Africa remains a study in the way potential/opportunity lies side by side with the unpleasant realities bedevilling the continent. At the heart of problems confronting many African nations are issues about worsening poverty, increasing unemployment, inadequate infrastructure and rising inflation among others. However, Africa is also fast becoming the destination of choice for investors and financiers that are seeking emerging markets, backed by large populations, to start/operate profitable businesses.
Freelancing is one of the emerging opportunities on the African continent. Also referred to as the ‘gig’ economy, freelancing receives facilitation from advances in science and technology. These advances are fuelling a change in work and lifestyle patterns, especially among the youths. At its most basic, freelancing entails being one’s boss, creating one’s job, and independently working from home This demographic are utilizing online platforms and media in offering skill sets and other proficiencies in the execution of tasks/projects for a fee, to clients whom they may never get to see face to face! And all this happens with a computer and an internet connection (you could also throw inadequate power supply)
So if you are thinking of pursuing a freelancing career from anywhere on the continent, then you will do well to consider the following points about the practice in Africa:
Freelancing appeals to the young and young at heart
As noted at the beginning of this article, unemployment (as well as underemployment) poses a challenge to many youths across the continent. With job markets shrinking in size, many graduates and other ‘unskilled’ individuals find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. In this regard, Freelance provides a viable alternative to paid employment. Attracted by the freedom to work from home or anyplace, African youths see freelancing as the means of earning income independently and on their terms.
In fact fast-growing technological sectors such as Information Technology, graphics design, content creation and marketing, visual arts, communications among other endeavours, encourage young people to initiate/run projects of their own, working with many clients and customers simultaneously.
Another appeal of freelancing on the continent is the flexibility it gives to others who are in paid employment but render such services on a part-time basis, as a means of earning extra income.
The emergence of African freelance platforms
While Africa may have joined the freelance fray later than other continents, practitioners are keeping pace with recent developments in the global business of freelancing. This pacing centres on the emergence of freelance platforms based on the continent. These structures bring together freelance professionals and clients, where projects and tasks are carried out with close supervision and monitoring from both parties.
These platforms are many and cut across the African continent. From justfrom5k.com in Nigeria to freelancecapetown.com and NoSweat in South Africa, these structures are making telling contributions to the practice of freelancing in Africa. Membership in these platforms is easy, and both sides of the divide receive adequate protection and guarantees in the course of collaboration.
If you decide to pursue a career in freelancing on the continent, these websites are right places to horn your craft.
Businesses and Companies are buying into the idea
As a means of cutting down on costs and other overheads, many business enterprises often outsource certain aspects of their operations to individuals and other businesses. Freelancing, in a sense, is also regarded as outsourcing.
Businesses on the continent look favourably on freelancing because of the flexibility of the operations, an abundance of talent and the lower costs associated with the service. In fact, studies conducted by a freelance club in Tunisia found that a freelancer costs 30% less than hiring a regular employee, especially since overheads like social/ health coverage and retirement benefits are out of the picture.
Besides, the digitisation of the international marketplace means that more African companies are turning to the freelancing model to remain competitive.
Limits and Challenges exist
Being a freelancer is no stroll in the park. You do not just raise your legs, crossed over a table and expect jobs/steady earnings to fall in your laps. Freelancing on the African continent is still emerging and growing. In other words, it means that obtaining continuous projects and income is not a given, especially for the newbie. Even for the experienced freelancer, there will be days when such an individual is swamped with work orders and tasks; backed up with commensurate earnings. On other days, a lack of engagements could leave one wondering if freelancing is the right career choice in the first place.
The issue of placing an appropriate premium on your work/expertise is another area of consideration. If clients deem your charges as excessive, you may find that you may not be able to execute a sufficient number of jobs to earn a sustainable living. On the other hand, if you do fall into the trap of underpricing your services, then your input will surpass the returns (read as income) on your efforts.
Note also that the average freelancer in Africa performs some tasks aside his/her area(s) of core competence. All at once, it becomes necessary to manage the accounting/record-keeping, ensure treatment and payment invoices of clients, compute earnings and turn over, keep track of expenses, and remain abreast of enabling contractual statutes, legal updates as well changes in work codes of conduct. Performing this array of functions may impede the delivery of the freelancer’s best work and hurt relationships with clients.
There is little debate that freelancing on the African continent gathers momentum with each passing day. Technology and other enablers continue to make freelancing an attractive choice for individuals ready to pay the prices of persistence and hard but intelligent work.
Will everyone become a freelancer in Africa? The answer is a no; however as the economic needs/wants of the continent match up with present-day realities of globalisation and competitiveness, freelancing will play an increasing part in the provision of practical yet affordable solutions.