x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Working for yourself

Tips and advice for the self-employed and the freelancers.

Dubai, UAE, December 25, 2012: 

Joe Akkawi, the managing partner of Paz Marketing, enjoys a ciggarette outside of his office. In regards to the images Mr Akkawi said
Dubai, UAE, December 25, 2012: Joe Akkawi, the managing partner of Paz Marketing, enjoys a ciggarette outside of his office. In regards to the images Mr Akkawi said "Most smokers are very well aware of the dangers involved in smoking and I don't think the images tell us anything we're not aware of". His office is located in Garhoud. Lee Hoagland/The National
Many of us dream of having the freedom and flexibility of being self-employed or a full-time freelancer. It does look rather rosy from the outside; flexible working hours, the advantage of making any place with a Wi-Fi connection your office and the joy of working for yourself are just some of the perks.Research shows that self-employment is on the rise - for example, the number of young self-employed workers in the UK has risen by more than 70,000 since the economic crisis began in 2008. Meanwhile, a recent poll by Bayt.com shows that 69 per cent of Mena residents consider freelancing as a viable career option.
But, as with anything, there are a number of downsides to deal with. If you?re a one-woman/man show, loneliness can set in. A lack of self-motivation and not knowing who your next client will be are other challenges.
We talk to some self-employed entrepreneurs and full-time freelancers in the UAE for their tips and advice on how to get the most out of going it alone.Build a solid understanding of how finance worksAccording to Joe Akkawi, a 30-year-old Jordanian who set up PAZ Marketing in Dubai with his father and sister back in October 2008, says that one of the biggest challenges in an independent work environment is managing the financial aspects of a company. "Entrepreneurial bloggers spend hours talking about passion for running a business, but neglect to highlight the importance of making money," explains Akkawi. "My recommendation is to invest in getting basic training in the fundamentals: profit and loss, HR budgeting, and going as far as learning about CAPEX and forecasting. You will be amazed at how setting correct targets and strict forecasted payments can help you identify loopholes in your revenue model and improve the overall financial stream of your business."Stay self-motivated and disciplinedStaying disciplined when you don?t have set office hours to stick to can be something of a challenge for many freelancers and those who are self-employed. Loulou Khazen Baz, one of the founders of Nabbesh - an online community that connects freelancers with work in the Middle East - says that motivation is what drives freelancers at the beginning stages and discipline is what keeps them going."The crucial part of staying disciplined is for freelancers to surround themselves with peers to stay motivated, ensure that they have a pipeline of projects that are exciting and rewarding, and to try to be selective with the clients they choose," says the 31-year-old Lebanese entrepreneur. "I have learnt from successful freelancers that they normally select a few ?dull? projects for cash flow purposes, and then they make sure to select ?fun? projects (even at a lower pay) for them to stay motivated," she explains.Challenge yourself to improve your product or service every dayEven if your product or business is doing well, Georges Georgiou, a 42-year-old British Cypriot and owner of The Dental Card - an alternative to dental insurance - says that you should always try to find out how things can be done better. "The moment you get complacent, one of your competitors could swoop right by you," he warns. "My view of a good brand is something that is consistent, but not stale. Brands must be consistent in delivering something of value regardless of whether 100 or one million people are buying it. What consumers want and need changes regularly, and brands should evolve to make sure they deliver a relevant product. Even if your sales are steady, what is the harm in trying something new to grow your business?" he asks.Build a base of repeat clientsOne of the challenges facing new freelancers is getting their first clients. Faisal Hashmi, a 23-year-old Pakistani freelance filmmaker living in Sharjah, says that if you have zero experience in your portfolio, it?s worth doing a couple of gigs for free to get experience. He also says that you should market yourself by having an online presence. Following this, Hashmi says it?s important to build a base of clients who you?ll have an ongoing relationship with after the first project, instead of focusing on one-off gigs. "This leads to a more stable income that you can then budget in, and the bond you build with the client gets better over time as well," he says.Try to maintain balanceBeing self-employed or a freelancer is a big challenge when you are constantly torn between your working hours and personal life. Business partners Ayshwarya Chari, a 33-year-old from India, and Kirsten van Langeveld, a 38-year-old from Holland, started 6ambabies - an online store for baby products - in 2011. Chari says that it?s difficult to come up with structured ?office hours,? so it?s not very easy to lock yourself up and work away from distractions, especially when you have kids. "The best tip would be to find a semblance of structure around what works for you," says Chari. "Kirsten likes working late into the night, while I have resorted to 5am starts. You have to think of it as having usual working hours and stick to it," she says."There are also times you need to get away from it all and take off to someplace where you can work distraction free! We love MAKE Business Hub in Dubai and only wish there were more places like that which offer support and a place to network for entrepreneurs," she says.artslife