Updated: Jun 19
Freelancing, a new word that has popped up in the work industry and is considered a blessing for the unemployed youth of Pakistan. Freelancing, in general, is the idea of working remotely and selling your skills online. As a freelancer, the possibilities are endless and, without the need to follow company guidelines and rules, there is no barrier to creative expression. People all around the world freelance as a side hustle or as a full-time job. Reports suggest that due to the diversity and flexibility of freelancing, it can be pursued by anyone at any age.
In the freelancing community, there are people as young as 16 and as old as 60. This shows that freelancing has a space for everyone. One of the biggest advantages of freelancing that attracts people is the fact that it is very time-flexible meaning a person can work at any time they prefer. Secondly, in freelancing, there is no authority that a person needs to answer to as they work for themselves, which results in more flexibility in projects and getting to choose what they want to do. Freelancing also allows to gain work experience in many different fields as there is no one stream of work that one has to be stuck at, rather many different types of streams of works can be tried and joined. The biggest magnetic quality of freelancing is the pay it can provide. On average, freelancers around the globe can earn from 20 to 25 dollars per project and, depending on the number of projects they do monthly, this figure can create a fortune.
In Pakistan, freelancing has gone from being an inadequate project that only results in laziness and disgrace in society to a viable means of income and side hustle for many. Since 2018, Pakistan has risen as the 4th freelancing hub in the world and the biggest freelancing hub of Asia. The freelancing community earns half a billion dollars annually and earns substantial foreign exchange for Pakistan. In the freelancing community of Pakistan, web designing and graphic designing are the most popular freelancing categories but, as mentioned above, the choice of careers and streams of work are infinite. Now, as many people have started to work in freelancing as a full-time job, Pakistan has acquired 9% of total freelancers as of this year. Though the earnings of freelancers went through a major setback in the first half of the global pandemic, their incomes rose about 40% more than usual in the second half.
It is no secret that the freelance market in Pakistan has come a long way, but one unexpected benefit that it brought with it is that it has closed up the gender pay gap. As we all know the gender pay gap is a prevalent issue in mainstream workspaces as women earn 82 cents for every dollar that a man makes. Surprisingly, in freelancing, this misogynistic issue has been impacted positively. Reports from Payoneer, an American financial service that is the equivalent of PayPal in Pakistan, says that in Pakistan's freelancing community, on average, women earn 22 dollars per project while men earn 20 dollars per project. This situation is the complete opposite of what we see in mainstream workspaces. Moreover, freelancing provides an opportunity for women to comfortably work from home or any other comfortable space, ultimately allowing them to avoid unpleasant experiences such as office bias, workplace harassment, etc.
However, without proper guidance or correct opinion, freelancing can be an intimidating start. So I decided to ask our team about their experiences in freelancing. Yasmin, a UK-based freelance writer who is also a team member at Perspective, in response to why she decided to start freelancing, answered that "I wanted to enter the journalism field and so the best way to do that is to get involved as much as you can. Freelancing is a great way to do that. It's a good side hustle for me, but also something I genuinely enjoy." Ibra Aamir, a freelance writer and Features Editor at Perspective told that she was only 15 when she got into freelancing. When asked about the biggest downfall of freelancing, she offered an insightful perspective. She said, "you don't get to feel that workspace environment, but something bigger than this which I think only exists in Pakistan is the income. Our work is not valued as much as that of a full-time employee. Abroad freelancers earn hundreds of dollars per project, however, in Pakistan, we get only a few thousand rupees for the same hard work. In my opinion, it might be because Pakistani customers have this misconception about freelancers that they are free and they need money so they will agree on whatever is offered." Anmol Irfan, the founder of Perspective and a freelance writer, addressing this misconception in Pakistan, advises all the beginning freelancers "to never underestimate your work and never to work for free, never think that because you are new you should get paid less or not get paid a lot. Instead, remember that you are putting in your hard work and skill which deserves to be valued."
Freelancing, in conclusion, is a very variable career choice and might not be for everyone, but it is a career option that is profitable and fulfilling. With the new advancements done by the government and current situation, freelancing can be a great side hustle and something new to try. In my personal opinion, freelancing, much like people's different tastes, depends on what you prefer and what you can handle. While there are many advantages of freelancing, like anything else, there are disadvantages too and some of them can be quite personal and based on what you as a person might prefer. For example, if you prefer to work or can efficiently work in a structured teamwork setting, then this might not be for you as freelancing can be lonely, but then again it is quite variable. I see freelancing as an opportunity and something that should be tried by everyone at least once.
Umamah Asif Burney is an in-house writer at Perspective.