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.

Tips for Getting Freelancing Work

By: Kathy Shalhoub


You’ve made the leap into freelancing and the jobs have started to trickle in. But you need more work, how do you go about finding it? The general structure is as follows: You need a website that shows your product, you need a product, you need traffic, and you need conversion of that traffic into earnings. I will tackle each of these topics in future posts, but for now, here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. First and foremost, you need to have a place online where people can learn about you and your work. Having an excellent website that showcases your work and your potential in a clear, simple and easy to navigate style is one way. Link to it from specialized websites such as nabbesh for maximum exposure. If you’re just starting out and still have nothing to show, then go to step 2.
  2. Keep your profiles (and your portfolios) updated on the different networking sites you use. Nothing is more of a turn off to potential clients than seeing that your last posted project was 3 years ago. Their first thought will be that you’re washed up. I’ve looked at some of your profiles on nabbesh and work needs to be done! Put a photograph (if not of you then of something you worked on, admire or like), link to websites (either yours or companies you’ve worked for, try to be specific), write an interesting bio that gives insight on who you are as a person. How can a client tell if you’re any good or not? How can they tell what you do and if you’re serious about it?
  3. Be active online. Network using social media and websites like nabbesh. Join free online competitions to get yourself noticed. Follow people and clients that you’re interested in working for on Facebook and Twitter. They will often mention when they’re looking for help or input, and this can be your chance to offer your services.
  4. Call or meet with agencies, potential clients and contacts. This takes some guts but believe me, emails can easily be ignored, accidentally deleted or completely forgotten in somebody’s inbox. Speaking to someone in person has a much greater impact and allows you to better understand what they are looking for or to offer alternatives for a project. Be prepared for this kind of approach and have a one liner that describes who you are and what you do well rehearsed and ready to go for the occasion.
  5. Promote yourself in ways that are new, interesting and unique to your style. For example:
    1. Create folded posters that show a new piece of your work with every fold.
    2. Send customized goodies as a promotional pack to clients. No matter how prevalent social media is, there’s nothing more exciting to a person than receiving a personalized envelope in the mail.
    3. Invest in branded chocolates, cupcakes, or anything funky you can think of for existing clients. Show me a stressed out client who won’t appreciate a good shot of sugar when it counts! Don’t feel like pushing sugar? Think coffee, tea, or a funky herbal mix. Or anything else that you think would be appreciated! Keeping your clients and having them spread the word about you is key.

      NOTE: Keep the value of your branded items low. This is not meant to be a bribe; it is simply a token that showcases your talent!

    4. Consider branded merchandise. Forget about postcards and paper. Can you have your illustrations or designs printed onto scarves, t-shirts or pillowcases? How about notebooks, shopping bags and towels? Even if a meeting leads to nothing today, leaving a piece of your work behind in the form of a small gift can set you apart from the rest.

If you think this advice only applies to creatives (e.g. illustrators, designers, photographers), think again. Clients are looking for motivated, hard working and dedicated people and are constantly being bombarded with potential hires. Set yourself apart!

In my case for example, when I wanted to work at an oceanography institute in the U.S., I applied for a summer program and didn’t get accepted but I didn’t let that stop me. I then contacted some of the scientists working there and offered my engineering services for free for the summer. Who could resist? I was hired immediately and offered room and board with the summer students in exchange for my efforts. What did I get out of it? Work experience in the immediate, and years later, because I had kept up my contacts, I was offered a job and a work permit in the U.S!

When I wanted to get into MIT for engineering, I printed copies of an article I had written as an undergrad, copies of my CV, copies of my senior design robotics project, and a clear concise introductory letter explaining my desire to go to MIT. I made an envelope for every single professor in the Ocean Engineering department and mailed them all. Two weeks later I followed up with phone calls and tried to arrange meetings. Most ignored my letter, I met with three professors only and I ended up getting a full scholarship with one of them who was interested in robotics. Seeing the effort I went to in differentiating myself from all other applicants, and meeting me in person made all the difference.

Showcase the skills you’re selling in whatever way you can think of! It really does matter.

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.

Can Networking Bring You Your Next Big Idea?

By: Kathy Shalhoub


I wanted to talk about networking today. I did a Google search and found tons of secrets, tips, steps and tricks on how to effectively network. But what’s the point of networking in the first place? Where or what is it meant to get you?

Amidst the many pearls of wisdom provided, networking was said to be important in:

  • Finding a job
  • Developing industry links
  • Keeping abreast of news, events and opportunities
  • Growing your business
  • Bringing in clients

And I’m sure there are many other good reasons that in theory, can help improve your work life tremendously. Strangely, though, none of them listed networking as a means of improving your creativity and your innovative potential.

One website said that Attending networking events can be a big boon to your business, or a huge waste of your time.’ But here’s the thing, networking is NEVER a waste of time, and the advantages reach so much further than just where your next client is going to come from. It’s where your next idea is going to come from!

A scientist interviewing a group of entrepreneurs from Stanford (766 of them!) found that their network of friends generally consisted of people who came from the same place and did the same thing as them. BUT they also found that a small subset of these entrepreneurs had a very large network of casual acquaintances.

Instead of going to an event to network, these business people were making new and unexpected connections with different people all the time! They were chatting with strangers in coffee shops and making small talk with street cleaners, they made conversation with people at train stops and regularly spoke to acquaintances at work.

So what’s the big deal? It was this exact group that was THREE TIMES more innovative that the people with a small network of close friends. While it was thought that people were born with creativity, scientists are now finding that being in the right place and doing the right thing are actually more important factors than what you were born with!

Why are people with many casual connections so much more ‘creative’ than those with a few close friends? It turns out that the innovation in people doesn’t happen when we’re alone, it happens when we’re surrounded with collections of acquaintances who inspire novel thoughts in us.

Here’s how it works. Think about it, if you’re surrounded by the same people who think like you do (and generally you are, because that’s our natural psychological tendency!) then the ideas and thoughts you’re exchanging are more similar than not. When you step out of your comfort zone and make contact, connections, with people from all walks of life, with people who think, feel, see and do things very differently than you, your brain has to work so much harder to understand them, categorize them, and to find a common thread between them. In doing so, it takes leaps that it may not have taken otherwise, and at some point presents you with a little nugget of creativity that you transform into something new, innovative and inspiring.

For me, networking is a lot of effort, it’s stressful and I often wonder how to make an impression, how to make a connection, what to talk about. But when I think of it as simply making connections and exchanging ideas, suddenly it’s so much easier and less daunting. And yes, suddenly I have so many more ideas flying around in my head.

Give it a try and tell me what you think!

For more detailed information, read Imagine by Jonah Lehrer, in particular, the chapter on Urban Friction.

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.