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What is life like for an Australian freelancer working in Serbia?

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It was the year 2006 when my 27 year-old mother and 29 year-old father decided to move from Serbia and live in Perth, Australia - the year I became a child of first generation immigrant parents. I was forced to adapt quickly to a completely different culture, language and educational system. Even though my parents never pressured me, a sense of obligation toward them was always present. I aspired to make them proud and exhibit my gratitude for the sacrifices they have made in order to provide a better future for me. My father worked hard to regain his qualifications and licences as an electrical engineer, whilst my mother was bound at home, taking care of me – her little daughter. As the years went by, and we became relatively settled in our new home, she was introduced to the world of freelancing – a world of abundant opportunities in which it was possible to earn money from the comfort of our couch. My mother financed our first visit back to Serbia. Her efforts and determination as a freelancer allowed us to reunite with the rest of our family which we hadn’t seen in years, and which we missed dearly. She is my role-model, one of my main sources of inspiration, and the person who encouraged and motivated me to follow in her footsteps.

As a native English speaker who has always had a zeal for reading, writing and communication, I decided to pursue my passions even further by applying to the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade. My studies have made me knowledgeable on various subjects ranging from linguistics, translation, teaching methods, and even the literature and history of different cultures. However, being solely knowledgeable on the aforementioned fields of study was not satisfying enough to me. I wanted to put my expertise to use and pass my knowledge on to others. Hence, I began freelancing in 2016, as a student with little to no work experience who simply wished to be offered a chance. That chance was handed to me on Freelancer.com. I started out as an English as a Second Language tutor, working with both children and adults. Having proved to myself that I’m adequately qualified and competent to accomplish such work not only encouraged me to perfect my teaching methods, but also motivated me to perform better at university. From there, I gradually progressed on to virtual assistance, translating, and writing multifarious content.

Working remotely and being self-employed offers numerous benefits - there is something out there for nearly anyone, and there is no need to waste extra time and costs on public transport services, nor to sit in dull office spaces from nine to five. These are just some of the reasons as to why the majority of my accepted projects and pursuits are completed through various platforms on the internet (Upwork, Freelancer, and ProZ). It is the dynamicity which attracts me the most. In fact, I find it to be the most rewarding aspect of freelancing – rarely ever being stuck on the same type of project, rarely ever communicating with the same type of people, and rarely ever being situated in one same location. This very task was drafted on a sunny Monday morning by the river Danube, in my current country of residence – Serbia.

My birth country of Serbia offers a much more advantageous health insurance program than in my previous country of residence - Australia. In Australia, it is necessary to possess both private and government health insurance in order to be adequately secured. Specialist doctors are practically inaccessible, and extremely expensive. Plus, the wait to even make an appointment is an incredibly lengthened process. However, the positive thing about Australia’s health insurance program is that frequent check-ups are encouraged, and awareness on prevention is constantly spread to its users. In Serbia, my health insurance is currently covered by my family, and my status as a student. The student clinics provide bounteous conveniences – cost-free check-ups and services of undisputedly any kind. My most recent visit involved getting my wisdom teeth taken out at the service of an oral surgeon which was completed with utter professionalism at no cost whatsoever. These assistances are not granted to students only. Each person in Serbia which uses government health insurance is provided with the same concessions. Although most residents of Serbia tend to be covered with a considerably rewarding health insurance program, the average yearly income per person is a contrastive and grim reality. A payment of approximately €250 each month is simply insufficient. Many households struggle with making ends meet. This actuality is why a universal basic income would not only help me, nor solely the residents of my country, but also the vast majority of residents around the world. Poverty is a completely legitimate and horrific predicament to be existing in. Distraughtfully, I see it everywhere around me.

The lack of a reasonable salary is oftentimes precisely the reason as to why masses resort over to secondary sources of income, such as freelancing. However, even such undertakings come with their disadvantages. Self-employed citizens of Serbia are constrained to put aside 48% of their earnings toward tax expenses, or reap the consequences as regards to working illegally. In addition to this, Upwork, Freelancer and similar platforms subtract another 10-20% from an individual's earnings per achieved job. Suddenly, you are left with less than half of the amount you arduously worked for. There exist ways in which it's possible to be charged less, though. One of them is opening your own firm. This is specifically the reasoning as to why I'd like to create my own website, and eventually open my own company.

Ultimately, the world of online work offers an extensive amount of opportunities for almost anyone. Just like most things on this Earth, it has its advantages and disadvantages. I am personally satisfied with the experiences I've gained as a freelancer, even though there are constantly ways to improve user encounters. Thanks to my efforts as a freelancer, and my mother as a role-model, I will be travelling to Seychelles in just a few days over a week. If anyone is considering to give freelancing an attempt, I wholly support them in their endeavours.
Author: Teodora Topic