The onslaught of the deadly pandemic has sent the world economy, including ours, into a tailspin, leading to seismic changes that have rendered many people vulnerable and in a quagmire of uncertainty. In the new normal, job security has become a constant lingering question as lay-offs have been normalised, salary cuts have been instrumentalised, and eking out new modes of working have been standardised.
It is not uncommon to see people looking for work on LinkedIn as we see a wide array of people from professionals to graduates to young students to anybody in general who is affected by the pandemic and is willing to make a few bucks to keep things going it were before. In order to offset the changes in income, job security, and uncertainty thrust upon us by the pandemic, many people, regardless of backgrounds and age have taken to freelancing.
Boom from Bust
The pandemic has spurred a freelance boom in which any skill from digital marketing to illustration to ghostwriting to media management to multiple others have been seeing a spike in demand as remote working has replaced the traditional office space. With lay-offs and salary cuts, this provides a lifeline to bring out creativity and synergy to the job market and ensuring a level of unhampered job security. There are a plethora of services and skills for you to choose from. It is important that you work on a specific field and master most of the skills needed to serve in that field. As work becomes digitised and the gig economy is put on focus, we see people turning to freelance for a more secure stream of income, autonomy, and creating a harmonized work-life balanced which has in many ways been jeopardised by the pandemic.
Bangladesh currently has an estimated 650,000 active freelancers who are working regularly and with the pandemic, countless more have been added, some of whom are working on a part-time basis as well to supplement incomes and widen experiences. While there have been some challenges to freelancing in the pandemic due to payment issues and fall in demand due to a number of factors such as readjustments in the industries and beyond, many young people, including students and graduates, see freelancing as a lifeline of hope.
Nazia Mahmud, a recent graduate, sees “freelancing as the best thing to do amidst the pandemic as it was an escape route from daily tribulations of life in an age of social distancing”. Just like Nazia, the class of 2020, is engulfed in a storm of precariousness as future job prospects seem bleak. For someone who had to research and write articles on a varied number of topics, this presented her with a chance to get some work experience in a remote space, which seems to be the new office platform, as well as earn some cash. Either way, building up a CV with an opportunity of honing writing and research skills alongside earning cash seems like a good thing in a time of s socio-economic crisis such as ours.
For those starting out, there are many freelancing platforms for beginners such as Freelancer, Upwork, Fiverr and to those on top of their game, there is Toptal. With good communication skills, professionalism and government IDs, freelancing is open to anyone to channel their energies to produce work as desired by the clients.
“It is easy to freelance now than it was before due to stronger systems of payment options and more versatility of clients who are willing to see what you do as a chance of proving your worth in the market”, remarked Shubhomoy, who works as a head of design in an IT company and dabbles in illustration and website design in his free time. In the pandemic, as work from home has become official, he has more space on his hands to try out what he calls “riskier and challenging projects” that he feels will land him in a “better position in the future as he will have a stronger portfolio”.
Breaking down assumptions
Being free agents of choice and masters of their own destiny, freelancing is never seen as a viable social option of employment in Bangladesh. Still, for many people, an ideal job projected onto people is of a doctor, engineer, or businessperson. Freelancing entails a wide variety of skills and many pay well, something many are not aware of.
Reidwanna, a recent graduate who has two and half years of experience freelancing sees freelancing as a tough job with a “stick and carrot policy”. If you are not able to keep up your performance, it gets risky to get the next customer. Performance is duly tracked and noticed. Freelancing is contingent upon experience mainly and patience is a major virtue when starting out.
A major assumption is that all freelancing is done in solitude. This is a false assumption, as collaboration is a frequent feature especially when working in projects with Zoom calls and multiple WhatsApp groups being made. When dealing with website design with a number of people from across the world, Riwaj`, has to attend a late-night meeting in sync with this employer to discuss and make plans for the layout. “We often have to sound off our ideas and meetings often take hours as a group effort is needed otherwise a whole project falls apart”, remarked Riwaj.
While it is true freelancing falls under remote work, freelancers also have to engage in legwork from time to time when it comes to constructing ideas and put them in action. A freelance writer on lifestyle and fashion, Tanisha says, “I often have to go to shops and observe the products, their prices, and qualities before I can go home and pen a piece which would be value for money for my client. Otherwise, I know I would not be able to earn my targeted amount”. Sincerity and persuasion remain cornerstones of negotiation when landing good offers for working.
As everyone jumps on the freelancing bandwagon, we will see the emergence of a much robust informal economy as the pandemic plunges us in further anxiety. We might be seeing a malleable and digitization of labour and capital reallocation.
— to www.thedailystar.net