living room, my room, or my parents’ room. If I get stuck in a rut, I will bring my work (read: my laptop) to nearby cafes.

I realized I should have a proper, ergonomic work setup, though.

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How do you stay on task?

I'm a creature of habit. Once I discovered the rhythm that works for me, it's easy just to do the work. Most of my work is routine too (content production), so that helps.

I get bored with something pretty fast, but I'm not too good with changes either. So being a freelancer in the content marketing space works for me, since content production is a routine work, but different with each client. There are rarely 'surprises.'

Usually, at the beginning of the week, I already know what I will be doing during that week. Sometimes if there's too much, I'll make a to-do list, and tackle the tasks one by one as I go through it.

I already have an estimate of the time each task will take, schedule them into my week. By doing this, I can do the actual work mindfully, without thinking about the other tasks.

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What do you like about remote work?

I like all things about remote work. And I see no reason why everyone wouldn’t do it. Once you work remotely, you wouldn’t want to go back (at least for me).

I LOVE the ability to work from anywhere.

Because that means I could travel while I work. This year, I’ve lived outside my house for two months. One month in Yogyakarta (a city in Indonesia) and another in Bangkok, Thailand. And take breaks (read: sleep) whenever I need it, as long as the work is done.

Economically, it’s cheaper than traditional office work. No commuting required! Especially if you live in Jakarta, the city with the worst traffic, that means A LOT.

The ability to work internationally without leaving the comfort of your home country, and being friends with people from around the world, understanding their culture, and opening doors to new possibilities are awesome.

Since I’m an introvert, I’m not a big fan of confrontations and office drama. Working remotely lessens these to a minimum, so I could focus on the important things, like results and productivity.

More free time = more time to do the important things and spend time with the people dearest to you.

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What do you not like about remote work?

I really love remote work, and I’m grateful for the chance to experience it all. But if you asked me what I don’t like about it, these are some things I had in mind:

I work mostly at home with my family (my mom, dad, and sister). My parents work mostly from home too, and we eat out a lot, or just randomly decide to watch a movie on weekdays. So that’s one thing I have to balance with my work constantly.

As much as I do not like office drama, I miss the camaraderie from working with colleagues on-site. You can’t replace that with conference calls and icebreaker questions.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

For note-taking, I use Evernote. I take notes there when I read books, take an online course, or just brainstorm for work.

To be honest, the most motivating tool for me is the Upwork time tracker. I work on an hourly basis, so it’s important to track time and keep the tracker on the whole time I’m working. It would capture my screen every 10 minutes.

Out of various project management tools I’ve tried, I like Asana the most.

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Do you have any advice for remote workers?

Save and invest your money, especially if you’re a freelancer. This is actually not only for remote workers and freelancers, but I would also suggest this to everyone who hasn’t been doing it.

It’s just the only logical thing to do if you don’t want to work your whole life. Working from home can be lonely. Spend time with your family or friends, outside the house, at least 2-3 times a week on weekdays. Don’t take those weekdays for granted.

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How do you decide priorities?

I have to be honest; I’m bad at deciding priorities. I’ve learned about the priority matrix since I was in high school, but never used it, not once. I just do whatever is urgent. And when I actually have nothing to do, I do the things that are important but not urgent.

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How do you know when to push yourself vs rest?

I was never a ‘hustler.’ I never push myself too hard.

I believe that my best work comes from my best state of mind and body, and that’s not when I’m exhausted.

To keep myself recharged and inspired, for the past two years, I scheduled a 2-week to month-long vacation abroad. After the vacation/living abroad, I will be motivated to earn more money, sharpen my skills, and visit more countries.

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What contributes to being a successful freelancer?

I think because freelancers are working on a much shorter term than employees do, we have to prove ourselves over and over again.

With each new client, we have to convince them that we’re capable of doing our work.

So to be a successful freelancer, you have to be on top of your game all the time and willing to learn.

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How do you decide which clients to take?

I found all of my clients on Upwork, and they have a pretty good system there, with reviews and payment verification.

I always choose clients that I can trust, so the ones with 4.5+ stars review and payment-verified.

I also trust my gut when it comes to demanding clients. If their instructions or test projects in the recruitment process still make sense, I will go with it. But if it takes too much of my time, I usually reject it. I believe there are a lot of good people as good clients out there.

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How does working on your own projects help your freelance work?

English is not my first language, but Indonesian is. However, having learned it for over 15 years, I think I’m pretty good at it.

I have a personal blog, all written in English, and it has helped me showcase my English skills.

It shows clients how I’m able to use the language. If I’m applying for a content-related job, I always include my personal blog and my Medium profile.

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Biography

Ascencia Fike Komala

Ascencia is an Indonesian freelancer, working mostly in content marketing. She can live anywhere as long as there is an internet connection, a yoga mat, and good food. Currently transitioning to work full time (still remote!) at Saturday Drive/Ninja Forms.

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