Pakistan’s Freelancing Future Looks Bright

By Mohsin Mehmood

When I started freelancing in 2008, I was wary of telling people that I worked independently. Back then, there was still a stigma against freelancing. Thankfully, since then, the stigma has lessened considerably as freelancing has gained more respect and acceptance — and has become more lucrative, too.

A 2014 report from the International Data Group indicates that an astounding 40% of working Pakistanis freelance in some capacity. As a result, Pakistani freelancers have helped the country earn a spot among the top 10 earning countries for freelancers – no mean feat.

Removing Obstacles to Freelancing

One of the drawbacks of freelancing in Pakistan was the lack of a strong community of freelancers. Today, all that has changed and new connections have been made thanks to online and offline groups who share advice, arrange events and celebrate each other’s success stories.

Not surprisingly, global businesses are taking notice of the active freelancing community, and as a result, international technology companies like WordPress are establishing themselves in Pakistan. There is also a growing culture of co-working spaces and incubators in metro cities, which provide an encouraging environment for both new and established freelancers.

Obstacles to lucrative freelance opportunities have also been overcome, as Pakistani freelancers are successfully building their skills in web development, mobile application development and graphic designing. Within these verticals, there are good quality projects available with higher earning potential and possibilities for long-term engagement.

Additionally, competition is still low in these sectors, boosting chances for being hired and acquiring repeat clients.

Expanding the opportunities for freelancing is the emergence of online job marketplaces, with Upwork and Fiverr being two of the fastest growing marketplaces in Pakistan. Envato, and Guru also have a significant following in the Pakistani market.

Finally, archaic payment systems that have made getting paid for freelance work difficult are being replaced. With top freelance platforms adopting payout services that use local bank transfers, freelancers’ earnings are deposited directly to their bank account, no matter where they live in the country, with no hidden fees.

Outlook for Pakistan, 2016 and Beyond

It always surprises me that people enter freelancing without understanding the dynamics of freelancing. When freelancers start on any one of the crowdsourcing platforms, they need to be aware of the fact that this is a full-time career for many freelancers on these platforms. They need to expect real competition.

In non-IT services, customer service, SEO and content writing are popular skills, the competition is high, but with persistence all of these present great opportunities.

Another roadblock is cultural differences and lack of communication skills which can lead to misinterpreting requirements and not being able to deliver a product that reflects the freelancer’s expertise.

Although the government has shown keen interest and has launched supportive initiatives such as Foreelancing, work still needs to be done to capitalize on the fast-growing freelancing industry, with opportunities to offer  organized training reaching the entire nation, and not only centered in the large cities.

Understanding payment cycles and how to withdraw payments is also a challenge that freelancers deal with daily. Many new freelancers win projects, but struggle to identify the best payout service and get mired with payment delays and hidden fees. In an emerging market like Pakistan, if you can’t get paid efficiently, you are handing over a significant percentage of your earnings. Choosing a payment provider that offers flexibility, speed and reliability is paramount.

Transpay is one of the better solutions for Pakistani freelancers, that connects directly with your bank account and send funds from platform to your bank account.

Transpay offers the widest coverage and bank network in Pakistan so there is no question about how reliable it is. Freelancers do not need to wait for months to get verified/or get their PIN/cards delivered. Having a bank account now is enough to be paid on time.

Pakistan has a bright future in freelancing, with platforms available now those were not here even a few years ago. The global digital ecosystem is offering up new platforms, new marketplaces, new skills, and new tools. Pakistani freelancers who are able to adapt to changing environments and compete in the global market will find a solid competitive

Mohsin is a technology entrepreneur and a solution finder, working as Country Manager for Transpay in Pakistan.

  • It is both happy news and sad news. I’m happy because of the news that Pakistan has made its name in the field of freelancing. The reason of being sad is that our talent’s not being used where it should be! A web developer’s monthly salary is about Rs.25,000 in Pakistan, but he can easily earn the same amount of money just in a single day or week via Freelancing!

    • That’s the whole point of spreading the word. As the work is being done without boundaries so anyone can now start an international/online career. Ultimately the local salary structure will have to improve to remain competitive. But this will happen in many years to come, at least we can keep driving.

      • If it is, then it is good! I’ve seen many people who find a job on the internet but what they find Captcha jobs, mini tasks, refer a friend to get 5$. Most of ’em consider internet earning fake after having bad experience in the ridiculous jobs. Really, it is time to educate the people about Freelancing, and give them a ray of hope.

        • Correct! Some have to polish their skills because as good it sounds, freelancing market has strong competition. Good skills will land them good jobs.
          About some of the fake jobs, I think the best way to fight is to empower people with education about online market and its potential.

          • Agree..!! The media can play a important role, but what they need $$$$$. Every problem can be solved by the media, but what they need $$$$.

    • Payoneer is good, but Skrill is a rip off & have a ton of hidden charges.

      Last time I used Skrill (Moneybooker), they cut over 18% from my money, telling me that I’m doing a commercial activity! Never used them after that.

    • Yes, a student can start on his own. Start with signing up account, browse a project matching your skills, convince the client technically i.e. how will you complete the project (may be in phases). Stay connected with client for communication because it matters a lot.

