Shining a Light on the Growing Freelancer Industry in Bangladesh

Shining a Light on the Growing Freelancer Industry in Bangladesh

June 7, 2016

Freelancing in Bangladesh has evolved considerably over the last couple of years, particularly in the international tech space. Emerging as a lucrative alternative to traditional jobs, today freelancing is widespread and Bangladeshi freelancers make up about 12% of all freelancers in the world. The country is also now home to local outsourcing marketplace The majority of Bangladeshi freelancers are affiliate marketers, web developers, graphic designers and writers/rewriters. Android App developers are increasing in number and are expected to join the list of most popular freelance occupations.

What’s to thank for the dynamic growth of the freelancing industry? Greater reliable power supply and internet connectivity are key contributors. Additionally, in contrast to a few years ago, freelancers are emerging from behind their laptops, networking and sharing experiences. Although the concept of co-working spaces for freelancers is still new in Bangladesh, it is also gaining popularity with centres like HubDhaka and Moar.

However, freelancing is still is not recognized as a “stable” profession by traditional Bangladeshi society. There are many families who would encourage their children to take a lower-paying traditional job that sounds stable and discourage them from freelancing, even when more lucrative. This mistrust of freelancing is rooted in several factors. Banks, for example have not yet recognized that freelancers have a constant source of income and don’t rate them credit worthy.

Thankfully one of the hurdles to freelancing is being overcome. Today, it’s easier than ever before to get paid anywhere in Bangladesh. 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. 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, without hidden fees.

Other factors are helping to make freelancing a viable career option for ambitious Bangladeshis and not a fad. Let’s take a look at a few:

Emerging Tertiary Support Services – What to Expect?

The growth of the freelancer industry can be attributed to a committed community of professionals who have beaten the odds (and the competition) – either by quoting a low price, or by delivering more than promised. Gradually employers have begun to trust Bangladeshi freelancers with their projects. Now, to grow to the next level, there are a number of ongoing initiatives by both government and NGOs who offer training for freelancers, starting from soft skills such as communication etiquette and professionalism, to technical training on Joomla and iOS app development. Events year-round cater to freelancers, such as the National App Conference, Programming Contest, Affiliate Marketers Bootcamps. All are designed to help freelancers gather knowledge and inspiration while networking with the community. A culture of mentorship is also taking shape, proving to be valuable to everyone.

The next wave of support services include physical co-working spaces and tax help. Co-working is at an early stage and to date is only based in the capital city of Dhaka. The tax status of the freelancers is ambiguous and there aren’t many income tax lawyers who specialize in dealing with foreign currency earnings.  Once there is clarity on this, social status of freelancing is also likely to improve.

Resources to Improve Productivity

Fortunately there are plentiful web resources today that are helping Bangladeshis be successful at freelancing.

The following resources are becoming popular with Bangladeshi freelancers:

Accounting & Financial: Freshbooks makes billing clients a breeze, no more personal emails with hours and rate calculations, just input your time, your rate, the project name, and Freshbooks handles the rest.

  • Storage and Accessibility: One of the major perks of freelancing is location flexibility. Dropbox and Google Drive ensure that all needed resources are available by syncing your computer, laptop and smartphone.
  • Efficient Payouts: Bangladeshis are realizing that choosing an efficient payout service can save them transfer fees and help them get better exchange rates, toward the goal of keeping more of what they earn. A service like Transpay ensures timely payments with no hidden fees.
  • Time Tracking: Helps a freelancer keep track of billable hours, staying organized, tracking leads and numerous other features.
  • Productivity Tools: Evernote is fantastic for hanging on to essential notes and articles – and does a bit of everything.
  • Virtual Resume: Every professional today needs to maintain an updated professional resume online.
  • Homegrown solutions: – Bangladesh’s home-grown marketplace has set its sights to become an important South Asian player in the coming year.

Overcoming Roadblocks to Freelancing as a Career Path

Freelancing truly brings worlds together, requiring patience on everyone’s part. For example, a Bangladeshi freelancer and an American employer might need to work through differences in language, professional approach, perspectives and more — the list goes on. It takes time to adapt and then to create and deliver meaningful work. The learning curve can be steep, which can be frustrating. Some freelancers drop out during this phase, when what’s needed is the ability to be patient and work on communication skills.

A large portion of skilled professionals do not consider freelancing, because of bias toward traditional jobs. There is also a gap in awareness. For example, Zooppa, a creative crowdsourcing platform that posts high-value work for filmmakers. Bangladesh has many young talented creative professionals, yet Zooppa gathers low participation from Bangladeshis simply because they haven’t heard of such specialized platforms or they never thought of trying online freelancing.

Bangladesh also needs to attract more women to explore freelancing, as the current ratio is lopsided, considering half the country’s population is female. Finally, presence of support services outside Dhaka is crucial to the freelance revolution in Bangladesh. Currently everything is centered in the capital, while the majority of the population lives outside of Dhaka.

This is an exciting time for Bangladesh. Freelancers are directly contributing to the economic health of the country and have created a reputation for Bangladesh as a talent hub. We expect to see more growth in the months to come as Bangladeshi freelancers continue to deliver great work.

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