One morning in 2020, Alvin Hubert Bongalos began cutting some grass.

He hadn’t expected to be cutting grass that day. Until recently, Bongalos was living in Hong Kong, working as an art director for Adidas.

But like many creative professionals, the pandemic meant his year wasn’t going quite as planned. Bongalos left Hong Kong as rumors of international border closures started to swirl, ensuring that he’d be at home with family in Paranaque City, the Philippines.

At the time, he had several side businesses running. But one by one, they succumbed to pandemic-related pressures.

So Bongalos started taking on other jobs—like lawn care—to support his family.

What he didn’t know as he fired up the mower, though, was that a new creative opportunity would present itself before he finished mowing the lawn.

Alvin headshot

Turning a real-world connection into online success

“At first, there were almost no opportunities due to the pandemic. One day a colleague of mine needed someone to tend to her lawn,” Bongalos said. “While I was mowing the lawn, her daughter was working on an Upwork job. She asked if I knew how to use Photoshop.”

Bongalos did indeed know how to use Photoshop. So he pitched in on the project—and was impressed by the pay he could command for his Photoshop skills alone.

“It shocked me because the client paid me $100 for one hour of work. That was really big money here at that time, especially compared to cutting grass,” Bongalos said. “My curiosity flamed, so I started doing research about working on Upwork.”

Building an independent business—and a side hustle

Invigorated by his first experience with Upwork, Bongalos built his profile and started sending proposals. Initially, the process was slower than he expected.

“When I started on Upwork, I sent proposals to 100 clients, and I didn’t get any gigs. It made me feel bad at first—I’d been an art director for Adidas!” Bongalos said.

He didn’t quit, though. Bongalos kept pushing forward and sending proposals through Upwork.

Finally, his story and experience resonated with an international consumer goods corporation.

Landing a contract with a prominent global brand helped to boost Bongalos’ confidence as an independent professional. He kept sending proposals—and more clients began accepting.  

“I think I’ve served almost 200 clients this year,” he said. “Many of them are startups in the fashion industry, logistics, tech, and e-commerce.”

Despite his increasing workload through Upwork, Bongalos still felt the entrepreneurial itch—not surprising for the man who ran several side businesses while working for a globally recognized sportswear brand.

“I felt like my weekends were empty, so I formed ​​Studio Genma,” Bongalos said. “I thought it would be awesome if I could take the skills I’ve developed working with international clients and help local clients here in the Philippines, too.”

Now, Bongalos focuses on his work as a solo, independent creative director through Upwork during the week. On Saturdays and Sundays, he works with his team of six creatives, four managers, and 20+ newly onboarded team members under the Studio Genma brand. Together, they provide high-quality design services to businesses in and around Bongalos’ community.

Planning for a bright future

While his initial experience on Upwork came about as the result of sending more than 100 proposals, Bongalos’ perseverance paid off.

Today, he’s achieved Top Rated Plus status and has earned more than $200,000 through his Upwork projects alone.

Bongalos is never content to settle for long, though—he’s already exploring what his next steps will look like.

“I’m thinking about creating an agency on Upwork, and onboarding my Studio Genma team,” Bongalos said. “I’m evaluating the demand; I plan to observe the first quarter of 2024 and plan my expansion from there.”

Regardless of how Bongalos winds up continuing to grow his businesses, one thing holds true—Upwork has, and will continue to, play a big part in his work. If you’d like to work with Bongalos on a future project, visit his profile to learn more about his creativity, vision, and services.

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