Our pick for our first ever freelancer of the month is Mr. Naveed Ahmed. He is a well-known name in the freelancing industry now, but he had very humble beginnings. He comes from a very small town in South Punjab called Chishtian Mandi, where his father worked at a petrol pump to support his family. Naveed went to government school, college and university and had no generational wealth, no special privileges but his father had a faith in education. His father sent him to The Islamia University of Bahawalpur walnagar campus for his bachelor’s degree where Naveed started his freelancing journey during his undergrad education.
Naveed has been freelancing since 2014 and has built a huge international clientele over the years. He now works as an Independent Creative Consultant with big names of the world like Loadsmart, 51Talk, Superlegal and Swift Beauty. He is a top-rated freelancer on Fiverr as well with more than one thousand five-star reviews. He runs his own remote first design studio where he has a global team of people mainly from Pakistan but also from Bangladesh, Dubai and India.
He also has been working with e-Rozgaar Program of PITB for more than 5 years to train the unemployed youth in freelancing and digital skills and has trained thousands of young freelancers who are bringing in the much-needed foreign exchange to the country.
He briefly worked at ITU as a Teaching Assistant for the courses of “Design Lab” and “Science Fiction in The Contemporary World” and voluntarily mentored with TCF for 2 years!
He was recently awarded as one of the Top Freelancer and Most Accomplished Professional of South Punjab awards by Tech Nation Digital Conference. He was also awarded as one of the Top 10 Freelancers of Pakistan by PAFLA!
Having spoken at prestigious events like Connected Pakistan Conference, Young Leaders Conference, Future Fest, TechNation Conference, Digital South Punjab Roadshow, Taaleem or Hunnar Sath Sath, Freelance Fest, Pakistan Innovation Roadshow and big universities like BNU, UET, UMT, BZU, IUB and PU, Naveed has vast public speaking experience.
In a recent story on his Instagram account, Naveed shared how he used to travel in Lahore on a shared rickshaw because he could not even afford to rent a dedicated rickshaw, he then was able to buy a decade old motorcycle, then a new motorcycle, then an old Sedan car but now he drives a new crossover Car.
I started freelancing during my undergrad to finance my education and bear my own expenses. The only motivation back then was just to earn the bare minimum amount so I could pay my university and hostel expenses. I later on turned into a proper profession when I realized the full potential of it.
Being able to travel and work from anywhere makes me super happy about the freelance lifestyle. As challenging as it sounds, it is liberating to be able to work from airports, hotel lobbies, hospital rooms and motor way rest areas. Moreover, it is not less than a blessing to earn in dollars since one can not only earn a very handsome income for them but also contribute positively in the economy of the country.
The biggest challenge I face working from a small city in Pakistan is the availability of good internet. I have the best possible option of internet service installed in my home office but I still sometimes struggle with voice/video quality issues while having online meetings with my clients or any other live sessions on social media. The second biggest challenge was to hire good resources locally, because good resources usually move to bigger cities, but I was able to sort this challenge but shifting to all-remote work and it has been great since then. I can hire resources from anywhere in the world but still most of my team is from Pakistan. The most talked after challenge by most Pakistani freelancers is the availability of PayPal but I honestly face this very rarely. Payoneer and Wise have been working great from me, while PayPal would be a big plus but not having it does not stop me from doing things.
The government can work on improving the infrastructure of the internet so it can work in good speed all around the country. It will help everyone to work easily on the go and people will not have to move to bigger cities just for getting good internet. This will in turn create more opportunities in the smaller cities and reduce the population load on bigger cities.
The government should also look into creating IT parks in smaller cities or at least second tier cities so SMBs like me can afford to have good offices on subsidized rate with good internet and electricity.
I have a famous saying that I tell to my students all the time. It goes like: “Direct clients Allah ki nemat hain, unki qadar kren”. I cannot emphasize this enough. While having a great freelancing profile with new clients coming regularly is a huge blessing, but this system can collapse anytime and any small algorithmic or policy change can affect your profile badly. Therefore, I recommend thriving for repeat/direct clients who can give you work regularly. I do not recommend trying to bring every client out of the platforms because if you are ever caught doing so, you can get your profile banned. By direct clients, I mean to say the clients you can win from LinkedIn, Facebook, personal or professional connections. A good clientele is ideally a mixture of platform clients and direct clients because as they say, “Never put all your eggs in one basket” similarly relying on just one channel of clients is not a good approach.
Dispute management is a very important skill and it helps you save a lot of projects and save a lot of headache too sometimes. I believe in the power of communication and always prefer trying to talk to my client and sort the problem by mutual understanding. First, I try to get into a video meeting with the client whenever a conflict or dispute arises. The face-to-face interaction works like magic and helps you and your client to get the human perspective of the problem. The written communication can sometimes create unwanted misunderstanding because your client cannot see your facial expressions and they may take very normal words of yours offensively. I always refund my clients if the mistake is on my end and they are not ready to allow more time to fix it. One should have a big heart to admit their mistakes and pay back for them. However, sometimes, the client is wrong and they are not ready to listen, in that case, I always reach out to customer care and explain the whole scenario. I can say for sure that we feel reluctant in going to customer care because we think they always side with the client. I do not believe in this because I have been compensated by platform fully or partially multiple times.
When I started freelancing, there were no institutes providing the freelance training. YouTube was banned in Pakistan and even though we were able to access it through proxies, the speed was super slow and a 10-minute video took an hour to buffer. There were no GFXmentors and Hisham Sarwars of the world making great content on YouTube. However, platforms like Coursera, Udemy and Udacity were a big help. I took a lot of online courses but couldn’t afford to pay for the certification so I would just take the whole course, do the assignments and skip the certification because I believed in skills. Today, there is great content everywhere and especially on YouTube. It is easier than ever to learn a skill now so if somebody complains about the opportunities or their circumstance, it does not make sense. Internet has levelled the play field for everyone and it is a true equal opportunity platform for everyone regardless of their nationality, color, gender or cast.
I worked solo for many years and always thought that nobody can handle my clients better than me and if I give work to someone, I will end up losing the clients. It was a big misconception. I started building my team in 2019 and it has been great since then. I saw new heights of growth and liberty. I was able to travel, meet new people, learn new things, all while making good income. There’s a spiritual side to this too because I believe when you associate someone’s rizq with you, Allah Ta’ala start giving you more because the other person’s rizq has to go through you. It is not easy to experiment the outsourcing or getting things done by team, it comes with its own challenges, so sometimes I had to do all the work by myself at the last day but if I kept working alone, I would have never seen the growth that I was able to see.
It takes commitment. It takes a lot of other things but commitment more than anything else. If you are committed, you will be consistent, dedicated, self-motivated. You will not get tired. Setbacks will not be able to set you back. Hurdles will not stop you but give you more strength and hardworking attitude. Once you start working hard, it is addictive. You cannot stop. It gives you the dopamine releases like nothing else. This commitment, hunger for learning, growing and reaching new heights will eventually make you a successful freelancer.