Walk the freelancer walk? Nabbesh freelancers talk…

Ever wished you could get into the same elevator with a successful freelancer who has been on the job for  some time and actually survived to tell the tale? Ask them some questions about their experience and possibly receive some advice? Well, Nabbesh just made the chase much easier. We  sat down with three top freelancers* working in the Middle East. Enjoy their ‘ real life’ testimonials!

H.A., Magazine freelancer, based in Beirut, servicing clients in Lebanon and the broader Middle East (15 years)

I’ve been freelancing for about 15 years starting off by mixing it with full or part-timework but eventually going entirely freelance about eight years ago. The best thing is you get to dictate your schedule to a certain extent – take a coffee break, nap, go out, take a day off – these are all decisions you control, and even aspects such as if you want to work entirely in your pajamas from the comfort of your sofa. Yet while freelancing gives you flexibility, you may end up working more than if you were full-time — particularly if you work with clients who think nothing of dumping urgent jobs on you on a Friday evening. This makes it important to maintain a balance between being available and committed to your clients while ensuring you still have a personal life left.

…One of the big lessons to learn is when to say no. In the beginning you might feel like it’s
good to say yes to everything. You will reach a point, though, when you realize the great feeling that comes with saying no. Maybe the trickiest topic for any freelancer is how to gauge how much money to charge – and make sure that you get paid. Be smart in thinking how to secure compensation for your time. Always make sure the client gives you a firm and detailed brief. You will meet a lot of people who want something but don’t know how to express what they want and who are happy to send you off on a wild goose chase to find out, only to tell you when you have done all the work what exactly they had in mind was something altogether different. Your time is not free or limitless. Don’t accept a revised brief without explaining it will cost more.

Starting out on the right foot is the best way to minimize your time involvement and end up with a happy client – which as a freelancer is exactly what you should be aiming at.

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Ramy K., graphic design and digital media freelancer, based in Jordan, servicing clients all over the Middle East and Australia (6 years)

In 2009, I was a graduate student studying in London when I first started helping some of my friends who still hadn’t graduated from university in Jordan. They would ask me to check a digital render, an illustration, weigh in on the choice of font or color, among others. I used to do it free of charge at first. A couple of months later one of my classmates noticed that I always had extra work. She looked at me and said, “You know, it would be great if those people you’re helping could at least buy you the coffee you order every time you come to the coffee shop to look over their projects.”

…It was hard for me to talk to people I knew—my friends—about it. I was surprised that almost all of them welcomed the idea and didn’t mind paying a fee for my services. They even started referring me to professionals in the field such as agency owners. I started a full-time job in 2012. Five months later, I had quit, purchased a new computer and a beautiful, wide desk and transitioned to freelance. I now work not only on small projects but also on large-scale campaigns and commit to long-term contracts.

I would say managing my time, prioritizing tasks, and knowing how to approach a client about suggestions and concerns have been the most challenging skills to acquire and develop, but I’m getting there.

Mehr Farahani, Magazine and technical reports writer, based in Beirut, servicing clients in Saudi Arabia/broader GCC and Europe (3 years)

I am fairly new to the freelance game—I started while based in Beirut in May 2012 after having lived in the West all my life, and I have been doing it full-time up until the present. If it’s done right it can be the best possible way to live: you get to schedule your own time, you can pick and choose what to take on, and you usually end up doing a wide range of work.

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As a freelance writer, I feel like it is very similar to being in grad school — at least in terms of tempo and levels of stress. Despite my best efforts, I find I have to pull a few all-nighters a month just to get through my work. Most other freelancers I speak with have the same problem.

The most challenging thing about not working a 9-5 is being disciplined enough to stick to your deadlines. This requires a great deal of self-motivation and time management skills since you don’t have a boss over your shoulder policing you. If you can do that then working for yourself is the best possible way to live your life. Just remember: with freedom comes responsibility!

 

 

*The real names of the subjects have been replaced with pseudonyms.

You won’t pay me?! Nabbesh freelancers reveal the top 10 excuses used by clients to avoid payment.

Many of our Nabbesh guest bloggers have spoken about the challenges of freelancing particularly in the Middle East. The fact that we lack a mature marketplace, proper regulations to protect freelancers as well as a lack of best practices may deter many people from venturing into the freelance world.

At Nabbesh, we have made it our mission to enable freelancing via the creation of a transparent marketplace as well as learning from our community to establish a set of best practices for freelancers, regardless of their type of skill, to provide their services to clients and more importantly get paid for their work.

During September 2013, we surveyed our 25,000 freelancers from across the Middle East, with a majority in the UAE, Lebanon and Jordan to find out about their attitudes towards freelancing.

The survey has revealed that whilst freelancers are accustomed to doing free jobs for friends and family, volunteering or offering sample work to improve their portfolio, a whopping 30% of freelancers have come across a non-paying client in their career.

Here are the top 10 reasons and the story-lines behind them :

 

Middle East Freelancers not getting paid

– He/ she was not happy with the quality of work

– We had a disagreement on the fees that should be paid

– Client kept delaying and postponing and then ignoring follow up

– Client was deceitful – It turned out to be a scam

– Client simply doesn’t like to pay anyone, I found out he did the same to many other freelancers

– Client claimed they weren’t making enough money to pay me

– Client did not understand the amount of work that was put in providing the service

– I was too young to put proper agreements in place and they took advantage of that

– Client had a cashflow problem or company (startup) closed

– Company management put the project on hold and decided not to pay

– There was a requirement, deliverable and communication gap

Call it occupational hazard, freelancers are prone to these types of clients and need to protect themselves at all times and have the ability to pick up the warning signs.

Some went as far as calling it an attribute to the Middle Eastern culture as highlighted by one of the respondents: “I did not get paid by clients more than once. I blame the lack of professionalism in the Middle East. Now I don’t even lift a pencil without a non-refundable down-payment.”

We do not agree with the notion that “professionalism” is lacking in the Middle East. We believe that in the presence of a marketplace, both parties will be required to be respectful and ethical in the way they treat each other and it is the marketplace that will reward freelancers and clients who honor their agreements and deliver quality work.

We highly recommend that freelancers put together agreements (like this sample agreement from the Freelancers Union)  with their clients detailing a concrete scope of work and a milestone-based payment. Another common practice is to ask for a deposit before starting the work. Lastly, ensure you agree on the method of payment and make sure to understand the various charges for the money transfers, for example, a bank may charge up to 30$ for a transfer.

In order to be enablers for freelancing, Nabbesh is launching an online payment facility where clients are required to pay upfront for services, in the form of a deposit that Nabbesh holds in Escrow, while freelancers are bound to the work they agreed to deliver. Freelancers will get paid once the project or task has been completed.

While it may not be a panacea for the freelancing woes, we believe that a marketplace can create a layer of trust, which protects its participants and enables a healthy environment. 88% of our survey respondents confirmed that they will be managing their payments through Nabbesh in order to get paid in a timely manner and have a strong mediator in the event of conflict.

As we prepare for this major step in Nabbesh’s development we look forward to more feedback from you, to help you get better freelance gigs and we hope that our tips will help you stay vigilant!

Note: The full survey will be shared as soon as the data compiling is complete!