Top Five Tips from One Freelancer to the Other

This is a guest post by Zainab Mansoor, a freelancer journalist and contributor to various local and international publications. She is an equally doting mom and strives to strike a perfect balance every day.

Contrary to popular belief, freelancing or the freelance industry is a comprehensive order. There are clear do’s and don’ts in the business that should adhered to, but it differs from person to person, experience to experience. Below are a few of my personal tips to all freelancers out there, pitching for work or otherwise.

1- Let not your missives speak. Written letter with tall orders are so clichéd these days – Avoid them completely. Share your profile, portfolio and your list of strengths in which you excel or wish to excel. Instead of words, be dexterous in work.

2- Association is key. Keep contact with your previous clients. Stay in touch through social mediums for repeat work or referrals.

3- Avoid baring your desperation. If there is a dearth of projects up your sleeve, look at alternate avenues for work. Desperation can make people go all funny and do things they may regret a while later. Don’t under-rate your work or its value by offering work at substantial rates. Offering reasonable pricing for repeat clients make sense but ridiculing your profile is a different game altogether.

4- Respect thy privacy. Projects may or may not contain confidential company and employee information. Irrespective, avoid discussing project or work related details with associates, family or friends. Let the details stay locked on a workstation.

5- Sense of Humor, hold on tight. Do not let circumstances get to you! There may be white and black days, highs and lows, pleasant and not so pleasant criticism. Hang in there and lay supine, facing the sky. Crack a joke or two while you’re at it!

Have you found these tips useful? Let Zainab know and make sure to follow her on twitter  @zzainabmansoor!

How to Keep Up Your Morale as a Freelance Writer

This is a Guest Post by  Anne John, a software engineer who switched careers to follow her passion for the written word. Currently she works as a web content manager with an online women’s magazine and moonlights as a freelance writer and editor. 

Anne John

Freelancing comes with many perks such as the ability to choose your work assignments and work flexibility. However, it has its downside as well. A common problem that most newbie freelancer writers face is keeping up your morale as you kick-start your freelance writing career. Trust me, I’ve been there. As a beginner, you haven’t built up a strong portfolio yet and with every pitch you send out, your hopes go soaring, only to fizzle out a week later. Rejection is hard to face and we freelance writers voluntarily expose ourselves to rejection over and over again. One of the hardest things to do when starting out as a freelance writer is keeping up your morale in the face of continuous disappointments. Here are 3 tips that helped me keep my chin up – and will hopefully help you too:

 

1. Learn to feel good about yourself: Although it is very difficult to believe in yourself when you keep getting rejection letters from editors, it is also exactly the time to give yourself some love. I save every good comment or appreciative feedback that I ever got for my writing. It could be from family, friends or total strangers. It could be on one of your published articles or even on your blog. Build a database of all the positive comments that your writing has ever garnered – you could print out the comments and save them in a folder or simply bookmark them on your computer. When you are feeling particularly uncharitable towards yourself, revisit them. Surely, all those people would not be wrong about you? This will help nip negativity in the bud, cheer you up, build your confidence and restore your faith in your work.

Keep Up Your Morale
Photo credit: Jennifer (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

 

2. Don’t take it personally: Don’t take every rejection as a personal attack on your writing skills. Perhaps, the pitch was not suited to that particular publication at that point in time or perhaps they carried a similar piece quite recently or maybe the editor simply missed seeing your mail. You have no clue and there is no need to be offended. Train yourself to let it go. If the editor gives you any explanation for turning down your pitch, view it as constructive criticism and see what you can learn from it.

 

3. Keep writing for yourself: Most freelance writers start out because of their love and passion for writing. However, we often have to alter our writing to suit the editors’ or readers’ tastes and requirements. Soon, many writers get disillusioned with the whole process and writing begins to lose its charm. To prevent this, keep writing for yourself too. Maintain a blog or a journal where you can give free reign to your pen without worrying about word limits and house style. Simply savor expressing yourself and keep the magic of writing alive. I hope these pointers will help keep your morale up on your freelance journey! All the best!

 

Don’t forget to connect with Anne via her profile on Nabbesh and follow @annejwrites on twitter.

Key takeaways from the Nabbesh Freelance Summit Dubai

We just held our first Freelance Summit in Dubai and were thrilled to engage with a full house at Shelter. The reasoning behind this gathering was fairly simple.  We know from our data that there is a big demand for different ways of working, our 14,000 registered users and over 250 job postings a month are testament to that, but we know there’s a big untapped market out there that can be addressed by starting an offline dialogue between the various stakeholders.

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That’s why we built an agenda bringing together freelancers to talk about their insights and advice, employers to talk about what they look for and common pitfalls to avoid, a law firm to tell us exactly what is legal regarding freelance and part time work and a business setup consultancy that told us how to incorporate freelancing activities into a proper registered business.  We even had a session talking about how freelancing can help achieve the UAE’s 2021 vision of a knowledge based economy!

