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Freelancing means working flexitime

Working flexitime! Flexible work hours are a dream of every individual working in the corporate sector, especially in a developing country like Pakistan where the concept of work-life balance is close to zero. I was one of the luckiest graduates of my engineering school to get a job at a multinational organization right after finishing my bachelor’s degree and also managed to get a post graduate engineering degree while working 9 hours a day! I was earning well, had a stable income and was also working as a homemaker looking after the needs of my family ranging from a home cooked meal on the table every night to cleaning and folding laundry in the closet. Amidst all that, I stopped finding the time to live. This was when I got lucky again. I realized and foresee the impact of my crazy schedule on my home and more importantly my health. That was the day when I first thought of changing my work life, the first time I thought of freelancing.

Being a safe player and an over thinker, I thought over it a lot. It took me months of research to finally make up my mind to quit my corporate career and to fully begin work as a freelancer. I would not be exaggerating if I say that this was one of the most difficult decisions that I had to make but I am proud that it was also an informed one. My major concern was to not switch my field and to not let all the years of specialized education and experience go to waste. So, my first goal was to research and see if there is a demand for renewable energy engineers in the freelancing world, and if yes what is the kind of fee, they are being paid for the services they are asked to offer. Once I got satisfied with the market demand and compensation, nothing could stop me, I was finally feeling free, finally hoping to get the control back on my life and I took the leap.
There are two things that one needs to be aware of when beginning their career as a freelancer:
1) It is going to take you a while to get to your target income or to match your last full time work salary.
2) And it is okay. The most challenging part of freelancing is to get those first few jobs, and subsequently a good reputation. I utilized two forums to freelance, one was Upwork and the other was the connections I had in the market to take up industrial projects as a consultant. The latter pays higher but there are, at times, gaps worth of months between two projects that you can get being an individual consultant. Upwork or other similar freelancing platforms on the other hand provide you with hundreds of opportunities within a single month. For some careers, having your own website might help even better, for example, having your own blog or making your own platform to provide financial services. For people with engineering backgrounds working in design or software developers also have a high potential in having their own specialized platforms. For me, this was not an option at least at the current stage, hence I decided to work full time at Upwork and today 100% of my work is online. To manage my expenses better I have targeted an income that would include the benefits I had while working a full time, job for example paid annual leave and health insurance. I have not yet reached there but I can see it happening really soon, as once you start working more work begins to just roll in. Maybe I am getting lucky again? Or maybe I planned it all well to keep my calm through the initial rejections and kept applying for the right jobs. Whichever it was, if it could happen for me it can happen for anyone.

Through transitions like these or the beginning of careers for some, an allowance from the government in the form of an insurance or a universal basic income can go a long way! Unfortunately, it is a privilege that residents of underdeveloped or developing countries cannot even dare to dream of. But for more settled nations a fixed basic income can provide financial security and cover the cost of living, to ultimately make an individual’s life a lot easier. The reduced stress would also eventually lead to lowering the burden of health insurance on the state, eventually benefitting both, but that is a whole different discussion.

Like all other things in life, while having its benefits freelancing comes with it challenges as well, ranging from personal. Having to earn a stable income and the unreliability of finding enough jobs every month to pay your bills is the challenge that stays. But it naturally gets easier with the increasing duration of work experience. Another struggle, at a more personal level is setting your routine right and to not procrastinate. This is a trait which varies from person to person, but it's human to feel lazy while sitting at one’s favorite couch in front of the TV or a PlayStation. What works for me, is setting up a schedule, waking up on time and getting ready to work; making up the right mood goes a long way and surely reflects in your work. A distraction free environment is a plus, whether you are writing a fictional novel or developing a phone application, and this comes from managing your time the way you want it.

Freelancing gives us the liberty of choosing our own work hours, if that writer's block goes away at midnight or that innovative idea to resolve a physics query comes later in the afternoon, that is when you are going to work and that is when you are going to be the best at it. You can work after putting your kids to bed, doing a quick grocery run or loading your dishwasher, it is your choice, your life and your work. And this is how flexible it gets. This is what I love about freelancing. Flexible work hours!
Author: Rabab Rabbani