Besides showcasing the pockets of design talent that we have locally, it also highlighted the potential of another industry that Zimbabweans can also explore and flourish in, with the aid of modern technology.
One other important issue that was highlighted at the expo was how local designers are exporting their talent by engaging in freelance work through the internet.
This idea of online freelancing or e-lancing obviously has a lot of allure for locals that have been at the receiving end of employment contract terminations and a dwindling job prospects. The opportunity is even being investigated by other entities like Econet through its soon to be launched platform Technites.
These days the conversation around its possibilities is becoming more apparent not only because of unemployment, and the opening of more freelance sites like People Per Hour where skills can be sold, but also because of the proliferation of options to access the internet.
Just how feasible is it to sell your Zimbabwean skills online? Can it really pay the bills?
We caught up with Eugene Ramirez Mapondera, a local animator and co-founder of Comexposed as well as an organiser of the Comexposed Conference. He’s been involved in e-lancing for 4 years and has worked with a number of local professionals in design, animation and development who are making a middle management salary living off their skills but using the internet.
According to Mapondera, while in 2015 it’s now possible for Zimbabweans to be an online professionals, given they have the basics (a skill to sell, internet access, no-brainer tools like a computer), it’s definitely not easy. There are some aspects to keep in mind and he shared 6 steps to take and what to remember if you want to do it.
1. Figure out the skills that you have that can be sold
You have to be selling something, that’s pretty obvious. Skills in fields like graphic designing, animation, web design, blogging, software development and app creation easily come to mind, but other services also command some remuneration online.
Skills in fields such as translation (that Chinese class can pay off), research, copy-writing and digital marketing can also get some money in your pocket. The better you are at something, the more work you will be able to attract.
One other thing to remember is that this is the world of the internet. You can dust up on an existing skill or with the right form of discipline and patience, learn a new one.
2. Sort out the payments issue
Handling the payment for work done also needs to be taken care of, because you need to know how you’ll get paid and how secure the channel; that you are using is.
According to Mapondera, using international payment methods like Payoneer and Skrill is fairly simple and allows easy engagement with potential clients that are also familiar with you choice of payment channel and can have confidence in arrangements such as deposits for work that is yet to be completed.
3. LinkedIn is a great tool, use it well
As an online freelancer you need to create an online profile for your skills and the work that you have done. One way you can do this is by creating a website which shows what you have achieved and the sort of projects you can handle.
You should however, focus on a well curated LinkedIn profile. As Mapondera puts it, this can serve as the ultimate banner for who you are as a professional and if it is updated with the right references and skills, it can open more doors for you.
4. Embrace digital communication channels, and use them for efficiency
It sounds pretty obvious, but apparently most people overlook the importance of communication channels like email, Skype and other VoIP alternatives. If used well they create the impression that you are easy to contact and hire, which contributes to work received
5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
You might be working as a freelancer or at home, but discipline is of the utmost importance. Always take on what you can handle and when you do get work, always work on finishing it on time, with the highest level of professionalism. Your reputation will always precede you.
6. Perfect your craft
You are as well paid and sought after as your work, so always improve your skills. On the internet you are competing with professional from every part of the world and your skills should be globally competitive.
Have you been doing work as an online freelancer? What other issues do you think Zimbabweans who want to do this should bear in mind?