Tips on Working as a Freelancer inside Sudan
Running your own freelancing business is a very bold move that you can take and it’s a very astonishing adventure. There are some obstacles that you need to tend to. Also, as a freelancer you’ll have a heavier duty and a more diverse job description. There are many tips and tricks that you can add to your toolbox in the areas of soft skills, relations with people, and personal branding, researching your potential clients, writing proposals, legal aspects, income sources, testimonials. Also, In Sudan there are many dilemmas in the path of freelancers. There are organisations and communities that will help you in a great deal throughout your freelancing journey. The lifelong learning, learning of new languages and cultures, and earning a new citizenship are also cool things that a freelancer should consider.
Running your own freelancing business is a very amazing adventure. You’ll get your own time scheduling your workdays and work hours per week or per month. You get to price your services in the currencies’ you want. You’ll get to select your vacations. You’ll get to choose your own vacations. You’ll be be able to work from wherever you want as long as you’re connected to the internet. You’re basically the independent master of your own time, movement, and wealth.
Just like everything in this life there are obstacles that you might encounter in freelancing. Before starting your freelancing business, you should have an income source be it a full-time job, a part-time job, a shop, commerce, or trading, driving a taxi, or anything that brings you good money. Don’t let go of that income source until you make sure that your freelancing business became financially reliable, sustainable, and stable. Then and only then you can dedicate all of your time and effort to your freelancing business. Because in freelancing business you don’t get paid unless you land a client and deliver the agreed-upon project deliverables in a specific timeline to that client. Sometimes you might get lucky by having a flexible client who’ll pay you your money per month (as in a retainer of services), or per project milestone. But most of the time you’ll only get paid when you deliver the whole project. So don’t let go of your current job until your freelancing business is financially reliable and stable.
In freelancing your duties are heavier than being an ordinary employee or manager. In freelancing you don’t have a single role. Actually you have multiple roles: you’re the founder, the CEO, the CFO, the accountant, the PR manager, the marketing manager, the project manager, the program manager, operations manager, HR manager [only in case you want to hire an assistant], the sales manager, the head of research and development, the head of communications office, and the IT manager. Did I miss something?
These multiple roles and duties fall on you to do because freelancing is basically a business. Only after you take a serious and successful part all of those roles, and duties in your freelancing business, then you would be actually able to do your original job title and provide your specialised professional services related to your field of expertise that you’re an expert and a professional in it. For me I have to do all of these tasks, and play all of these roles in order to finally provide my services in data journalism and data science to my clients. Of course some of these other roles actually take part after you start the project assigned to you like the roles of: project management, program management, and operations management.
Soft Skills, Professional & Personal Relations, and Personal Branding
Soft skills and your relations with people play a very integral major role in the success of your freelancing business. You should be approachable and likeable to all people. You should have a strong personal brand in social media. In personal branding you should spend 80% of your time and effort in engaging with other people’s posts and content in social media and only spend 20% of your time and effort in promoting for yourself, your professional services and products, and what you stand for. Also, do create your own website using Wordpress, Google Blogspot, or commission a web developer to create one for you. And do start your own blog and start writing articles that will show your expertise, knowledge, and experiences.
“Your network is your net worth.”
Do learn the fashion, business etiquettes, and other events etiquettes. Also, for you to create and nurture your professional network you can attend in person events to learn something new, do some networking, exchange business cards, and trade favours.
“Mabel, Mabel, strong and able,
Keep your elbows off the table,
This is not a horse’s stable,
But a fancy dining table.”
Invite potential clients to business lunches, business breakfasts, or business coffees to show them that you’re serious in doing business with them and talk about how can your services help their business achieve more in its mission, vision, and of course profits.
After creating a solid network of professional and personal connections, start trading favours and always always give before you take. In the game of trading favours you will be serving others in your professional network of connections with whatever they need in whatever you can in hopes that those people would return the favours to you at a later time in whatever you need in whatever they can. And it doesn’t have to be the same person whom you served at a time in the past. Allah might send you a person to serve you in whatever you need in whatever he/she can because what goes around comes around one way or the other.
Researching of Potential Clients
Research your potential clients by studying their line of business, line of industry, reading their own reports, articles, blogs, their posts on social media pages, watch YouTube videos produced by them or about them, listen to podcast episodes that are produced by them or about them, and go to Bloomberg to know their public financial information. Then start recording your notes on the major keywords that you need to know and remember always when doing business with them like: what are they interested in, where are they heading to, what do they want to achieve, how can your professional services help them, what are the characteristics of their founders and managers, and etc.
Then record all of these information along with their emails, phone numbers of these companies and your key people inside them in a CRM. All of these information will help you pitch freelancing projects and write proposals that are tailored to their industries and interests and will hopefully land grab your potential clients’ attention, read it, arrange a meeting with you and then you might sign a deal or not.
“You can’t hunt for a whale in a small water pond. You have to sail to the open ocean to hunt for whales!”
Pricing of Services
In pricing your services, the first thing for you to do is calculate your daily monthly, and annual expenses. Based on your own expenses and other factors like your experience, certificates, your potential clients’ financial information like their value in the capital markets, and your potential clients’ market share you can set your prices. Don’t set the same price for everyone. And don’t set the price that “you would pay” . Sometimes your prices might go up and sometimes they might go down.
Legal Aspects and Contracts
Get a lawyer to review the contracts that you write or given to you or draft and write them for you. Unfortunately, in real life there are many who treacherous, malicious, bad people who will always seek to take advantage of you, your time, your professional services, and your efforts. That’s why introducing a lawyer into your freelancing business is a very good idea.
