Nahid Akhter is one of the few top-rated freelancers on Upwork with a 100 per cent Job Success Score from Bangladesh. Brought up at Dubai, she finished her bachelor’s in Computer Science from Al Ghurair University and worked as a teacher. Later, when she moved to Dhaka, she started working as a freelancer when the vocation was not still popular in Bangladesh.
Nahid Akhter is now one of the prime influencers in the freelancing community. Currently, apart from her occupation at Upwork, she is also a content creator for Codecademy, Mind Channel and an author at famous blog Data Driven Investor, which is located in Singapore.
Touhid Kamal interviewed her to know her journey of becoming a top global freelancer.
Question (Q): What was the motivation behind starting a freelancing career?
Answer (A): As my husband has a government job, we need to move around a lot. So, every two to three years we need to pack up and move to a new city. This way, it had become difficult for me to grow professionally, since every time I had to start over from the bottom. Freelancing, under these circumstances gave me the freedom to work from anywhere, at least where there is an internet connection. Moreover, I get the flexibility to work at times of the day that are convenient for me. And most importantly, I don't have barriers to my growth anymore.
Q: What are the basic skills a freelancer need to acquire?
A: You have to be self-disciplined. You have to be able to push yourself. You also have to have foresight, so you can predict which line of work will be most profitable for you or to detect when a particular line of work is starting to lose value. For example, when I started off, I used to do content writing and programming using MATLAB. But I was not getting many jobs related to MATLAB, or at least not many well-paying ones. So, I did some research and found out that Python is the language of the day and the future. I got hold of friends who knew Python to help me start up and then read a couple of books, practised, and now I teach Python to other people.
Most importantly, you should have a readiness to learn and be able to see opportunities to learn.
Q: How do you typically measure your results?
A: Mainly by the feedback from clients. The money also works as a measurement, of course.
Q: Which tools do you typically use for productivity?
A: Lists - I love to use the Google Keep application as it helps me keep track of my pending work and is available all the time on my phone. Sometimes when I find it hard to focus, I do use the Pomodoro app, but not so often.
Q: Does freelancing allow you more time to focus on your family and friends? If so, how?
A: Yes, to a certain extent. I have started prioritising my time to ensure I have enough time with my family. Initially, though, I admit, I had immersed myself so much into my work that I found myself working all day and late into the night. I had taken on too much on my plate and it felt draining at one point. However, with experience and reason, you can find your sweet spot.
Q: How do you communicate your worth to people who want to hire you for a freelancing project?
A: I simply tell them how my experience, education and qualification are relevant to their project. I give them instances and samples of my past work that was similar to their project. Usually that is what hits the spot.
Q: What would be your advice for newcomers into freelancing?
A: First and foremost, be patient, and don't lose hope easily. It takes time to get your first gig, or job. Start with small and easy jobs. Once you've done five/six jobs, you will find it easier to get more. Brush up your English. Try to specialise in your particular field. If you can be a master of one instead of a Jack of all trades, your value will increase and you will get paid much higher. Again, most importantly, keep seeking more knowledge. There is no end to learning.
Touhid Kamal is a business anthropologist. He can be reached at
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