Trevor gulf stat

The event was really successful, and there was definitely an appetite to hear more.  Nabbesh is hard at work building some great product features on the platform to make the experience even easier, but we also want to help people get the information they need.  We’ll be doing more events in the future based on the conversations we started last night, and of course your feedback.

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Let’s give you some highlights from the night:

We talked about the enhanced profile builder called Canvas which allows people to demonstrate their skills by linking to all their best work around the web.  Have a look at the profile below to see how much more engaging they are.

If you’ve already got a profile on Nabbesh, now is the time to use this tool to stand out from the crowd.

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(www.nabbesh.com/molham.bakir)

We also had some sneak peeks of upcoming product features. Want to be the first to test them out? Get on our mailing list!

The question on everybody’s mind was, is freelancing really legal?  How can I do it properly? Sara Khoja, Partner at Clyde & Co gave a helpful and succinct talk on what is now possible.  Some key takeaways:

  • You can hold a full time job and do work on the side with a “part time work permit” so long as you hold the necessary No Objection Certificates from your existing employer
  • Expats are able to act as official work sponsors for their dependents meaning that housewives and students can now take up part time work (with permissions from husbands / fathers)

There was a general consensus that freelancing was a good way to transition from being employed full time to becoming your own boss.  Thanks to the laws in the UAE allowing part time work, we should see more people take up freelancing in their spare time to build up their reputation in the market.

Another surprising piece of news from Creative Zone was that it is possible to incorporate your freelance activities into a proper business in the UAE, allowing you to have a corporate bank account and the ability to invoice in a company name as opposed to your personal name. Offering various license options, Creative Zone are happy to provide you with a free consultation to help you understand these options and advise on the best possible solution as per your requirements. If you want more on this, ping us in the form below with your Nabbesh profile URL and the subject “Freelance Business Licence”

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Many people think that freelancing as a work pattern is nothing but a pipe dream, available for only a few people, or those lucky enough to have a skill which is so rare that they can command extremely high prices for it.  Fortunately we had freelancers on the panel to dispel this myth. A few tips from them:

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  • It’s a competitive marketplace, you need to be proactive and show why you’re better than others
  • Talk to peers and network with others in the industry to ascertain benchmark rates
  • Start small and build your reputation through delivering quality work

The employer panel was equally fascinating as we heard exactly what it is that employers look for and we got a glimpse into the skills that are highly in demand right now:

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  • Have a sense of accountability, prove that you take the job as seriously as a full time employee
  • Demonstrating your work with an up to date portfolio means you have a better chance of standing out (top tip: use the Canvas profile builder to get employers to notice you quicker!)
  • Deliver good consistent work and aim to build reputation with your employer no matter what the project is

Some industry insights as to what’s missing in the market:

  • Arabic Content Development
  • Analytics
  • English writers who follow Arabic culture
  • Good Arabic screenplay writers, producers and directors

So you heard it here first! If you’re reading this and you’ve got these skills, or you know someone who does, get signed up on Nabbesh.com as soon as possible.

We’d like to thank The Shelter, Clyde & Co, Creative Zone and all our panelists for making the event a success.

We’ll continue doing these sessions to make sure everyone is empowered with the knowledge they need to freelance successfully.  All you have to do is bring your skills to the platform.  Whether you’re an individual or a business, hit us up in the form below to tell us more about what you want to know.

www.nabbesh.com – where talent meets opportunity.

The Future of Employment in the UAE

An article in the Atlantic titled, The Terrifying Reality of Employment talked about results of a study that suggested if you have been out of work for longer than 6 months employers won’t hire you.

Currently in the Middle East, unemployment rates are still extremely high.  The amount of jobseekers far outnumbers the amount of jobs being created.  In addition 3 out of every 4 women in the Arab world are out of work.

Whilst the public sectors of each country have traditionally shouldered this burden, most governments are at capacity with the amount of jobs they can provide for citizens.  The private sector must change its employment practices in order to reduce the number of unemployed and it may need to start with fixing the gender gap first.

For the UAE the situation may get worse.  With neighboring countries suffering an economic slowdown after the Arab Spring, the UAE is operating as the main beneficiary through increased tourism (over 10 million visitors in 2012) and consumer spending, and ultimately acting as the business hub for the Middle East.

Typically students in UAE universities have been guided into engineering, medicine, business and finance but these skills are not the most in demand skills in the world of work.  Not having the right qualifications, as well as increased pressure from competition exacerbates the problem.

Once graduated they like millions of others compete for limited job openings, often not hearing back from employers for months if at all, and some not sure if their CV has even been looked at.

