We wanted to give you a peek inside the life of an expat freelancer in the UAE. Danny Ammounah is the CEO and Creative Director of The Design Hat, he is originally from the UK and has settled in the UAE since the 90’s.He started his own agency after working as a designer with agencies such as Fitch and retail art pioneers Gallery One for over 5 years. And his guest post tells you why he took the plunge and how has his life changed as a freelancer.
Every freelancer has his own history that led him to his true passion, which then turned into a dream job. This is a little insight into my brief experiences as a self-employed web and graphic designer. The life of a freelancer might seem somewhat idealistic, but in reality its hard work and your work ethic, and your willpower needs to remain strong in order to ultimately succeed. Prior to becoming self-employed I had a pretty regular working lifestyle. I worked all day 9 till 6, came home and usually had more work to do then. This was my life for a good five and a half years. Working for some of the largest design agencies in the UAE, this was an important time and life experience for me as it taught me the basic fundamentals of which I rely so heavily on today.
However, it started to get a little tiring and I saw freelancing as a way of easing up this hectic work schedule and starting a new chapter in my career. I mean why not? I had gathered all the necessary skills and know how over the years, why shouldn’t I take a slice of the cake? The thought of running my own business really excited me but also posed a great challenge as well. Not only would I need to do the actual design work, but there’s also the need to manage the finances, prepare the proposals, find the clients & also get those deals sealed. This is a lot to take on when you are used to having multiple resources and man power available to help collaborate on a project. Now it was just going to be me. It’s a frightening thought but as I found out it’s all about time management and adapting strong organisational skills to your everyday routine. In a way, I find this is the most enjoyable aspect of freelancing.
Being self-employed I have a strong responsibility to ensure that each piece of work I undertake is completed on time. How I manage that time is entirely up to me. If I want to leave my desk and got to the pool, I can. If that means making up the time by working into the early hours, that’s fine. As long as the deadline is clearly set, completed and delivered by then, who is to argue? Mostly, I have been trying to stick to a fairly standard 9 till 6 routine, mainly so that my life doesn’t completely go out of sync with others around me. The freedom to choose when and how much work I do is a fantastic feeling and that’s what really sold this gig to me.
There is one minor downside that I have noticed. Freelancing can usher you into quite a lonely everyday working environment. Generally I’m very happy with my business and don’t get fed up easily, but being on your own Sunday – Thursday can start to test your ability to maintain sanity. To help alleviate this, I often head out to my local coffee shop or business hub and treat this like my mobile office. This a great way to meet other freelancers, take meetings and a puts you in a more creative and buzzing environment than that of your bedroom. One of the greatest surprises when I decided to go freelance was the fantastic support I received. Before I decided to go freelance, I did take the time to asses my options and really examine if this really was the correct move for me. I wasn’t sure at first and it’s never easy leaving a secure working environment for something somewhat unknown and usually risky. But after I took the plunge and the support I received through family, friends, emails and work referrals, I was in no doubt it was the correct decision for me.