Pakistani designer earns $20,000 each month freelancing online

Published: November 17, 2015
Tech in Asia
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Danyal Saleem. PHOTO: TECH IN ASIA

Danyal Saleem. PHOTO: TECH IN ASIA

There’s a large population of freelancers in Asia, with countries like India, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Bangladesh constituting the majority of this community.

Some are swayed by the lifestyle choice freelancing offers – there’s no need to follow corporate rules and regulations whilst abiding by a structured 9-to-5 job. Others have found opportunity to overcome job scarcity and insecurity in their countries.

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Successful freelancers can make it big and on their own terms. The potential freelancing offers in socioeconomic progress and labour force participation has also been recognised by the World Bank.

Danyal Saleem, who lives in Pakistan, is an example of how hard work and perseverance can reap rich rewards when bidding for projects online.

The graphic designer works exclusively on an online freelancing platform and has earned, on average, US$20,000 per month for the past several months. But this isn’t a story of overnight success – Danyal has had to work hard to differentiate himself and stay true to his goal.

“I was introduced to freelancing by my cousin back in 2012 but was initially put off by the low prices clients offered to pay,” Danyal tells Tech in Asia. “However, I was in college at the time studying engineering, and I saw intense competition in the job market, which is why I decided to give it a shot.”

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It was a full year later, in May 2013, when Danyal finally decided to jump in. He signed up for one of numerous sites that connect designers or coders with people or companies that have small projects, like designing a logo or building a website.

He had already started a small business to help pay for his college education, so he was nervous and apprehensive about the decision. “I gave myself two or three months at most. If I didn’t succeed, then I would go back to running the business as it was showing potential,” he says.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again

Danyal’s area of expertise is in graphic design. In his first month using Fiverr he pitched mostly for projects centred around logo designing. But it wasn’t so simple. In the first few weeks he didn’t hear back from even a single client, despite pitching for dozens of projects.

“I needed to understand what worked, so I read blogs, participated in forums, and analysed profiles of successful freelancers. It was an uphill struggle, but I didn’t want to give up,” he explains.

Danyal says he understands why clients would be apprehensive giving projects to untested freelancers. They literally have hundreds of options to choose from, he explains, and to give a project to someone with no experience requires a strong leap of faith.

They expect a professional job and are nervous to hand it over to someone who doesn’t have an established track record. To help stand out from the competition, Danyal worked obsessively on his Fiverr profile and portfolio. “A visually-appealing profile and strong portfolio are integral – the odds of landing a job are much higher then,” he outlines.

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A slow stream of projects started to come Danyal’s way. Within a few months he was landing an average of a hundred projects every month, with a large number of repeat clients. He also expanded the range of his professional services, branching out from logo design to business cards, banners, Facebook cover pages, letterheads, and stationery.

Clients who would engage him for a specific requirement soon began outsourcing related work, which resulted in higher earnings. Since May this year he has projects queued up – an enviable state of affairs for any freelancer.

But he’s had to face his fair share of challenges too. The shoddy state of internet infrastructure in his city, Mirpur, threatened to derail his freelancing career. “Sometimes I haven’t had connectivity for two days straight,” he explains. “That’s unthinkable for someone who makes his livelihood on the internet.”

Danyal’s workaround was to constantly scurry between friends houses – a frustrating but necessary process.

Above and beyond

So what advice would Danyal give other budding freelancers? “Always give something extra,” he says solemnly. “Go beyond client expectations so they keep coming back to you.”

He adds that many freelancers bid for hundreds of projects daily and then get disheartened when they don’t hear back from even a single one. The trick is to apply only for those which best meet your skillset, and then write a highly-personalised pitch so clients know you’ve spent time researching the requirements and are able to deliver. “Freelancers who copy-paste their pitches won’t get far – always put in original work and be patient.”

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Danyal’s success has also rubbed off on his peers. He claims he’s trained around 70 people in the art of freelancing online – all of whom are now earning several thousand dollars monthly. “Just learning skills isn’t enough. You need to know how to manage yourself properly and consistently give it your best,” he smiles.

This article originally appeared on Tech In Asia.

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Reader Comments (30)

  • TAJAMAL
    Nov 17, 2015 - 3:53PM

    Very motivational article Recommend

  • Fatima
    Nov 17, 2015 - 7:36PM

    Hi Danyal,
    If you’re reading this, I need to know how you train people online?
    If anyone else knows please let me know. Thanks Recommend

  • Stranger
    Nov 17, 2015 - 7:39PM

    Why did u write his details . now whos responsible if he gets terror or kidnapping or ransom threats .Recommend

  • Nov 17, 2015 - 10:15PM

    Fiverr only support payments through PayPal to sellers which works not in Pakistan. How you managed your settlements?Recommend

  • Nov 17, 2015 - 10:48PM

    Well,what more can i say about this guy,humble, stead fast, a friend a brother, he brought me into the field of freelancing,along with other bunch of guys, now i myself own a design house, and, he earned this respect and he deserved this respect, i wish you reach sky high,amen
    REGARDS USNRecommend

  • Haris K.
    Nov 18, 2015 - 1:38AM

    Good article. I’m also a freelance graphics designer with good record. I’d like to help anyone who need tips to get going. Cheers.Recommend

  • Haris K.
    Nov 18, 2015 - 1:43AM

    @Sumayya Meraj

    You can withdraw money using bank transfer. Acknowledge that any incoming payment to Pakistan in USD is applicable to a $35 flat foreign tax, this is a cut made on your side of the payment so expect to receive $15 if you make a withdrawal of $50.

    However, I’d like to add that Fiverr is not that great when it comes to finding potential clients for designers or developers.

