Freelancing in South Africa has become a much more viable career option thanks to the internet. In the digital era, online freelancing has increased so much that it has created a new economy known as the gig economy. Whether you are new to the industry and looking to get a start, or you are an established professional and plan to use the skills for additional income, freelancing can be helpful to you.
You do not need to have specific qualifications to get the entry level gigs that can gain you experience, quality. Often even a sample of work can get you through. To last though, you have to be able to produce work of a superior quality because it is a client-focused profession.
What Is Freelancing?
Freelancing is when a person is self-employed and works for clients on a job by job process. This means that the freelancer is not contracted to a company or a client and is only bound to them for the job.
According to Wikipedia:
Fields, professions, and industries where freelancing is predominant include: music, writing, acting, computer programming, web design, graphic design, translating and illustrating, film and video production and other forms of piece work which some cultural theorists consider as central to the cognitive-cultural economy
With the digitization of the world, the demand for content from these fields have boomed and they are ample opportunities for both work and business.
Overview of Freelancing In South Africa
Freelancing largely entails working one-piece jobs, often with no contractual commitment beyond the one task of job. Working as a freelancer has its pros and cons. You can work a variety of jobs for different clients, all pretty much at your own time and often the jobs can be done from home. There is a reasonable amount of freedom to it and you can juggle it with other pursuits. Downsides include the amount of work needed to build a network of clients and referrers to generate you a steady stream of work. You also have to be business savvy and
In South Africa, where unemployment is very high and 1 out of every 4 people are unemployed, the growth of the global gig economy presents a lot of opportunities to get work and experience for graduates and aspiring professionals.
How Freelancing Works
The term gig, refers to doing a once-off job for a client in exchange for compensation. You might not know it yet but there are a huge number of gigs that you can get into if you know the right way to go about it. To do freelancing work successfully, you have to know key fundamentals of a sustainable business. The most important thing when freelancing is building a network.
There are two important components to this:
Produce Superior Work
The first is to do hone your skills and do the best job possible for each client, as much as you can. If you do a job well for a client and they are satisfied, they are likely to bring you repeat business. Because of the accessibility of freelancing, the quality of work that clients deal with varies from excellent to very shoddy jobs done by other freelancers. The best way to set yourself apart is by producing superior work and leaving clients happy. This will take a long time but in the long run it pays off and you can have a steady stream of work available for your clients.
The second thing is through visibility and creating a reputation that will gain you referrals. At the least, you should have a Facebook page or, preferably, a website that looks professional. Many freelancers fail at this basic step, so if you have a channel where clients can find out more about you at their leisure, you give yourself an edge in perception. Clients sometimes do not have a lot of information to discern bids from so you must put yourself at an advantage by providing that. If you are earning an income already then it is highly advisable to have a website under your own domain. If you cannot afford a premium website yet, build a free one and customize it yourself. You can build a free website at SiteRubix. You will get access to a free website with the choice from 8 wordpress themes. You will also get 10 video lessons on how to start a successful online business.
Where To Find Freelancing Jobs?
The easiest way to find freelancing work is through online freelancing platforms. These platforms serve as a middle-man between freelancers looking for work, and clients who are looking for freelancers’ services. To of the most popular platforms on the internet are UpWork and Fiverr. While these platforms are the easiest, they do come with their own set of headaches
Read: Review of UpWork for South Africans
Another place to find freelancer work is on forums for the specific field, such as literary writing forums or forums for video content creation. While forums do not offer jobs directly, you get to interact with many people who are in the same space and you can gain referrals through a forum. Here you have often highly qualified freelancers and jobs that are gained through the referrals tend to pay a lot more because the clients who request referrals usually aim for certified professionals and have the budget for it.
You can also join an association such as the South African Freelancers’ association, which is an association for media professionals. They offer career-building resources and community connections. They have regular meetings and you can learn a lot and develop yourself as a freelancer. They also have industry reports and guidelines on what rates to charge for services
Pros Of Freelancing In South Africa
A Lot Of Freedom – As a freelancer, you have the freedom to work at your own time and work at your own schedule. A lot of the jobs in freelancing are location independent i.e. they do not need you to sit in an office for the whole day. Jobs like writing and the content creation are submission based. So you are enlisted by the client to do the job by a certain date, and you submit the agreed piece of work before the deadline.
Increased Job Opportunities – In South Africa, our unemployment rate is 25% and many graduates struggle to find work. Freelancing jobs in the gig economy give opportunities, to job-seekers, that weren’t there before.
Skills can be easy to learn – Some of the skills are that are required for freelancing do not need a formal qualification, only a passion to do the job and the ability to produce a deliverable that the client will be happy with. Even jobs relating to skills in the above mentioned fields put an emphasis of experience over formal qualifications.
Cons Of Freelancing
Less Security Than Regular Jobs – In their nature, freelance jobs generally don’t give much job security. You need to build a large network of clients in order to create some sort of security for yourself, and this takes time.
Cheapening of Freelance Skills – Because of the increases access of freelance work, there is a lot of competition in the freelancing market. Many of the less established freelancers use a cheaper price for services to differentiate themselves from the competition and get the attention of clients. This undercutting often warps the expectations of clients and cheapens the value of freelance work.
Business Management – Because you are self-employed as a freelancer, you have to have a basic understanding of business. You have to be able to manage your finances and in some cases, have a basic understanding of accounting to do some things that regular employees don’t have to. For example, if ou are applying for something like home finance, you need to produce financial statements for two years. If you do not have the understanding of accounting, you have to pay an accountant to prepare the statements for you which imposes increased costs on you.
Tax liability – As a freelancer you are just as liable to tax as other employees. Since you are self-employed, you have to pay provisional tax. With provisional tax, instead of having the tax deducted monthly, you have to make your payment in two lump sums. This adds another layer of financial management and work for you to do.
What is better than Freelancing
There are Alternatives to freelancing:
Start your own company – Gone are the days when creative jobs were reserved for people who work piecemeal jobs. Writing today is a valuable skill that can be a legitimate business. This website is an example of a writing platform as a business. I write article for the website on a weekly basis and make money from the website in various forms. One example is online advertising where you get paid when people visit your website. Another way that I can bet paid is to write guest blogs on other people’s websites at what is a very good fee for the hours it takes per article.
Consulting – As a consultant, you If your skill set is high enough and it is proven to your clients, you can work for them as a consultant. The difference with being a consultant is that you can work on a retainer or on longer term projects that are for a fixed term. Say for example, you have gathered a strong team of freelancer in your profession. You can have their services under one roof as a consultancy.
Gainful Employment – A common trade-off for freelancing and self-employment is the trade-off between freedom and security. If you lean more toward security, a normal job can be a better fit for you. Many use freelancing to gain enough experience to bolster their resume and go on to work full time for a company
Freelancing presents a way to get into an industry or to gain experience when you are starting out in a field that lends itself to freelance work. Because of the lowered barrier of entry, it is possible to do freelancing for the interim. By itself, freelancing is not viable for the long term because of the limited security it affords you. For those who are skilled, it can also give them experience as well as income to built toward other things. The digital nature of the era we live in means you as a freelancer can start your own profitable business with your content creation skills.
Did you find this article helpful? If you have question or want to share your own thoughts on freelancing, leave them in the comments below.