Fast-changing demographics, digitalization, and the growing desire for work-life balance is gradually changing the global employment landscape into a gig-economy, freelance-driven model, benefiting corporations, SMEs and workers too.
According to the 2018 Payoneer Freelancer Income Survey, a majority of the world’s freelancers are located in Europe (35.5%), Asia (28%), Latin America (29.2%), Africa (10.1%), and North America with (4.1%).
Also, the World Economic Forum report The Future of Job released in 2018, states that automation is giving way to augmentation. New technologies are giving rise to new job roles, professions and businesses. New types of jobs are emerging to carry out new tasks related to new technologies.
So, how are these changes in the global workforce affecting Africa?
High unemployment rate and limited employment opportunities are two of the biggest problems facing young people in developing countries.
Millions of African youths complain of and suffer from biting unemployment, however, with the entrance of the gig economy as a viable employment option, it is time young Africans focus less on what the continent lacks, and focus more on leveling up, learning needed skills and contributing value to the global gig economy.
The global outsourcing service industry is booming and more companies and business owners are using the internet to hire quality labor at competitive and affordable prices. With Africa making up only a small part of the global gig economy, it is about time we encourage more young Africans take advantage of this $1.5 trillion global sector.
Below are some tips to lead you towards an independent career as a working freelancer:
Invest in Yourself
Do you want to be a freelancer?!
You know you’ll be broke, right?
There’s no money in working from home!
It’s best you get a steady job.
Most of us hear these words often from family and friends who mean the best for us, and sadly after a while, we start to believe them.
Before you fall under their spell, I’m here to scream, NO! Those words are not true.
In today’s world, you can monetize your passion. If writing, designing or programming is your passion, you can make money off them. And if they are not, you can learn them. But, for that to happen, you need to invest in yourself.
Prioritize education, tools, courses and resources to make your desire a reality. You have to do the work. You must protect, nurture and invest in yourself if you want a chance to succeed against the odds.
The first step to investing in yourself and passion is to educate yourself about freelancing and managing a one-man business.
Apart from the actual work you will have to do for clients, you have to manage yourself as well. And you must keep learning so you can command higher pay for your services as you grow.
There are countless free online courses for freelancers on the web. Taking advantage of these resources is the first step towards achieving your dream of becoming a profitable freelancer.
Udacity, Udemy, Coursera, and SkillShare are some of the most recommended amongst the plethora of online-learning platforms that exist today.
These free courses provide a great opportunity for many of us, Africans, who wish to educate ourselves more but have limited or no income due to the state of our economy.
There is also a growing number of fast and free internet service areas across Africa that provide unlimited access to the internet. Examples include Google Station, the web giant’s public WIFI service, which recently went live in Nigeria.
Whatever way you choose, and whatever tools you use, start your learning now!
Carve Out Time
A lot of people want to pursue their dream of an independent career, however, most people don’t make out the time to do so.
This is why gurus are not scared of sharing their ideas and business plans… because they know most people will be too lazy to actually steal and implement them.
People tell themselves anything to put off action. Excuses like: I’ll start in six months when my children are off to boarding school or I’ll start when I get myself a new laptop.
The truth is this: You do have time, you just have to schedule it to accommodate your desire to journey into freelancing either full-time or as a side income.
Pick a time when you can focus on one sole task for at least 30 mins to 1 hour. These will go a long way to help you become the new version of you.
No man is an island. Doing anything alone is difficult.
So if you plan to start as a freelancer, make sure to join a freelance community. Week of Saturdays is here for you 🙂 and we are most active on Instagram for now. You can send in any questions you have as you navigate this new terrain. We answer all voice messages in our ongoing freelance-focused podcast to help you figure out how to create a life you love.
Learning from those that have done what you want to do successfully is the safest way to begin. That is why Week of Saturdays’ number one goal is to help young Africans succeed faster by leveraging technology and social media.
Promote Yourself and Skills
There is no better way to get connected to new jobs than by being visible to your market, both online and offline. Some things you can begin to do include:
Create a profile on at least one social media platform and keep it updated. Yes, even though you would rather gouge your eyes out, it is important you have an online presence in today’s world.
Although most freelance jobs are passed around through word-of-mouth and referrals, digital branding and networking is important to close longer-range deals.
A lot of freelancers get most of their business through social media platforms. It all depends on how well you use your time and connections on these platforms.
Gen Z doesn’t look to social media only for entertainment. It has become a place of trade and business. And these are indeed great marketing platforms to reach new clients from around the world and build your portfolio and reputation.
Start a blog
You may think that you are not a writer, and indeed, maybe you aren’t. But practice makes perfect.
If you write regularly, you will become good at it. So start a blog and share your work activities and lessons. Share your failures and triumphs. Everyone loves a good story, and the best ones are hard to forget.
Submit a Guest Blog
Guest blogging is an excellent way to get your name and skills in front of potential clients.
Pick blogs that have an engaged audience and are relevant to your market. These are the ones that can potentially bring you clients who are interested in and can pay for your services.
Make sure your posts provide useful information and insights. If you are not a writer, you can trade (by barter) your skills with another freelancer who is great at writing.
Don’t Give Up
The freelance life is great when you get it right!
Yes, it may be tough in the beginning but if you hang on to some of the advice provided in articles on this site, you have a good chance at success.
You will get to work from choice locations, earn good income, and live and work on your own schedule. But there are downsides of course. The harsh truth which every newbie must understand is that the freelance life is no walk in the park. There will be times when you may regret your decision and wish you went the conventional way.
At the risk of sounding like the Grinch who stole Christmas, I must bluntly inform you that freelancing is a tough, demanding and time-consuming career. It requires more work than you can imagine. If you focus on the benefits alone, you may be heavily disappointed.
The upside is, if you start out without your head in the clouds, and fully understand what you are up against, you can have a lucrative and fulfilling career.
Below are a few things to bear in mind:
- There is a ton of competition: Be ready to face a huge number of players on the scene
- Highs and lows: You’ll enjoy the happy feeling of landing a great client and feel the sadness of losing a good client too. Also, there will be periods when there is so much work to be done and times when there is none at all
- Problematic clients: Yes, clients from hell will come. We talked about our nastiest experience with a client in this podcast episode. Regardless of how things play out though, always remain calm and professional
- Racial discrimination: This is not thrown in your face blatantly but you may lose some jobs because of how you look or speak Just like in every other life scenario, stay calm and respectful and walk away from toxic situations before they get worse
- Limited electricity and internet connection: This is one of the most pressing problems faced by many African freelancers, especially Nigerians. We do not always have electricity to stay connected to our clients and remote teams, and if not handled, this can cause you to lose clients who aren’t patient.
Make sure you have back up electricity like power banks to keep your work running smoothly.
So what’s next for you?
Millions of people around the globe are seeking greater independence in their work lives. So, they are voluntarily joining the growing gig economy full time or part time.
Looking at world trends, hearing news of massive layoffs are signs pointing to freelancing as a lifestyle that may soon become mainstream culture, it is best that you start your practice now. Start now or start early.
Spend your time becoming expert at something, and then chart a path to the most interesting and lucrative opportunity that suits you.
Tell me, what is holding you back from testing the waters of the global gig economy?