MY AFRICAN, FREELANCE EXPERIENCE.
The freelance market is the new gold. It has of course been exacerbated by the Coronavirus. According to Adam Ozimek Up Works Chief Economist, freelancing has increased by 36% in 2020 unlike in 2019. With most people out of jobs, everyone turned to freelance as a means of hearing an extra coin. Just like every other Genzer, I decided to tap into this market. The fact that most of the clients seeking such services were across the pond or in the United States made the idea more lucrative. Name one person who doesn’t like to be paid in dollars. Precisely none. A side hustle of this nature won't hurt or so I thought.
The majority of freelance platforms I joined are primarily owned and dominated by white people. These are Upwork, Free UP, Remote.io, Remotely just to name a few. This also means that the clients that one gets on the said platforms are either white or of Asian descent. I was excited, I couldn't wait to set the ball rolling and with my eye o the prize increase cash in my account. Was I worried about race and racial biases that might occur?, a little bit, but as a professional, I decided not to plant this idea in my head. Instead, my focus was on upskilling, adding value to my client and at the end of the month, a smile on my way to the bank.
My first client was a black American man, he was in search of a virtual Assistant and my CV had really impressed him. The interview in my opinion went well however the client never got back to me despite positive feedback from him concerning the interview. We win some we lose some they said. On to the second one.
My next client was a lady from the Philippines, the job at hand, basic lead generation using Linked in sales navigator and basic data entry. I should have seen the red flags with her when she asked me to lower my rate from $8 dollars to $3 dollars but as this was a side gig, I complied and we went straight to work. Little did I know what I had gotten myself into. I was dealing with an unprofessional who did not have my work cut out and who kept complaining about the services that I meted out to her. In the end, I reported her to the platform and we decided to go our separate ways. We had a back and forth when it came to remuneration and once I had been paid we parted ways. My colleague with whom I worked under the same client would also quit not long after citing harassment.
A friend who works in the same space shared a link with me on Whatsapp. The accompanying message, “this suits you”. I applied for the job which was a multinational and in my cover letter, I confidently stated my achievements. I made it crystal clear that I’m the right fit for the job which in all honesty I do believe I was. As was expected, the HR team did get back to me and an interview date was scheduled. This would have been my cash cow, or so I thought.
The interview panel was made up of two women who were more intrigued about my hair than they were about my CV. They had never interacted with someone from Africa, let alone a Muslim woman who is comfortable enough to show her dreadlocks during an international interview. “So how do you wash your hair?” “How long does it take to dry” “ Do you untangle it?” Where do you get products for your hair?” The one question that got me was: “Are your parents okay with that appearance?”I politely responded to all their questions even though I felt like some obscure art in a museum with the museum guide was explaining to a bunch of school kids my contribution to the countries rich history! They never got back to me!
I got another interview with a law firm and in one of the numerous interviews, someone inquired “Where did you learn such English?” “I attended private schools,” Ooh, you do have private schools in Africa? I politely schooled her that I reside in Mombasa Kenya and that Africa is not a continent. Maybe that's why I did no get the job. Who knows?
Another client was flabbergasted when he read my articles on Linked In. When I mentioned that I write in my pass time he was simply thrown off. Don’t they know that we have schools in Africa or is education still a white man privilege? The worst of them all is the African American client who assumes that since you share the skin tone then a rapport is automatically made and that rates are changed! No brother, It's $15 dollars an hour, thank you. I have never been to Africa but I believe it’s hot all around, this was the response I got when I mentioned that we are currently experiencing winter in Mombasa.
The list is endless. It is clear that everyone across the pond or in the states has a definitive and primitive outlook of what Africa is and an expectation of how Africans should behave. This ranges from the type of English we speak to the degree of knowledge we harness in particular subjects.
I have gotten very lovely clients. One a black American woman who is intrigued about Africa having never visited but still knowledgeable about the continent. This has been the*** let me not jinx it.
Freelancing has exposed me to a lot of software and resources that I did not know existed. I can now comfortably create audiograms, use Zubtitle. Put up resources on airtable, use Squarespace to create a website, automate everything using Zapier, get contacts details i.e emails using Snovio or Lusha from Linked In and many more. It has opened me to a different world, one where my services could make me timely and good money. A world where professionals automate everything.
I have interacted with Founders and C.E.Os of multi-million dollar company’s and to be honest this new world has polished me in a plethora of ways. With freelancing, I have been taught to negotiate for better pay from my clients. The no 1 rule is that if they are outsourcing it means they are cutting on costs so charge them pls VAT for they can afford it!
I’m currently enjoying freelance work and who knows maybe this is my future!