Startup Scene's staff writer, Ahmed Budalama, walks us through the freelance job market and surveys a number of freelancers and experts working to help freelancers.
The freelance industry has been dramatically growing throughout the last decade in the rest of the world, yet its definitely underserved in the MENA region, especially in Egypt. While the opportunities are abundantly available around the world, the MENA region suffers from certain barriers. However, more and more people are ditching the traditional 9-5 business model and opting to become full-time freelancers.
The freelancing community benefits from the fact that it is indeed booming in the region, with the young generation being more open to such opportunities and the attempt to breakthrough in certain industries such as film and television, web and mobile development and design.
We spoke with UNDP’s Programme Manager Mostafa Fahmy to further understand more about the underlying issues of the freelance market in Egypt and the various attempts to overcome them
“Sponsoring FreelanceME Summit, this programme allowed us to play a vital part to provide economic support to the youth, as part of the UNDP’s mission to increase development efforts in the region.”
This was their 5th edition of the conference, with each conference being held at the end of each fiscal year. The attendees were supplied with an overview of the projects and activities that they have achieved throughout the year. The summit was launched in hopes to connect freelancers to industry experts from different fields, in which the attendees of the event have an opportunity for networking and sharing insights.
“At certain times, a person may be interested to pursue a specific track to launch their freelancing career but wouldn’t know the steps necessary to push forward, so opportunities like these allow them to do such things seamlessly,” explains Fahmy.
FreelanceME Summit held workshops in an array of fields that are known to have a high demand of work such as web and mobile application development, digital marketing, business development and creative media arts. The organization team carefully selected these respective fields based on the industry’s demand and the opportunities that are available to those who are interested in them.
On this topic, we speak to one of Egypt’s freelance marketplaces, Inploy.Me’s Karim Fahmy on their efforts. Freelancers sign up on Inploy's platform, add their skills and profession, add their contact information and then upload their portfolio; which allows clients to easily reach and browse through their work thus directly contact them by the information provided; all for free. It truly is an easy and smooth experience for both the client and the freelancer, all for free in order to help their growth and potential.”
The freelance job market is booming in Egypt, with opportunities that 10 years ago were not available to the public or may be not even considered a viable career option. “It’s a matter of time until Egyptians realise that working as a freelancer and doing what they love with passion could improve their work life and set balance and stability both financially and psychologically,” Fahmy tells Startup Scene. The steps to acing your life as a freelancer are simple, according to Inploy’s founder.
“Find your first client, provide your best work and service, then market your services and successful projects using any tool available online. By doing so, a freelancer would have created an awesome relationship with recurring clients and develop their portfolio for their future projects with new clients and work will start flowing, when using a freelancing platform like Inploy.”
As with every workforce, the freelancers community faces many obstacles that affect its credibility. Freelancers still find it hard to leave their full-time jobs and fully rely on freelancing. Clients today avoid working with freelancers in Egypt for the lack of trustworthy data about the freelancers they might hire. Most clients still believe that working with a company is better than a freelancer. There is also a lack of a solid infrastructure within freelancing platforms, legal support systems and market awareness campaigning that would fuel such a market and allow it to grow.
If a person were to pursue a full-time job as a social media manager or a digital marketer, the chances of that being fulfilled are low, with clients solely relying on agencies to do their bidding for them, another freelancer told Startup Scene during the summit.“In other fields such as business development, the industry is booming and expected to reach unprecedented success,” explained ex-pharmacist turned digital marketer, Meena. “But the public eye still doesn’t view freelance employees as professionals and are less likely to trust them, so we are trying to change that.”
Most that many freelancers face is the trouble of trust, where businesses can’t always trust the outcome they are receiving, and freelancers unable to trust that clients will hold their end of the bargain and pay for tasks. “When I first started, I was considered underpaid, but I was willing to carry out hefty tasks for a minimal sum of money so I can increase my exposure and gain five-star reviews, which is sometimes valued over being adequately compensated,” Omar, a freelance content writer and translator tells Startup Scene.
In some industries such as web design and development, being a freelancer can sometimes pay better than having a full-time position. According to the Freelancer Income Survey released by Payoneer in 2018, the freelance job market in the Middle East is considered %1 of the global workforce. It also states that 9% of freelance-seeking clients are in the Middle East, and 7% in Africa, meaning that the number of businesses seeking freelance work is on the rise.
Consequently, the number of freelancers is escalating as well, with the majority of freelance employees being women. A 19-year-old aspiring developer university student named Mona told Startup Scene that the platform empowers her to pursue the particular field she feels most attached to and eliminates all the barriers that she faces as a young woman in the male-oriented industry of web development.
“This helps these potential candidates by allowing them to know what is required from them in terms of education, knowledge and accreditation needed to be fully qualified and gain acceptance in projects and tasks. Moreover, we collect those opportunities in order to fill the gap in the industry, and match companies with passionate and qualified candidates,” explains Fahmy.
With more resources than before, the freelance workforce is headed towards a promising future. Jeff Wald, Forbes Magazine contributor and co-founder and president of a leading platform for the management of contract and freelance talent “WorkMarket,” expects around 35% of the global workforce to become freelancers and independent contractors by 2020.
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