And contracts are your friend. They’re the crucial way that will guarantee that you will be paid or sue your client in order to be paid. If your potential client decided not to sign a contract with you, then it’s good that they got scared away too early because they were never serious in doing an honest business deal with you.
Sometimes you might encounter clients from overseas outside Sudan or outside the country you live in, who would say: “no I don’t want to sign a contract with you because an email message detailing the same information in a contract is more than enough and can be used in the courts of law to hold each party accountable to the agreement.”
This might hold some truth, but you’re a Sudanese citizen who lives inside Sudan. You’re not living in the same country of that client and you didn’t get any proof that this piece of information is true or not. So, it’s better to be safe than sorry and insist on signing an official contract.
Proposals, Proposals, Proposals !
Now, you are proficient in knowing who are your potential clients, what are your prices, and you do have a solid network of professional and personal connections. Then comes the part of writing proposals. Sometimes there would be an “RFP” (request for proposal) in which the company, individual, or entity will publish an RFP in order to receive the bids by freelancers, companies, or individuals with the prices, executive summary, methodology, final deliverables, approach, problem statement, and other related important details. Then a reply will be sent to you after a considerable length of time.
But most of the time you will be pitching projects proposals by your own self to your potential clients. Basically after researching your potential clients, you’ll get a clear understanding of what are the interests of your potential clients. Thus, you will be able to brainstorm new projects that are mostly and solemnly dependent on the professional services that you’re providing then write proposals about these projects and pitch them to your potential clients. Of course when you pitch a project proposal to your potential clients you have to be more convincing in your writing.
Don’t forget to ask your clients for testimonials. Testimonials are the most precious thing aside from money that will help your business flourish and be sustainable.
The Sudanese Dilemma
When working for a client outside Sudan, make sure you both agree on a feasible way of payment like in cash transfers via the Western Union. That’s because Sudan is still suffering from economic sanctions in the area of the bank transfers and fintech like PayPal, Payoneer, World Remit, Wise, Flutterwave, or any other e-payment app are still unavailable in Sudan.
Currently the Sudanese banks are only able to send and receive bank transfers to and from Saudi Arabia and UAE only but the banks in the rest of the world still do not provide the service of transferring money to and from Sudanese banks.
There are news of a new e-payment app in Sudan called “Bloom”, that would enable people inside Sudan to exchange Sudanese pounds to American dollars and vice versa and will allow its users to issue prepaid Master Cards but still it’s not available and I don’t know if it would make payments from outside Sudan easier or not.
Your potential client might be in one of the four corners of the Earth, so make sure that he/she is able to pay you via Western Union or any other possible method before signing any deal or starting any kind of work.
It’s very very important that you have a stable work environment for you to do your freelancing business and deliver the products and services to your clients on time and in the best way possible. So, get an office with reliable electricity, water, and network services by installing in your house a diesel electricity generator, a solar energy panel, or rent an office in one of the available workspaces in Sudan like Impact Hub, We Hub, Sudavation, or Link Hub, which will provide you with stable electricity, water supply, a private office, a public working space, printers, meeting rooms, coffee, tea, reliable internet connections, and other cool services.
Unfortunately, freelancing platforms like UpWork are not available yet in Sudan.
Diversification of Income Sources
“Never put your eggs in one basket.”
Now you got the money. That’s awesome and you deserve it. After getting enough amount of money you should start using part of it in creating new income sources for yourself. Go and invest in real estate in other countries outside Sudan, start in trade, invest in financial markets, invest in cryptocurrency. Actually do your own market research and ask arounds to know what’s best for you either inside Sudan or outside Sudan, but never ever rely on a single source of income. You never know what will happen in the future. Like those civil engineers who lost their jobs because all construction projects were halted in the first year of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Commmunities and Organisations to Join
There are many professional organisations and communities to join. Some are general business communities and organisations and other are industry-specific organisations and communities. You should join them as connections with other members in these communities and organisiations will help you greatly in introducing you to a new potential client, winning a tender, winning a contract, partnerships, trading favours, and other areas.
From these general business or general life communities and organisations are:
Because I am a data journalist and data scientist, I am a a member and/or I am following and engaging with these data-oriented communities and organisations. And I suggest you do the same if you’re a data-oriented person:
- Tableau Public Community
- Data Visualisation Society
- Towards Data Science
- Deep Learning . AI
- Data Camp
Never stop learning. Always keep yourself updated with the latest trends and new things in your field. Always read books, take courses, practice, and innovate. The moment you stop your learning process is the moment you start to decline and fail. Always learn even if you couldn’t dedicate but a half an hour per day for it.
New Languages and New Cultures
Learn new languages as they will help you reach out to a greater range of potential clients and do learn new cultures as they will help you reach out to your potential clients in a more delicate and diplomatic fashion that would be very appealing and approachable to them.
An Additional Nationality
Consider having an additional nationality because having another nationality aside from the Sudanese nationality will definitely make your life become easier in your freelancing business and in everything else.
Starting your own freelancing business is a great adventure. There are some hardships that you need to surpass in the way. Also, as a freelancer you’ll multiple duties and responsibilities. There are many tips and tricks that you need add to your list in of notes in soft skills, relations with people, and personal branding, researching your potential clients, writing proposals, legal aspects, income sources, testimonials. Sudan is a Hell for freelancers, but there are ways to evade this Hell. Joining a couple of organisations and communities will help you in a great deal throughout your freelancing journey. The learning process, and having a new citizenship are important things that a freelancer should consider.
Happy Freelancing ya’ll :)