In the past few years, freelance work has been on an upward trend, so much so that in 2027, it is predicted that more than 50% of the entire US labor force will work on a freelance basis. But this growth is not limited to the first world only. In the Middle East, the freelance scene has also been thriving.
A study done by Bayt.com in 2019 found that 70% of the respondents were open to providing their services on an on-demand basis and 64% of those with professional skills would consider going freelance. Freelancing is a viable choice of employment with numerous benefits such as increased creative freedom, faster acquisition and development of skills as well as being a steady source of income.
By all means, freelance is the future of work. But despite these glowing advantages, there’s still a lot of stigma around freelancers and the industry as a whole. Since it is difficult to measure the success of a freelancer on the traditional workforce scale that solely focuses on climbing the corporate ladder and racking up academic accolades, some people are yet to view freelancing as a legitimate source of employment.
This makes it especially difficult for those considering going into freelancing in the MENA region, where jobs are only taken seriously if they are accompanied by lucrative titles and lie within the normal 9-5 work hours. But to keep up with the emerging work trends, there has to be a shift in this perspective to ensure that this region does not lag behind others in the evolution of “normal” jobs.
In this article, we will delve deep into the stigmas associated with on-demand work in MENA and then discuss ways you can combat them to ensure you have the best freelance experience.
- “Freelancers can’t hold down normal jobs”
This is probably one of the most widespread misconceptions about freelancing. People generally tend to assume that because freelancers aren’t governed by normal time frames or don’t work in structured corporate settings, they are lazy and wouldn’t survive in regular jobs. But this can’t be further away from the truth. Although a huge chunk of freelance work is done remotely, freelancing requires high levels of discipline and time management. This is because when you’re a freelancer, time is literally equal to money. The faster you complete a task, the faster you get paid and the sooner you can move on to a new client. For this reason, freelancers have a better work ethic than the average employee.
- “Freelancing is not a ‘proper’ or ‘honorable’ job”
Since freelancers are not tied down to any specific company or business, their job description rarely includes the fancy titles their employed counterparts enjoy. This brings with it the social stigma associated with lacking a “proper” job. Parents from MENA derive great satisfaction from their children working in professional industries such as engineering and medicine.
A 2020 study discovered that parents in the Middle East have the highest expectations for the educational and career achievements of their children. Additionally, having children in “hard” professions also raises their standing in society. As such, they have a difficult time accepting that their children can achieve professional fulfilment working from their couches sans the flashy job titles. But this is not to say that freelancers are an uneducated lot. On the contrary, from their interactions with different employers, they gain a wealth of knowledge and experience making them more competent than the employee who remains in the same static position for years on end.
Because of its increasing popularity, freelancing is nowadays not limited to just the arts and humanities (i.e. graphic design, writing, etc.). There are some online marketplaces such as Ureed.com that offer freelance services from seasoned freelance engineers and developers. Therefore, freelancing can accommodate many different career paths, and be as career-fulfilling as traditional employment.
- “Freelancing is synonymous with unemployment”