    Cheers. Recommend

  • Gilani Syed
    Nov 18, 2015 - 3:23AM

    It is indeed a great help and Miss Sumaayah there are other ways payineer that is supported in Pakistan and Fiveer pays with it. I would love to meet him so he can help me improve my profile from level one to further.

    USN is there any way I can contact him please email me his email not phone so I can professionally contact him.Recommend

  • Zahid
    Nov 18, 2015 - 4:20AM

    WeldonRecommend

  • Nov 18, 2015 - 4:31AM

    Danyal – Congrats. Wish you only the very best and pray for your continued success. Recommend

  • Shakil Ahmed Khan
    Nov 18, 2015 - 5:40AM

    inspiring story, way to go for educated professionals and dont look and wait for jobs!
    other tip to create your rappo when starting, offer your work free for charities to build profile.

    on the same note, he earns USD 240K per annum, how much tax he is paying :)Recommend

  • Nov 18, 2015 - 8:08AM

    @Shakil Ahmed Khan

    Honestly, I think the tax part is completely irrelevant.

    Offering free work to charities is something I would suggest you do after you’re successful. That is when it counts the most. For a beginner, I would highly suggest participating in contests. That way you will find out where are you standing and what kind of designs are wanted in the industry, plus the most important point is the hope to win a reward, which is a great motivator.

    I would also like to add that the outsource market is being exploited at its best, most of the agencies I know in freelance business do not have any respect or passion for art and usually hire unqualified labor to get bulk projects and maximize their profit. Always work on your face value, it will take you places.

    Cheers.Recommend

  • Sultan Durrani
    Nov 18, 2015 - 8:32AM

    Youngsters should take lesson from the success of Mr. Danyal and appreciate his hard work.Recommend

  • Nov 18, 2015 - 11:47AM

    Dear Danyal i read this article so heart touching i proud to you as a pakistani has done great job, May ALLAH give you more success. Recommend

  • Nov 18, 2015 - 12:31PM

    Well there is always bitcoin to settle payments. But its great to see freelancers earning a living other then clicking. Recommend

  • ارشد حسین
    Nov 18, 2015 - 4:51PM

    Its good to see that ET has some good articles too for publishing. Recommend

  • Danial shah
    Nov 18, 2015 - 5:33PM

    @Haris K.:
    How yu gonaa help me out.. Guide me? Recommend

  • bewafa
    Nov 18, 2015 - 8:34PM

    @Haris K.:
    Tax part is not irrelevant. The $20k a month is especially when it is unverifiable. It may be his revenue assuming he has a few employees to work for him – but certainly not his earning (profit). Money does not fall from trees no matter how successful and fast you are. In PK, IT and IT enabled services are tax free till 2016. Dont know whether it applies to AJ&K where he lives.
    btw, publishing his income is very much objectionable. He does not keep private security around. Does he?Recommend

  • Shahid
    Nov 19, 2015 - 11:20AM

    @Haris K.:
    Hi Haris,
    Thanks.
    How to write a good proposal?Recommend

  • usman
    Nov 19, 2015 - 2:28PM

    Highly Inspirational Recommend

  • M Ali
    Nov 19, 2015 - 5:50PM

    20K in $’s. Give me a break. I’ve been free lancing for years. 20×12= 240K dollars a year. Thats the pay an American executive gets after many years in job.

    Lets see.
    24 hours x 30 days = 720 hours in a month.
    20,000 divided by 720= 27+ dollars per hour and that if he is working like a robot 24 hours day and never rests, now go to any major free lancing website (odesk etc) and see how many are being hired for 27+ dollars an hour.

    Its just like that fraud guy who claimed he fixed a security leak in some french security agency and Bill gates himself asked him to work for microsoft. He was busted few months later by Pakistani bloggers using fake certificates.

    20K’s dollar guy have to say 20K dollar to be news worthy coz no one would’ve cared if it were 2K dollar…..Recommend

  • Rashid Q
    Nov 20, 2015 - 1:01AM

    @Sumayya Meraj: Fiverr also supports “Payoneer” (apart from Paypla), which makes it possible to Pakistani users to withdraw their funds. Recommend

  • Nov 20, 2015 - 12:10PM

    I am also interested to do online job , will expert guide me how to do also tell me those websites where they are earning now??Recommend

  • ahsan
    Nov 20, 2015 - 1:54PM

    @Haris K.:
    can you guide me on the online projects? and payment methods ?Recommend

  • Haris K.
    Nov 23, 2015 - 1:01AM

    Hello, I’ve been trying to respond but Tribune does not allow posting contact information. Please find me online so I can help you. Thank you.Recommend

  • Haris K.
    Nov 23, 2015 - 6:07AM

    You can find me on Behance by the way. Cheers.Recommend

  • Asim
    Dec 22, 2015 - 6:53AM

    @Sumayya Meraj:
    It offers Bank transfers and Payoneer card too!Recommend

  • Asim
    Dec 22, 2015 - 8:43AM

    @M Ali:
    Logos, Branding and Corporate Identity work is not like Data Entry or anything “per hour” even if it is $20, $30. This work starts from as low as $5 a logo and goes upto $500 – 800 per Logo+ Branding & Corp Identity etc. Now if you got unique ideas, creativity and skill to convert; doing an avg 3 projects worth $200 – 300 a day is no big deal…Recommend

  • Ali
    Dec 24, 2015 - 4:19PM

    @Sumayya Meraj:
    No, You can get paid via Payoneer, We are doing same and has 4 designers, SEO in office, Getting thousands of Dollars via Fiverr and PPH.

    Even some peoples are earning with doing funny things on Fiverr.Recommend

  • Jan 15, 2016 - 10:28PM

    @Fatima:
    To teach online you have to use Some tools like Skype,teamViewer and probalay some team collaboration tools like Slack or twadoo.
    ThanksRecommend

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