They say that change is good. But change is scary, especially changing your lifestyle that you have been comfortable with and successful at for a number of years. I am Heba Hassan and I am from Egypt where freelancing is still a mysterious term that some people use to describe things that have nothing to do with freelancing.
I graduated with an Accounting major in 2002, and like many university graduates, I found that the practical life has nothing to do with what we studied and what we were trained for. I loved banking and working with numbers. I thought that it is a prestigious job and I still remember that I was super excited about training at a bank during my third year of college. But when it was show time, I got really frustrated. The hours were so long and there was so much stress that I just felt so uncomfortable.
As a junior employee you are actually given only one small segment of the job that you have to do. EVERY SINGLE DAY. What you do today is what you will be doing tomorrow, and is probably what you will be doing 10 years from now. It was just so monotonous and was definitely not the right job for me. I quit during my trial period.
When Everything Started to Change:
I got a job as a teacher and I immediately fell in love. I felt that I could literally change lives. Working as a teacher is probably one of the few jobs that allow you to see the immediate impact of what you do on others. It provides a great sense of achievement and pride.
Over the course of 14 years, I taught English as a second language to different grades and age groups, from elementary students to adults. I had to attend some teaching workshops and I studied at the British Council and obtained several teaching diplomas. I also found the opportunity to practice my passion for writing. I had the time to write school play scripts and articles for the school magazine. Later on, I grouped with a bunch of other English teachers and we started an online magazine about Education in Egypt. This is when I knew that I could write! Over the years, I wrote short stories, novellas, and different articles in printed and online magazines and this was so emotionally rewarding.
Since 2011, there have been some political problems in Egypt and at times schools had to close down. Prices were going high and in just 5 years the Egyptian Pound deteriorated from 0.2 dollars to now almost 0.1. This affected the standard of living of every Egyptian, including myself.
Teaching is a lovely profession but it is an underpaid job in Egypt, just like many countries that don’t still realize the real value of good education. I knew I needed to do something to gain more money and create some sort of financial stability that wasn’t going to be affected by the fluctuation or better say the increase of the dollar price. I needed to use what I have and this is how I got the idea of freelancing.
My Freelancing Adventure:
In Egypt, some people call themselves freelancers although they are just amateurs who do amateur-quality jobs. There is nothing amateur –like about real freelancing. You have to be professional in every single way.
I googled the internet and I found that the best freelancing sites were Upwork and Freelancer.com and I immediately created two accounts. It took me a couple of weeks to finish and update my portfolio as I didn’t know if it would work. I was giving it a try and I was clueless about what to do or expect.
I was applying to all projects like crazy and I wasn’t sure about the rate or about the projects that I could actually do and I always came at the bottom of the list because I was a new freelancer. So I decided to stop and adjust.
I visited many freelancers’ blogs who talked about the best way to design your portfolio and how to design the best cover letter. I also searched rates and knew what to ask for without being too low or too high. Then I decided to join both an advanced members plan on Upwork and on Freelancer.com. I think this was a good decision although it got me to spend money before making any.
The advanced plan on Upwork enabled me to see what was the average rate requested by other freelancers and how many people were actually considered for the job. The advanced plan on Freelancer’s site gave me the opportunity to apply for more jobs and I just think that having a plus member sign implies that you are more serious. I did this for one month only though! It wasn’t long before I got my first job. It actually took me exactly 4 weeks to get my first job on Upwork. I was asked to write 3 articles about teaching cooking to beginners. So I did the research and submitted the work and voila! I got my first rating. On the following week I got my first job on Freelancer.com and I accepted it. It was to write an article about Alzheimer’s disease. These 2 jobs were not of a very high rate, but I accepted them because I thought that once you get a rating on the site it just gets easier and I was right. It became a lot easier. Fast forward 10 months now, I have my regular clients. I work for them on a weekly basis. I design my own schedule of work and I feel free to accept or decline new offers. I am not yet a very high profile freelancer. But I actually give freelancing only 25 % of my time, where the rest goes to my regular day time job and my family. Never the less, I have a 100% success rate with the time I devote to freelancing. I am learning new things each time I accept a project. I got to learn about SEO optimization and web content. I write on a regular basis in the blog of an Indian company that is specialized in online marketing and I get to have my name published as well. I am also working for Bangladeshi Company named Web Builders BD. This has nothing to do with my studies or my professional experience and wasn’t even a thing when I went to the university. I am still learning and I am working with a lovely group of clients that are understanding and appreciating. I now make almost the same amount of my salary and I still feel that once I get the guts to quit my job, everything will just change for me.
I was 35 when I decided that I should try something new and it worked….it is still working for me. I believe that everything is doable once you put your mind to it. I often get jobs to write about stuff that I don’t really have an idea about, but then I have the best teacher in the world…THE INTERNET. And I will never stop learning!