Entrepreneurship in Uganda is on the rise, so is freelancing. Though the two are usually mistaken for each other, it is no doubt that entrepreneurship and freelancing need each other.
In an environment where entrepreneurs have to bootstrap their startups most of the time, freelancing offers a great source of income to help them do so as well as survive. On the other hand, it also provides the same startups access to professional services like photography, accounting, PR etc without having to hire a full-time employee or contract a firm.
That’s why we have decided to guide those that may be interested in freelancing on how to go about it in Uganda. We talked to Anne Whitehead, the founder of Whitehead Communications. Anne has been in the freelance world for more than 5 years during which she has been at the helm of advising Bobi Wine on PR related issues as well as other notable clients in Uganda.
Here’s what she recommended that you should know before jumping into the now growing freelancing world.
During our conversation, you could tell that Anne’s entire success in the freelancing world has been mainly due to networking. In her own words, she calls it “being friendly and willing to socialize”. She also adds the fact that “more deals in Uganda are sealed from the ‘bar’ than the boardroom” implying that it is who you know over what you know in most cases.
Therefore, if you’re looking to step into the freelancing world, ensure you turn your networking game on. The networking may not necessarily be for clients only – it also applies to relevant contacts in the industry that can act as mentors and guides.
For Anne’s case, she points out Isaac Mulindwa and Simon Kaheru as some of the key contacts that helped her navigate.
When it comes to networking, it is easy for people to get stuck online by using networking and social media sites because it is more comfortable. However, it is recommended that you go offline and meet such contacts in person. You should also be ready to attend events that can help you.
2. Patience and perseverance
When you’re just stepping out to freelance, chances are that you have a lot to learn as well as a lot of people to meet. By deciding that you’re now freelancing doesn’t mean that deals will start coming your way there and then. You need to know that things take time.
There will be a time lapse between when you jump into that world and when deals start flowing in. You need to know that, and it is ok.
Anne recommends that one should be ready to work for free sometimes where necessary. In some cases, you should be ready for clients that won’t make payments at the agreed times because of difficulties on their end.
All in all, you should only expect to reap the fruits of freelancing only if you’re patient enough. It is not a get rich quick world but one that requires patience and perseverance.
3. Blogging and Social Media
Blogging is one of the best ways to market your skills and knowledge in a particular field. You’ll be astonished at how much you know that others don’t – that’s if you are well read and experienced in that field.
So, why not share it in a simple article of around 500 words? With this, you’ll start getting a loyal following of people in that industry from which could be your prospects or some that can act as your ambassadors who will refer you to others.
Anne recalls Simon Kaheru being the person who advised her to start a blog for her company, Whitehead communications.
On top of blogging, you should be ready to remain not only active on social media but also relevant in your field of choice. Follow people that are key in your niche, answer questions, join groups and engage as much as you can.
4. Skill sets
A good proposal can get you a job, but it won’t keep it or earn you a recommendation from that clients. It is how well you execute that job.
Anne, who’s into communications and PR, emphasizes that it’s her skill sets and how she executes her works that amaze the clients. In fact, this is the very first thing you should consider before jumping into the freelance world.
Just to let you understand how crucial your skill sets are to this part of the world, most of the clients or prospects you’ll come across will request for your previous works too in order to assess if you’re the right man or woman for the job.
The recommendation from Anne is very simple. “Before you even think of freelancing, make sure you have the right skill sets that you need to execute the job”.
5. Flexible and Organized
When you decide to join the freelancing world, you give up the right to be rigid. This is partly because you have no permanent clients or bosses. Anne adds that “one should be able and ready to have meetings or work from anywhere.” It could be the client’s offices, coffee shops, your bed or bar.
You should also be ready to be up and down because your clients change and so do their projects, priorities, places and times when and where to execute. So, to perfectly fit into the world, one should be extremely flexible.
In addition, given that you are likely to juggle more than one clients at a time, you should be more than organized. It helps to make use of tools like the google calendar, google sheets, to-do list apps as well as task manager apps. This will help you avoid being overwhelmed, mixing up client’s work, missing appointments and meetings.
This list is not exhaustive but has some of the crucial things that have helped – and still, do – Anne to perfectly fit into the freelancing world. In case you are considering joining that world, give them a try.