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12 December, 2019 00:00 00 AM

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Freelancing can become Bangladesh’s gateway to a vast digital economy

Freelancers are eligible to the 10 per cent incentive as they are earning foreign currency. But more than 98 per cent of the freelancers are not receiving it
SHEIKH IRAJ
Freelancing can become Bangladesh’s 
gateway to a vast digital economy

M Shamim Hasan, 30, is a 2019 National Freelance Award Winner. Shamim is one of the true success stories out of thousands in terms of freelancing in Bangladesh. From 2009 to 2019 he has earned more than USD 2.5 lakh just from working with coding, working from one particular freelancing marketplace. Interestingly enough, he lends his services in multiple other freelancing platforms. While talking to writer he said: "I started freelancing because I wanted to support myself financially. I remember the first time I got paid for my work in freelancing was USD 3. Regardless of the fact that it was small amount of money it certainly boosted my motivation level and eventually inspired me to work hard and upgrade my skills. Albeit even a few years back people in general didn't understand when I told them I am a freelancer. Many of them used to think I earn money by clicking on online advertisements. Today that scenario is slowly heading towards a positive direction as nowadays we have many professional freelancers in the country."

Nowadays many freelancers already have and are creating employment opportunities for themselves and for others. At the moment according to experts there are 3.5-4 lakh active freelancers in the country. Delving into the matter, it is indeed is an encouraging sign considering employment and earning foreign currency. The digital economy market is vast and ever growing. India holds the number one position in freelancing. Reasons like fast reliable internet, political will, people's acknowledgment of freelancers, government and private institutions devoted en routed to proficiency advancement at this specific field, are few of the main reasons that have and continue to aid India to have a stronghold in this sector.

That good news is Bangladesh is not lagging behind much, as we are striving towards creating a better freelancers friendly atmosphere. With suitable supervision and skill growth we are looking at a substantial sum of foreign currency been earned from this sector. The paramount thing about freelancing is that it operates on a merit-based reward system. Of course, to attain success one requires self-determination and discipline. The concerned authority linked with freelancing should carry on promoting more about the affirmative features of this field.

Taking the benefits and the huge work prospects of freelancing under consideration, one cannot help but to have a constructive frame of mind about this field. Freelancing can also be a good tool to endorse other industries of our country to the world business community.  

The government has already taken quite a few steps to ensure more intensification in this sector. According to a news item published in this newspaper, Salman F Rahman, the private industry and investment advisor to the PM, recently informed that freelancers would receive government recognition and ID cards. He also informed there are about 6 million freelancers in Bangladesh, who are earning by providing different kinds of IT-based services. These freelancers are providing their services to clients from all over the world. The freelancing market is worth about 1.5 trillion dollars and the government wants to provide facilities like loans and others to ensure freelancers can take part more in this ever-emerging global market. Socially acknowledging the freelancers is without a doubt a constructive step, which will stimulate established freelancers and give poise to beginners to mull over freelancing as a career. Dr. Tanjiba, Chairman of Bangladesh Freelancer Development Society told The Independent: "We are going to inaugurate an app named Freelancer ID in January next year. After going through some verification steps freelancers will be able to use this smartphone application. This will allow us to have proper information about our freelancers and subsequently help the freelancers a great deal. It will not only help them with social acknowledgment but this application will offer advance skill-developing tutorials. Freelancers are eligible to the 10 per cent incentive as they are earning foreign currency. However, more than 98 per cent of the freelancers are not receiving it. The proper way to receive this incentive is to apply in Bangladesh Bank. One has to fill in a form and provide necessary documents such as work order to apply to this claim.

Of course, the application Freelancer ID will help freelancers to receive this incentive. Freelancers, especially outside Dhaka, face different hazards. For example, many people do not understand what is freelancing and how someone working only with computers is making so much money. In some incidents, some freelancers were even questioned by the law enforcement agencies about their revenue sources." She also informed the ICT Ministry controls Professional Outsourcing Course Learning & Earning Development Project. This is a learning platform that focuses on freelancer's skill development. There are plans to jump-start this project from next year.

The digital economy world is highly competitive. Skill, talent, and handwork pave the way for success in freelancing. Web developing, creating software, social marketing, photography, coding, accounting or bookkeeping, virtual assistant, content writing, are some of the main freelancing services Bangladeshi freelancers provide to the world. Truth be told we still have a long way ahead of us when it comes to awareness building concerning freelancing.  The concerned authorities and general people associated with ICT, freelancing, and outsourcing should come forward and conduct more awareness building programmes. More symposiums and open interactive seminars should be organised to raise the conscience of the people about this. Of course, organising such programmes in some isolated auditorium is not good enough; newspapers and other information platforms can do more in-depth reports on freelancing. They can address important questions like exactly what is freelancing, how big and opportunities the freelancing marketplace is, what are the basic steps to become a freelancer, names of physical or online institutions which can offer advanced training.

Nadim Majid, author and CEO of a successful software firm told the reporter: "One does not have to come from an IT-based background to become a freelancer. While studying at University I used to work as a freelancer. My initial success at this field taught me how to dream big and set realistic career goals. My freelancing experience eventually pursued me to become an IT-based entrepreneur. I participated in seven online courses, which helped me to learn a lot. I have written two books: “Social Media Branding” and “How To Become A Successful Entrepreneur”. I have tried to share my freelancing experience and knowledge I gathered through those courses are in my books. My advices to young freelancers are: always dream big and remember your willingness to learn. Work discipline matters the most also. I am not going to say that by reading my books one is going to learn a lot about freelancing. However, readers will get a basic idea about freelancing and a hint as if where to start from. There are many online books on freelancing. Most of the successful freelancers are self-taught and they used the internet to accrue knowledge, thus go to the World Wide Web, read and learn.   

Today the world is moving towards 5G internet. In the capital the cellphone internet service is relatively satisfactory; however outside Dhaka, that same cannot be said. Experts of the field suggest that freelancers must have good communication and presentation skills. Freelancers need lucrative websites that can easily catch the client’s attention. Accommodating some professional freelancers in the Hightech parks is a brilliant idea and the concern bodies decided to take this step certainly deserve warmhearted appreciation.   

Most of our clients are US and Canadians, sometimes language becomes a barrier in striking a deal. One of the saddening news is that even though many of our freelancers have topnotch skills but out of fear of losing the deal, they bid at competitively lower prices. Now a little grooming from experts and having confidence in own abilities can take young freelancers a long way. Bangladesh holds the second position in terms of account opening. However, there have been allegations from some freelancers that too many accounts in the freelancing market are not a good thing. With more unprofessional freelancers present at the market, the market experiences low rate work offers. This in turn causes the professional freelancers to lower their price and they feel demotivate and sometimes many throws in the towel. Clients if not pleased with the expected results start developing preference for freelancers.

BASIS and Islamic Development Bank-Bangladesh Islamic Solidarity Educational Wakf are the main institutions which offer different forms of basic training courses on freelancing.

However, we require more institutions both private and public which will focus on creating and grooming freelancers. For a freelancer, Youtube and Udemy are the best learning platform. According to professional Bangladeshi freelancers, countries like the US and Canada are offering works worth 5 to 8 trillion dollars. The global freelancing market is much bigger but from Bangladesh point of view, US and Canadian clients are the best in terms of payment and commitment.  Today our freelancers are contributing to our economy in a very positive way. The opportunity of turning the freelancing industry even bigger requires proper attention from the concerned authority, as with more motivation and facilities the freelancing industry only promises to grow.

The writer is a journalist working for

The Independent

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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