The Path to Entrepreneurship through Freelancing

Hussein Al Haji - Al Ahsa Track
This article was written by a Youth Voice program participant. Youth Voice Program is an enriching dialogue program that aims to engage Saudi Youth from all around the Kingdom in several seminars, discussion meetings and training. It focuses mainly on critical thinking and persuasive communication skills.

The culture of entrepreneurship and the youth's access to the world of investment and commerce contribute to society with diverse and rich project experiences that help bridge the unemployment gap and lower its rates without resorting to employment as the sole solution. Entrepreneurship, commerce, and innovation generate ideas that enable the youth to create job opportunities for themselves and others. One project can build a whole new supply chain or utilize unused materials. Projects not only depend on their capabilities and resources but also on other service providers. One step forward leads to thousands of steps toward great success, fruitful work, and constructive thinking.

Spreading and encouraging the culture of entrepreneurship, launching projects, and training, as well as motivating youth through training and education camps, competitions, various financing solutions, business incubators, and consulting and advisory services throughout the year and under various sponsorships, ensure an integrated journey for the youth and, as a result, focuses on effectively and properly launching and managing their projects rather than seeking employment.

Based on my personal, although limited, experience, I can say that entrepreneurship requires preparations that go beyond the knowledge and theoretical definitions. An entrepreneur needs practical preparation and must test the water before jumping in and launching an integrated and independent project.

Entrepreneurship aims at bridging the gap between education and employment. However, there is another gap between education and entrepreneurship, which is lacking the necessary practical experience, the mental readiness for challenges, pressures, competitions, market fluctuations, and the maturity in decision-making. In my opinion, the solution to bridge such a gap is freelancing.

The world of investment has multiple horizons, and some are closer than others. These successive horizons create ascending stages and as we ascend, we discover higher, wider, and broader spaces. This gradual ascent gives each stage the time to mature experience and hone skills.

On the contrary, skipping some stages will lead to reliance on luck, like launching a rocket beyond its reasonable speed. This explains the statistics showing that many projects fail in their early years due to the lack of administrative experience in entrepreneurship and failure to horn necessary skills before accessing the market. Statistics show that 90% of companies fail in their first year, even before people hear about them. (1)    

Entrepreneurship requires a much higher mental, psychological, and administrative preparation than jobs. While employees' responsibility is limited to accomplishing the tasks assigned to them and facing routine and familiar challenges, an entrepreneur's work is far from routine. An entrepreneur works in different fields to make plans and decisions and follow up on financial, marketing, accounting, technical, administrative, executive, and other aspects. When the project owner depends on limited scientific and practical experience in investment, commerce, sales, project management, and teamwork, these overlapping aspects will be more of a spiral.

Starting with an individual project is a suitable option before starting an expensive and stressful entrepreneurship project and prior to quitting a job or even graduating, allowing young people to begin their commercial and investment experience early. An individual project focuses on acquiring, developing, and investing skills. It is freelance work that has become popular online as it harnesses all features and advantages of the internet and social media platforms to achieve this goal. In other words, it's about enjoying the journey and developing experience away from any kind of pressure that overwhelms entrepreneurs when they dive into a deep sea of commitments early on. The activation of camps, courses, and programs aimed at promoting the concept of freelancing, especially online, is very necessary.

Based on my experience that unveiled the advantages of an individual project, freelance work is rewarding without incurring high costs or having to invest in a large, complex, and tiring action plan that is time-consuming and exhausting. In order to enrich these skills and experience, the following aspects should be taken into account:

  1. Digital marketing: There are many areas that provide the beneficiaries with superior capabilities to reach the target audience with flexible costs and effective methods. Learning these aspects requires diligent and continuous practice, and mastering them brings impressive results.
  2. Branding, commercial reputation, and brand identity: The commercial identity goes beyond fonts, designs, and colors, as it requires several stages of innovation and design to give this identity its efficiently competitive values to satisfy the customer.
  3. Product design and innovation: In freelance work, it is easy for freelancers to design and innovate the product or service that they intend to invest in or sell. Freelancers have the opportunity to experiment, test, develop, and improve using one resource only: time.
  4. Negotiation and persuasion: These significant skills cannot be taught in school nor acquired by an employee who works in isolation to accomplish his tasks. Negotiating with potential and existing customers to preserve and develop a business relationship is a pivotal and profound skill that freelancers can learn through practice.
  5. Customer service and relations: In the beginning, customers may not be equally satisfied with prices or the quality of the outputs. Multiple customer feedbacks are necessary to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties. Freelancers go through such experiences during freelance work, providing them the opportunity to practice these skills and learn the best way to act according to the case.
  6. Commitment and perseverance: Commitment to the deadlines agreed upon with the customers, adherence to the quality standards required by customers, and perseverance in marketing and customer acquisition activities consistently without any delay or discouragement are necessary skills in institutional work and characterize freelancing projects.
  7. Customer journey: No project can be launched without a customer journey with clear stages that support the marketing, operational, and technical aspects. The customer's journey in institutional entrepreneurship is more complex than in freelancing. Moreover, designing, implementing, and improving customer journeys during the freelancing experience is easily achieved by practical training.
  8. Pricing: Pricing products and services is a long negotiation process with many options, such as offering a competitive price, a price with an acceptable profit margin, and a price that matches the quality and attracts the target segment. When freelancers provide the service themselves and are trained on market prices and how to provide the service at an appropriate price, they will become more confident, able to work on larger projects, and more flexible in choosing the right price and setting a good profit margin.
  9. Financial management: Although freelancing, in general, is characterized by low founding, marketing, and operational costs, it requires a minimum set of skills for financial planning and the distribution of budgets between different activities and stages at different timescales.
  10. Social intelligence: Through direct interaction with customers with different requirements, different personalities, and changing expectations, freelancers develop social intelligence skills to discover and attract potential customers, negotiate and persuade them, and resolve any conflict that may arise with them.

All of the above and more can be summarized under one key skill that combines these skills under one umbrella: Sales.

Sales is a vast and complex notion that combines skills, lessons, and competencies that can hardly come together under another umbrella. Due to its relatively limited responsibilities and stressors, freelancing provides the opportunity to focus and understand this notion in a reasonable time and with very limited to no losses. Freelancing teaches sales skills when the experience is too limited to enable entrepreneurial work and tackle its requirements. When we spend enough time freelancing, our expectations mature, and our knowledge, skills, and mental aptitudes become more refined.

In conclusion, I should add that there are national initiatives that raise awareness of freelancing, support its projects, and incubate it to help the youth achieve a good start, such as the Bahr platform by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), the Freelance Financing program called the Nfath Product by the Social Development Bank (SDB), Monshaat Academy by the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monshaat), and platform by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.   










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