email marketing freelance friday presents

Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing strategies in use today.

A well-crafted email with great content can grab attention, generate leads, and build a loyal brand following.

John Pagulayan has been acing the email marketing game that he is known today as ‘the guy who writes emails for a living’.

To his clients, he’s an email and an internet marketer. In the Filipino freelancing community, he’s referred to as “The Legend”. He is a mentor and a source of inspiration for the freelance community and has shared his vision to uplift the Filipino freelance community to higher heights.

His newsletters are packed with encouragement and tips, with the right blend of wit and relatable musings.

Check out our interview with the rockstar email marketer and influencer, John Pagulayan.

email marketing John Pagulayan

Q: Can you tell us more about what you do as a freelancer?

I write emails for a living. I help clients convert their prospects into customers using email.

Q: What made you decide to go into freelancing, and was it something you wanted to do?

Not really. I was working as a trainer in a BPO company when I stumbled upon the world of online marketing. It all started when I went to Google and typed in, “How to make money online”.

From there, I tried blogging and affiliate marketing. I think I was 9 months into blogging and still not making a cent when someone noticed my blog and offered me a job to write emails. Since I don’t have any money at that time, the choice was easy. I didn’t know anything about email marketing, but I still did and it all started from there.

Q: What do you love most about freelancing?

Three things. Freedom. Income Opportunity. Security

Freedom from obvious reasons. I get to do what I want when I want, and where I want. I’m not bound in a cubicle or a boxed 9 to 5 schedule to earn a living. That and I get to be with my family which is priceless.

I also love the fact that my income isn’t dictated by a boss and is not constrained by the number of hours that I work. I love that I get to charge based on the value I deliver and not based on hours spent. I love that you can earn over $20k each month without a 4-year degree or a high ranking title in a private company.  

And lastly, I love the security it brings. I know most freelancers and employees think of freelancing as unstable and inconsistent. But if you think about it, when an employee’s boss decides to stop doing business, the employee can’t do anything about it. As a freelancer, it’s my business so I call the shots.

Now, I get questions from fellow freelancers asking me this and I always tell them, “There’s no such thing as an inconsistent freelance business… only an inconsistent freelancer”

I mean, think about it. If I know I can get 6 clients for every 10 strategy call, and 10 strategy call out of every 20 leads I talk to. Wouldn’t it make sense for me to talk to at least 1 lead a day per month to make sure I always get 6 clients? How can something be inconsistent if you’re in complete control of how many people you can talk and pitch to?

I talked about this in length in this audio:

Feel free to share.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you faced as a freelancer? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was removing my own limiting beliefs. As a 100% Filipino, there are a lot of mindset shifts that I had to fix, mostly about scarcity. In a sense, I was the one getting in my own way. The solution didn’t come cheap. I had to literally pay a mentor over $5,000 just to help me deal with it.

Q: What do you think is your best trait that contributed largely to your success?

I would say mindset. To be honest, one blog post isn’t enough to talk about it, but let me give you a concrete example of this. Say for example I’m a newbie website developer and I charge by the hour and someone hired me to build a website. Since I’m a newbie, it took me 20 hours to do something that’ll take a skilled freelancer only 3 hours. My question is, is it fair for the client that he’s gonna pay 17 hours more for my incompetence? It isn’t, right?

But say 2 years passed and I became really good at what I do. The same client approaches me because he liked my job the first time. Only this time, it took me only 2 hours instead of 20 hours to do it. Is it fair that I’m now being paid less for being ten times better and faster than last time? It doesn’t make sense right? But you’ll see this all the time.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge in the freelancing industry in the Philippines?

We’re still stuck in an employee mindset even as freelancers. That’s the biggest challenge. We’re good employees but not as business owners. Which is critical since freelancing is a business. If treated just like any other job — like hopping on interviews with clients instead of them interviewing their prospective clients, being afraid to charge more just because he/she is Filipino, or slaving our ass off for peanuts because we’re too afraid to lose a client. We still treat our clients as our boss when they’re not. And it’s this kind of thinking that’s keeping us stuck.

Q: What book greatly influenced your freelancing career?

The Go-Giver. It influenced how I do business and how I live my life.

Q: What do you think makes Filipinos great as freelancers?  

Nothing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not proud to be one. I am. Very. In fact, I even started a movement to change the local freelancing landscape, which is right now, no different from having a job. But in order to move away from that model, we have to stop thinking that we have a specific advantage just because of our nationality. And at the same breath, I also don’t think foreign freelancers have an advantage over us just because they’re foreign. Being foreign doesn’t justify higher fees. Personally, what makes a freelancer great regardless of the nationality is his/her ability to identify his/her client’s problems and offer his/her service as a solution.

Q: What piece of advice can you give to aspiring freelancers, especially to those who are struggling to get a gig?

I’d like to invite them to stop making things complicated. Freelancing is a business. Like any other business, the steps need not be complicated.

1. Choose a market.

2. Talk to them and identify their problem

3. Offer a solution which is their service.

And if I’m making it sound too easy, it’s because it is.

In fact, one of my newsletter subscribers asked me this same question so I told her to connect with at least 10 people in her chosen market and just talk to them about their business — no pitching… just be genuinely interested in their business.

And that’s really all she did.

(I know because I asked her to provide 10 screenshots of these conversations)

Just like this…

email marketing audience conversation

Guess what happened?

Just by asking 10 people about their business, she was able to get 3 of them interested in her services (which she’s still trying to figure out by the way)

Think about it. What if you can talk to 10 people a week — which is conservative —  and have at least 3 of them interested to find out what you have to offer?

That’s 12 people you can close as clients on any given month!

Now compare that to submitting proposals on Upwork ‘hoping’ to land a job. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which option is better.

To connect with John, you can shoot him an email at You can also subscribe to his newsletter.

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Rose Tornandeso is a freelance writer from Manila, Philippines. She spends her time as the Editor and Content Creator for NextStep Hub. When she's not chasing deadlines, she visits art galleries, writes fictions, and plays legos with her son.