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Freelance Photography – Lafi Abood

Lafi Abood

Lafi Abood has been doing freelance photography and filmmaking all his life, with assignments all over the world. Currently Lafi is working on a personal project called “Ibni” which is a documentary highlighting the struggles faced by mothers tending to their autistic adult sons in the Middle East.  The trailer can be seen on Vimeo here .  He also owns his own business in Dubai called Analog Productions, after being based here for the last 4 years.

The journey from new freelancer in town to business owner has been quite interesting.  The first thing Lafi mentions for any freelancer going to a new territory is to focus on establishing a name for yourself and networking. Whilst building up his client base here, he had work from US based clients to provide cashflow.  In the meantime he did knock on agency doors in the early days but he found most success by networking and talking to clients directly.  A useful insight; most people were interested in his personal portfolio as an indicator of his skills rather than the commercial work, which in the region all tends to have a similar look and feel.

Lafi had to stop freelancing as an individual partly because a lot of agencies don’t like to deal with individuals, they prefer to deal with other businesses, and partly because of the increase in workload. Analog Productions is set up as DED registered business with a local sponsor, which gives him the freedom to work anywhere and is a lot cheaper in comparison to many of the Freezone areas in Dubai.  Lafi’s advice for anyone thinking of doing freelance film or photography is to align yourself with an agency that’s willing to take you on as a freelancer so you can build up your network and portfolio.  Ensure you take a deposit up front to cover costs.  One of his earliest problems was flying in a whole crew from the US, only to find out the client had changed his mind at the last minute.  He had to absorb the costs from his own pocket.

Lafi currently uses Nabbesh to find freelancers to complete the projects he’s working on, and last month he had around 15 freelancers in total working for Analog Productions.

4 Essential Business Tips for freelancers

Freelancing is fabulous! You’re your own boss, you can take as many coffee breaks as you like and you never get dirty looks from co-workers for being late. But being-self employed is not all fun and games. You have to be self-driven, keep to deadlines and make sure you find enough work to keep you afloat. Whether you’re only thinking about taking the leap or have already set out, here are a few business tips to get you going on the right foot.

  1. Be understood

    It’s not always easy for full-timers such as managers, accountants and engineers to understand what it’s like to be self-employed. They can sometimes have harsh deadlines, unrealistic expectations, or difficulty understanding your working style. Take your time before you decide on who to work with, you want to make sure they will get you!

  2. Remember what it’s all about

    Before you start a job, it’s always a good idea to present the client with a summary of the project as you understand it, a brief on what you will be doing, an estimate of the time it will take you and an explanation of exactly how you are charging. This document will be hugely helpful to both of you if there are any disagreements or changes later on.

  3. Use your mouth, AND your ears

    Your likelihood of success, and referrals, is much higher if you are a good communicator and your client knows where their project is at all times. Listen to what the client wants and be sure to communicate to them how their project is progressing as you move forward, even if it’s not going according to plan. Most clients prefer the “Ok here’s how it is.” than the “Um, surprise!” approach.

  4. Know when to say No!

    If a client is offering to pay you a rate that is far below the professionally accepted standards, just say no! Most professionals know exactly what market rates are and what margins of negotiation exist given your level of expertise. On the other hand, charities and start-ups sometimes really are strapped for cash but offer you free creative reign instead, which can really be a nice change on a job! Consider saying ‘yes’ in those cases!

Are you cut out for Freelancing?

By: Kathy Shalhoub


So you want to be a freelancer, yes? Well, wanting something is great, and doing it is even greater. But to actually do it, and be good at it, and have someone pay you for it, you should probably ask yourselves a few questions first.

  1. Do you like being alone?

    Sadly, most of freelance work involves you and your skill and no one else. Can you handle that? Some people are made for it, some people aren’t. Think about this point very seriously and don’t try to convince yourself that it could work if it can’t! If you crave company, can you find it? Can you go work in a coffee shop, work with a friend, or find common spaces where other freelancers get together?

  2. Where are you now?

    Ok, what does this mean. It means if you’ve been working in marketing all your life you can’t suddenly quit your job and decide you want to be a freelance photographer and expect the jobs to start coming in. If that’s what you want to be, you need to build up to it and start gradually. Figure out where you are, where you want to be, then find a reasonable (and realistic!) path to getting there.

  3. Can you afford it?

    Need I elaborate? I will anyway just in case. Unless someone can support you while your freelancing career takes off, then you need X amount of Dirhams, Liras or Dollars per month to live on (at least). It will take you Y amount of months when you first start freelancing for you to start making X/month, so you will need to have at least X*Y amount of money in the bank before you start! Develop a financial plan, create a budget for yourself, and stick to it! That means you may have to pass up a couple nights out or those Prada shoes if things are a little slow this month.

