The freelance workforce is on the rise all over the world, with Gen Z and Millennials leading the upward trend. The freelance pool is also widening from a services perspective, with the majority of the projects centered on the fields of digital marketing, IT, computer science, programming and copywriting to name a few.
The business case to push for freelancing opportunities covers both aspects. From an employer’s perspective, companies are able to work with the best independent contractors and expand their talent pool. For freelancers, on the other hand, having a steady stream of projects, whilst not confined to the office, allows for greater flexibility and better work life balance.
One such initiative promoting freelance work and supporting independent contractors grow their presence, is the Freelance Academy’s (FA) –FORSA program by Mercy Corps Lebanon, a comprehensive training program funded by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. Over the course of two months, digital professionals, from graphic designers to web developers, web designers, translators and 3D animators can build their capacities, and are equipped with the crucial tools to grow their portfolio and claim their share of gig work in their respective sectors. Since its launching, over 425 participants have graduated from FA, with over 89% successfully finding job opportunities regionally and internationally. These opportunities have generated around USD 338,000 as of May 2023.
To expand the reach of FA, Mercy Corps Lebanon and FORSA team have organized a “Digital Freelance Forum” that was held at BDD. Key topics were covered, such as insights and tips on freelance hiring from professional experts, as well as how to break boundaries and be noticed internationally. These panels were led by Lebanese founders and experts, such as Basma Wehbe from Algooru, Maya Fares from Cafu, Charlotte Wansa from inHype, Majd Alaily from Studio Al Fankoush, Emile Harb from Shelvz and Farah Nasr from Nymcard.
For freelancers starting out their career, this is for you
Starting out as a freelancer can seem like a daunting task, with questions related to financial security and finding opportunities on the table. However, the experts on the panel shared these insights:
- Define your niche and stand out with what you are doing
- Understand what you are really passionate about and what your core skills are
- Follow and embrace the advancements in technology
- Start building a strong portfolio, with projects you have completed (even if they are at university)
- Value the first client you bring on board, as they can help with networking and generating new opportunities
- Prove that you are always eager to learn and adapt
How freelancers can break boundaries and get noticed internationally
Whilst there are ample freelance opportunities in Lebanon, there are hundreds on a regional and international level. The experts on the panel shared their tips on how to grow your network beyond borders:
- Put forth a very sharp attitude
- Prepare a strong profile, with a clear and concise value proposition
- Don’t claim you can do everything – focus on 3 to 4 skills that you are strong at
- Showcase your proof of work, but be selective. Choose a sample of projects that you are the most proud of. Your portfolio needs to demonstrate your value proposition
- Define your metrics, whether based on price (undercut prices whilst offering unparalleled quality)
- Foster your personal and professional relationships and expand your network at every opportunity you get
- Stick to the deadlines that you commit to, to showcase your professionalism and build trust
When building your rapport as a freelancer, remember that one door can open another. When companies find star freelancers, they are most likely to refer you to other companies. So ensure that you put your best foot forward when managing projects.
To learn more about the Freelance Academy, visit: https://freelanceacademy.mercycorps.org.lb/
And explore Forsa II, a program by Mercy Corps, providing education and employment opportunities to individuals between the ages of 18 and 34, living in Lebanon: https://mercycorps.org.lb/our-programs/forsa-ii/