  • Blogging is also quite profitable. But since majority of pakistanis can’t even write English properly and they are hasty so they go for freelancing to make some quick bucks.

    • Blogging is nothing without SEO :P The best mentor and experienced teacher I found Muhammad Faizan Khan who teachers SEO in 3 month at Rs.18,000. But I haven’t taken his course, I will take once I free! I’ve just watched his some webinars, and got extremely positive reviews from the people. If you know anyone who has more experience than him, let me know! He is doing SEO since 2004 :D

      • Lol. Go ahead because these days seo has become a heck lot difficult. Backlinking is real pain in butt because spam links do not work. At the end you will have to pay some reputable company to do seo for you because they have high PR sites from where they give your site high quality backlinks. How do i know these stuff because i am a blogger already.

        • hahah!! I know..!! How Backlinking is an enigma..!! He teaches such a method perhaps no Pakistani ever thought of. With the help of PBN(Private Blog Network), PBN(Public Blog Network) & NBN(Niche Blog Network) you can rank any keyword of the world at the top of Google – 100% guarantee – it depends on your budget. I think only few people know of it. Mazy Ki Baat he uses everything orignal from Windows to tools, Semrush to LongTail Pro. He gives everything free of cost to his students for a year. And Many More!!! Am I promoting him? :P

          • Ranking for specific keyword has got no worth these days unless you have got really good stuff on your site. Otherwise people would reject your content. Increased bounce rate will result in decrease in SERP. So instead of wasting all your resources on just SEO, focus also on writing great contents. Slowly over time your site will start getting natural backlinks and those are more healthy and helps you maintain rank for a very long time. For example there are posts on my site which after several years are still popping up on first page of Google search.

            If you have a business website, to promote it also spend money on Adsense. Adsense will help you to naturally rank your site on top and increase your sales. But that also costs money. But for blogs, SEO and content matters most.

          • Private/public blog network is comprised of micro blogs on which you post few relevant posts and then backlink your main site. If Google finds out about these blogs, it will penalize your main site and recovering from Google penalty is difficult and time consuming. (sometimes take months).
            Let me tell you a reliable backlinking source. Get backlinks from forums. Forum backlinks are extremely high quality. Make sure those are not signature links but post links to the related site content.

  • Question: Can we get a bank account along with International Wire Transfer Feature so that employees can pay us directly to our bank account? They ask for source of income, how to cover that up? And as a student I can only have a limited account, what are those limitations?

    • You can simply open a Basic Banking account & tell the bank you’re a student. Limitations are no big deal, it only means that you can withdraw money using Checkbook twice a month, but unlimited ATM cash widthdrawals as well as you can use ATM card to buy anything from any store that accept cards.

      • There wont be a problem with ” International Wire Transfer ” as I work as a freelancer and some employee pays directly, will bank ask for a source of income for that money?

        • And if I withdraw from to bank, will meezan bank ask for source of income in that case too?

          • Dear Sohail Bhai I need your help to understand somethink about payoneer and freelance I can do home based graphics design and other writing jobs please contact on my number 03152592086

  • I have 5+ yrs of web development experience. I have to start as a freelancer. Can anybody help me on how to start?

    • Drop your e-mail address here, I will give you the address of the person who will help you.

        • Ok! The person whom I wanted to tell is Muhammad Fahad Saleem and his team of IT Super. This team organizes seminar in different cities of Pakistan where they teach people how to work online. They are earning more than a thousand dollars themselves. They provide support for everything to people. As well as M. Fahad Saleem (his facebook username: fahad.saleem) has a small team of article writers as well as web developers etc where he gives tasks to everyone so that they can earn some money. He can provide the best tips on earning money, even if you’re not an expert of anything. He is somewhat busy man, but I hope he will answer about your question if you post a post in his group of Facebook Join another group I’ve told you it is a small team which will help you certainty.

    • If you are freelancing as a software developer, you are exporting IT Services. IT Services export are tax exempt until 2016. A better question would be “are you filing your taxes as a freelancer” ?

  • Amir is freelance income exempted from tax?

    If YES, do we need to obtain a tax exemption certificate from FBR or what?

    If NO, then what is the percentage?

    Someone told me freelnce income in Pakistan is exempted from tax because it brings foreign exchange USD into the country, which is beneficial for economy!

    Also I tried to find some FBR docs & did some research on internet which explained that freelance income is exempted from tax until June 2016, BUT it is necessary to take exemption certification from FBR, to be on the safer side.

    • After see your and Mr. Sanad’s reply, I verified the tax exemption clause. It is valid till June 2016 only. That is just six months away.
      However, I am not sure if it requires any certificate but yes, freelancers should file their IT returns anyway.

      By the way, I don’t quite agree with this reasoning of “bringing foreign exchange” since there are several other fields and industries where foreign exchange is brought in to the country and yet they don’t have any tax exemption. E.g. the telco industry brought in billions in FDI (more than any other industry) over the past decade or so but no one gets any IT exemption there.

  • i create an account on freelance and can’t recive payment in pakistan.we also create an account in paypal that can not accept pakistani IBAN number.please tell me about complete procedure to gain money as a freelancing.

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