  4. Are you flexible and organized?

    Ok, freelancing 101. Assignment comes in, you have a deadline in three weeks. No problem! You have time, it can wait. Two days before it’s due, you sit down to work on it, and all of a sudden three more assignments roll in the following day. Ooopsie! Now you need to pull a couple all-nighters to finish everything. But what about the Madonna concert you have tickets to? No problem, you have notes that will help you finish everything on time! But where are they? Rats, you stuffed them into the cat’s litter box when you were out of litter. It’s ok, you’ll just tell them you’re too busy. Ahem, check your financial plan, can you afford to pass up a couple projects? Be organized! Develop a schedule that works for you, and work for that schedule!

  5. Can you separate work from life?

    Anyone who’s been in a relationship with a ‘freelancer-who-can’t’, will tell you how much they hate it! If you think it’s bad when full-timers are checking their Blackberry every ten minutes, try a freelancer running to her computer every nanosecond you turn your back, so that she can just finish that one last thing that’s been bothering her. If you plan to live with someone more conversational than a toaster for any period of time, develop a relatively normal work schedule and stick to it. Your personal life will thank you!

  6. Can you be your own boss?

    Wait a second! I thought the whole perk of being a freelancer is that you don’t have a boss? Sorry guys, but no matter how much a boss sucks, they do one thing that is imperative to your success: they keep you on track! That means that in the space of an hour, you don’t get a 15-minute cigarette break, a 20-minute coffee break and a 10-minute bathroom break before you’ve even started your project! Being your own boss means pushing yourself to work hard and to be self-disciplined. Otherwise, find someone to do it for you i.e. get a job!

  7. Can you sell yourself?

    Listen, I’m a freelancer not a salesman! Ok ok I know but… you want work? Sell yourself. And do it well! It’s as simple as that. See previous post: Know Yourself, Sell Yourself!

  8. Can you say ‘No’, and can you handle it when someone says ‘No’ to you?

    Imagine this: You haven’t had work for three weeks and that whole budget thing is hanging over your head. Was there a project you were putting off until now? Was there some networking you’ve been planning to do? Now is the time! All of a sudden, a few projects come up with the same deadline. No problem! You’ll just rush through them all and do a mediocre job for everyone, right? Will that get you repeat customers? Nope! Will that help your bottom line? Only this month. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and keep a backup plan for any unplanned stretches of free time.

That’s all folks! Happy Freelancing and enjoy your funemployment!

Disclaimers: I didn’t come up with ‘funemployment’, I read it somewhere on Facebook. And also, this post is based on content from Get a Freelance Life by Margit Feury Ragland.

Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

Are you a PP?

By: Kathy Shalhoub


What is the major thing that holds so many freelancers back from running full speed ahead? Is it lack of skill, talent, ideas and opportunity? Maybe a little, but I think that the greatest barrier of all is being a Procrastination Professional. Somehow you keep wishing you had a job to work on, you hope a project will come through, you network, you market and sell yourselves, and suddenly, finally, when you have a job, you just can’t seem to get around to doing it!

Procrastination is the leash around our necks, choking us and holding us back from being as productive as we would like to be. Do you find yourself sitting down to write, illustrate, edit, make something or research something and all of a sudden there are so many MORE important things you should be doing, like checking email and Facebook, cleaning the scum off the bathtub, taking the laundry for dry cleaning or cutting the cat’s claws? Do you feel that you have to get into the right mood, you need to make that cup of coffee or tea, that snack or that desert so that you have energy, you need to get into your comfy chair or your special spot , you must have the lighting and mood just right for your genius to flow?

Well here’s some interesting news for you. According to Rachel Ballon, a well-known therapist and author, the leading reasons for procrastination are psychological and unconscious. You want to sit down and get stuff done, you really do! But at the same exact time, you just don’t. Go figure!

It seems that this split in what we really want to be doing and not doing it is usually caused by some fear deep down inside that we aren’t quite aware of.  The two main fears most people struggle with are fear of rejection and fear of failure. If you never submit any work, you never risk either. Problem solved. J In the short term!

In the long term though, if you plan to be taken seriously as a freelancer, procrastination ultimately not only prevents you from completing your project, but it stops you from ever reaching your goals. If that was the worst of it, big deal but there’s more. Procrastination affects your self-image negatively. When you don’t complete your project you feel guilty, and ashamed, and the more you feel like that the more you procrastinate so then you feel even more guilt and shame. It just keeps getting worse and worse until it damages your self-esteem and your self-worth so much that you simply talk yourself out of the idea that you could or should ever have thought about freelancing in the first place. And you’re worse off than when you started.

Another leading reason for procrastination is making your work the absolute last thing ‘to do’ on your list. Everything must be clean, cooked, returned, prepared etc… before you can sit down and focus on your work, and by the time all the other stuff is done, damn!, the day is over and you have no time left!

If you find that you are a Procrastination Professional, take some time to explore your self, your fears and your unconscious. What is holding you back and why? Were you discouraged by friends or family? Do you think what you’re doing is not important or silly? Do you worry you’ll be bad at it? Figuring out the reason gets you half way to the solution. And learning how to overcome procrastination and create in the middle of life’s to-do list ultimately will be what sets you apart from people who have always dreamt about freelancing but have never gotten around to doing it.

Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.