Freelancers are now a big part of the tech industry these days. It’s now common to see developers, graphic designers, and testers freelancing in the Ethiopian market as well. We also see a lot of freelance jobs being posted on different platforms like the freelance Ethiopia channel on telegram, which by the way is one of the best ways to get a freelancing gig in Ethiopia. But what does it even mean to be a freelancer? A freelancer is a person that is self-employed and does not necessarily have a commitment to a particular company or employer for a long time. Freelancers usually take contractual works from clients that are concluded in a short time.
So what is it like to be a freelance software developer in Ethiopia? I haven’t freelanced for long but I can tell you from my experience it has both its ups and downs. Let’s start from the sunny side. The first perk that comes with being a freelancer is that you get to choose the people you work with. Good dynamic and communication with both clients and your team is key to the success of a project. Being a freelancer means you can avoid clients and projects you think might not be right for you. It also means you can choose who you work with. The other advantage of freelancing is having a flexible working schedule. This might not always be true as there might be a team and you may have to work at the same time for the sake of smooth communication. But having a flexible working time is very important because you can choose to work on the times you’re most productive on(which is the night time for most developers). The other advantage of being a freelancer is the amount of experience and exposure you get compared to a 9–5 job. You’ll get to work on many kinds of projects and meet a lot of people.
There are cons to freelancing too, especially in Ethiopia, where knowledge and skills are not given the value they should be given. The first con of being a freelancer is the inconsistent income. You could be the richest person in the world(not really, that’s between Elon and Bezos) at times and get so broke at other times. You really should be good at money management if you want to survive in the freelancing world. The other issue we face as freelancers is clients trying to sneak in features and functionalities you initially didn’t signup for. I could say this is the most annoying part of freelancing. Some clients ask you to add features larger than the whole project for no-pay. You’ll need to clear up the exact scope and the border of the project when first kicking off the project. I also recommend getting your payments with milestones because asking for your money after everything is done might not always go as you hope. The other issue I can’t pass without mentioning is getting under-payed. If your client is not a tech person or has no experience in the tech world, they’re most probably going to give you an offer that is going to drive you crazy. There’s always going to be under-valuing your job to negotiate the price, so you always need to be careful with clients. This problem leads many developers to quit freelancing and move to full-time jobs. Full-time jobs are not a bad thing but you should just develop a negotiating technique if you really want to freelance.
I believe freelance payments have gotten better through the years and will continue to as the industry grows. Hiring a freelancer also comes with a problem for the client sometimes. We have heard about freelancers getting into a job they’re not fit for and screwing up projects. I also remember reading an article a while back about a client and their experience with freelancers (they’re all bad). Clients should also be careful while hiring freelancers and it would be even better if they are familiar with the tech and business they require. Finally, I strongly believe freelancing is very beneficial for both the client and the freelancer, and I hope to see the environment improving to the point where people can consider freelancing as a career choice without being concerned about the issues I mentioned above.