It seems to be an employers market right now.  With hundreds of potential candidates to choose from for every 1 job posted, most employers aren’t that concerned with fighting to retain existing staff.  Many of those go further and identify the fact that there aren’t that many jobs out there so they aren’t worried about their staff leaving.

Its not all roses for employers though.  Many still struggle with the deluge of candidates, whilst the volume is high, there is no way of knowing what the quality is.  Firms just don’t have the resources to go through all the candidates properly and many firms aren’t even sure about the exact legalities with it comes to hiring someone – shall I use a part time worker / shall I use a freelancer / is it legal to use a student etc.

What would help then?

Job seekers must stay up to date with the evolving technologies in their skillset and a prove they are putting these skills into practice, perhaps by taking on projects and part time work.  Validation for this concept can be seen in the rise of “ The Appliject”  model. “Resumes are dead. Interviews are largely ineffectual.. Portfolios are useful,” writes Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MITSloanSchool’s Center for Digital Business. “But projects are the real future of hiring”

At Nabbesh we’re trying to solve some of these problems.

Women have traditionally been excluded from the workforce because of cultural and other socio economic reasons.  Nabbesh is a platform that can match women who have surplus skills and hours to connect with those that need them.

We want to make sure more people have the right skills that are in demand by employers.  By showing people what skills are most searched for in real time we can influence how people upskill through university or other learning courses.

By opening up the market for “always on” employment though freelance and part time work, we’re helping people stay relevant and ultimately always employable, so that they never have to be out of work.

We want to give every person the ability to make the best impression and stand out from an increasingly crowded marketplace, that’s why we built Canvas, the best profile builder to demonstrate your skill set.

By focusing on skills, we’re giving people options to pursue and monetize their real passion instead of being stuck in a job they don’t love.

Follow us as we disrupt the future of work.

nabbesh.com

References:

The terrifying reality of long term unemployment (the atlantic.com)

75% of Arab Women out of work (emirates 24.7)

Want to quit your job, don’t expect a counter offer  (zawya.com)

After university, arab women struggle to find work (al fanar.org)

Projects are the new job interviews (inc.com)

Upskilling in Saudi

Alwane

ALWANE’s study earlier this yearin conjunction with Harvey Nichols, KPMG and Glowork discovered what Saudi women want from work opportunities in the retail industry and what’s really holding them back.

Results demonstrated that 42% accept the idea of women working in the retail sector, while 58% dismissed the idea completely.

“31% of female respondents highlighted lack of awareness of what the retail sector actually is as a main concern in working in the retail sector. Respondents noted that there are not any success stories in the region, let alone the country, to understand the type of career path they would be undertaking. Respondents added that the perception of the retail industry must change”  says the report.

What would solve the problem?

The majority (35%) said an awareness campaign to portray success stories as well as benefits of working in the retail sector would help.

Global brands and their marketing departments are best placed to do this as their international offices are well used to career development programs, having trained people to go all over the world and sell their goods.  A few of them are already working on training Saudis and developing their skills.

Al Naghi has taken its 12 year old distribution agreement with L’Oreal a step further and signed a joint venture which should create jobs for Saudi women in the cosmetics industry.

More Saudis have just completed a fast track training with Nestle in Riyadh. After completion of the programme, the graduates will be prepared to enter the Saudi workforce equipped with the skills necessary to take up a commercial career.

But more still needs to be done.

What happens after people graduate?

A Booz study earlier in 2012highlighted that many women graduated in humanities and that  they should not be confined to the traditional route of teaching.

“Graduates of history, geography, and Arabic department can work in the media, tourism, the municipalities and other government sectors that have started opening departments for women.”

In the UK and US, several private institutions in various industries have such well developed graduate training programs, that geography graduates can work in banking.

During the ALWANE summit in Jordan this month, the KSA chapter stated that many Saudi women hold bachelor degrees in Information Technology and Saudi Arabia is one of the highest smart application buying markets among Arab countries. Therefore, Saudi women can participate in this market, and create a local hub for IT development.

A new way of thinking

The need for more brands to impart their skills to Saudis is evident.  From IT and tech companies to fashion and cosmetics.  But should it be just a top down knowledge sharing activity? The Startup America Partnership found that “What entrepreneurs want is the company and support of other entrepreneurs who can help and understand their struggles.

This is what Startup America is now trying to become—the catalyst for a movement for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. This is the path SUAP sees to persuading more Americans to start their own companies”

New Hierarchy

Perhaps the same can be said of upskilling. Maybe peers who have skills in other parts of the region can share knowledge with each other as effectively as a brand’s training program.  At Nabbesh we provide an early version of a skill sharing platform.  Many people have connected rapidly, within hours of posting.  In the future and as we build the technology, we might need to find innovative ways to help connect and sharing happen at bigger scales and at a faster rate, if p2p upskilling is to happen. We’re closely watching the scene and we’re positive about the future.