• Education, Community

Q & A: The state of freelancing in Bangladesh

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

How has the freelancer ecosystem changed in Bangladesh over the last 2 years?

Freelancing in Bangladesh has evolved considerably over the last couple of years especially in the international tech space. One recent development is the government’s level of interest in building resources to support the increasing number of freelancers in the country.

The freelance economy is emerging as a lucrative alternative to traditional jobs for countries like Bangladesh. Crucial to freelancing success is a reliable supply of power and internet connectivity – which have improved in last few years as well. Additionally, though the concept of co-working spaces for freelancers is still new in Bangladesh, it is gaining popularity. Unlike from a few years ago, freelancers are emerging from behind their laptops to network and share experiences!

It is also easier than ever to get paid anywhere in Bangladesh now. Since the adoption of payout services that use local bank transfer like Transpay, freelancers’ earnings reach 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.

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It is only a matter of time when more people will realize that it is not a fad – freelancing is a viable career option for ambitious Bangladeshis!

What tertiary support services have emerged that help Bangladeshis remain competitive on freelancing platforms?

Today Bangladeshi freelancers make up about 12% of all freelancers in the world. Gradually employers have begun to trust Bangladeshis with their projects.

Now, to grow to the next level, there a number of ongoing initiatives by both government and NGOs who offer training in various aspects important to freelancers – starting from soft skills (communication etiquette, professionalism) to technical training on Joomla and iOS app development. There are competitions all year around in Bangladesh now including the National App Conference, Programming Contest, and Affiliate Marketers Bootcamps. A culture of mentorship is also taking shape, proving to be valuable to everyone.

Co-working spaces and tax assistance is in their early stage with co-working space only in the capital, Dhaka. Additionally 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 is also likely to get better.

What top skills spell success for freelancers?

The major chunk of Bangladeshi freelancers are either affiliate marketers, web developers, graphic designers or writers/rewriters.

However, Android app development has been on the rise for last couple of years now and many freelancers have their own startups based around these projects (which are usually longer term). Affiliate marketing is still expanding in number, as there are many experts who train new freelancers to work in this space.

More growth is expected in the tech space compared to the creative services in Bangladesh, while the SEO and affiliate marketing skills will maintain a steady position.

What are online resources that every freelancer in South Asia should be aware of?

Freelancers should be accessible, and work history should be readily available online to ensure a search for their name leads an employer to the right place. To begin with, a freelancer should have a complete profile on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn and an account on major messaging platforms like Skype, Viber, etc.

At an overall level, the following resources might be helpful:

  • Accounting & Financial: Freshbooks makes billing clients simple. 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 ensures all needed resources are available by syncing your computer, laptop and smartphone.
  • Efficient Payments: Bangladeshis are realizing that choosing an efficient payout service can save them transfer fees and help them get better exchange rates – helping them keep more of what they earn. A service like Transpay ensures timely payments with no hidden fees and delivers directly to your local bank.
  • Productivity Tools: Evernote is fantastic for hanging on to essential notes and articles – and does a bit of everything.
  • Homegrown solutions: – Bangladesh’s home grown marketplace has set its sights to become an important South Asian player in the coming year.

What are some of the roadblocks to maximizing potential on crowdsourcing platforms?

Freelancing, truly is, two worlds colliding. For example, a Bangladeshi freelancer and an American employer work through differences in language, professional approach, perspectives and the list goes on. It takes time to adapt and then create and deliver meaningful work, which often gets frustrating and some freelancers fall off during that phase. New freelancers need more focus to be patient and improve communication skills.

There is also a gap in awareness. For example, Zooppa is a creative crowdsourcing platform that posts high value work. 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 very low– considering half the country’s population is female. Finally the availability of tertiary 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.

What else should freelancers know that wasn’t covered above?

Above everything else, freelancers must hold their heads high. They directly contribute to the economic health of the country and secure Bangladesh’s place as a talent hub.

As a participant in the digital economy, freelancers need to keep themselves updated and periodically do a demand-supply analysis of their skills and services to remain competitive and relevant. These digital workers should also find reliable clients and dependable payout services who will deliver salaries on time while they can focus on delivering great work!

Nabila Khurshed is a seasoned marketing professional with years of experience in consumer insights, communications and consulting.

This interview was conducted by Laura Tiebert, the Director of PR and Content for Transpay, a cross-border payments platform that enables freelancers globally to receive quick, hassle-free payments without hidden fees, through direct-to-bank transfers or cash pickups. She writes about the sharing economy, payments innovations, and the new digital work economy.