Regional freelancers need to up their game

Manar Al Hinai enjoys supporting local talent but says they must be easily reachable and deliver on time

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Ð Feb 5 , 2015 :  Photographers with their cameras before the start of horse race at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) Focal Point 
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My job involves working with a number of regional content creators, from writers to videographers, for a variety of projects. I enjoy supporting and sharing their work with the world. Unfortunately, many don't make it easy for businesses to support them.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the plight of many content creators who say they aren't receiving enough support on the creative front. I was once in their shoes and I know that writers in particular find it extremely challenging to get work featured in publications, while budding videographers and photographers are desperate for a chance to have big names as clients to build up portfolios. This is one reason why I make a point to hire regional talent for my projects. However, not everyone responds to these opportunities in the manner expected of a professional.

This isn't just about having a website up there or a nice online portfolio. It actually translates into a much bigger message - that you are serious about your business operation and what you want to achieve.

In some cases, after establishing an initial contact and providing the brief and deadline, I don't hear back from them for weeks. As much as we'd love to support their efforts, they are not making it easy for companies to work with them. Businesses can't spend too much time chasing people. If we commission a project, we expect it to be delivered on time. In one instance, a content creator accused us of not being supportive, but it was past deadline by more than six weeks.

I thought I was the only one facing this issue until I ran into a colleague who said their company preferred to hire agencies instead of freelancers because of missed deadlines and delays in response.

Like me, many UAE companies and organisations are looking for regional talents as they aim to keep projects as "local" as possible. This is why some creative freelancers need to improve their game.

Many freelancers are easy to find through social media, but they need to include contact details on web pages, especially if they are advertising their work.

My advice to regional freelancers: share your website, or a link to your portfolio; keep contact details clear and visible; and, most importantly, be reachable. If you state you are a freelancer looking for work, then respond to business requests. You don't have to take every offer proposed to you, but even a simple "no" would make you appear more professional. If you are away on leave, then leave an out-of-office automated message.

I also suggest creating a simple website to serve as your portfolio. It should highlight your latest work and include a full biography. Adding testimonials is a bonus, as businesses can see what others think about working with you. Including a list of clients can offer an insight into previous collaborations.  

However, this isn't just about having a website or a nice portfolio online. It actually translates into a much more important message – that you are serious about your business operation and what you want to achieve. Often entrepreneurs are so busy thinking about securing work that they don't focus on simple tools that can help attract business in the first place.

For one, simply putting your email out there will help you achieve your targets faster.

As an entrepreneur, I've learnt never to get too comfortable. There will always be someone offering something new or more attractive. This is where you should stop and ask yourself, what more can I do to attract clients?

If you already have a website in place and are easily reachable, then get your thinking cap on. There will definitely be something you can improve on to help you win more assignments.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi