Security, safety, and certainty were once the main criteria for choosing a career. Most people would rely on their day jobs to meet ends. But, with time, professionals felt the pressing need to do more than one job and follow their passion and hence the GIG economy emerged. With flexible hours and the opportunity to work on one’s own terms, freelancing has gained tremendous popularity in recent years. In India, the freelancing community has grown significantly, making India the largest freelancing market in the world. What is interesting is that irrespective of age, gender, profession and geographies, everyone is joining the freelance bandwagon. In fact, according to a recent survey by PayPal, 48% of the freelancers using PayPal were women.
The profession is gaining significant popularity amongst women on account of the work-life balance it offers. Payments continue to be one of the key challenges for freelancers. With solutions like PayPal.me, payment giants like PayPal are making the process of receiving payments easy for freelancers.
To discuss the growing trend of freelancing among Indian women, Inc42 hosted a webinar — Nailing The Balancing Act: Women Freelancers in India — as part of the ongoing webinar series — The Rising Freelance Economy. The webinar featured Deepa Govind, a homepreneur and Jayanthi Vaidyanathan, the Director of Human Resources at PayPal India. An aquatic biologist by education, blogger by passion and a certified Zoho Solutions Provider, Deepa has been a work-from-home professional since 2007. An HR professional with a career spanning over two decades, Jayanthi has been known for driving diversity and inclusion in organizations. Under she leadership, PayPal India was recently named as one of the Great Places to Work.
Gender Diversity & Women Employees: A Focal Point For PayPal
One of the core highlights of the webinar was insights into what technology companies like PayPal are doing to support women employees. There are three core pillars for PayPal when it comes to empowering women:
- Providing ample opportunities to women
- Nurturing and providing a family-friendly environment
- Creating a culture that is truly inclusive and empowering
One of the women-focused initiatives at PayPal is facilitating women network groups, called ‘Unity’, designed to increase educational and networking opportunities for women employees, inside and outside the office.
Another such initiative is Shadow A Leader Programme which has been designed exclusively for mid-career women technologists to enable them to shadow senior leaders for a certain period of time so that they can gain requisite skills in their domain and develop their leadership skills.
There are also holistic employee policies that support creating a family-friendly environment like flexible work arrangements effective maternity, paternity, and adoption leave policies, daycare facilities and more.
Watch the full webinar here…
Here are the other highlights from the webinar:
Inc42: What drove you into the world of freelancing?
Deepa Govind: Just a basic need to do something, it is impossible to be idle. I am an aquatic biologist and I am settled in the IT city of India, Bengaluru, there is no seashore where I can be employed so I had to do something. That is when I hopped onto blogging, one thing led to the other and operating a corporate blog was my first freelancing project.
Inc42: What were some of the initial challenges?
Deepa Govind: The primary challenge any freelancer faces, is building your profile and getting work. You cannot find a freelancing opportunity on the daily classifieds. Since I already had five niche blogs, it also worked as my PR board where I was telling the world that I am an expert at certain things. I wanted people to reach out to me without revealing my personal email address or phone number on a public forum. I badly wanted to create a contact form but could not write a single line of HTML code. This is how I bumped on to Zoho Creator, a simple programming interface for a non-programmer.
Inc42: What are the key challenges faced by freelancers when receiving payments in a timely manner?
Deepa Govind: Non-payment of dues continues to be a challenge for freelancers, but my advice for everyone would be, request for upfront payment, establish a milestone based delivery that ensures that the client is at peace with the idea, that you are working on the project assigned to you, and you will have peace of mind that you got paid for your work.
You need to build trust, the client needs to trust you with your credentials, and you need to trust your clients with the payments. Freelancers do not want to give the bank details to everyone, thus, for receiving payments, the ideal choice for me is PayPal.
Inc42: How do you break the notions of freelancing not being a very serious career choice?
Deepa Govind: Unlike employees, freelancers cannot promise themselves a monthly salary package; which puts a serious pressure on one’s personal life. Apart from this, if you decide to do freelancing, it could take as many as three to ten months until you land on the first paying gig and in this waiting period you are working for yourself without pay.
Uncertainty in the cash flow is the major reason for the demotivating thoughts and the reason why pursuing freelancers give up on their freelancing dreams.
I request each one of you considering freelancing as a career, that if you are looking for a job then apply to companies, connect with the HR, take that dream forward, don’t think about freelancing as an interim opportunity.
If you are keen about freelancing then look to establish yourself and pursue any opportunity of freelancing that comes by, irrespective of the pay package. The market is not as crowded as we perceive it to be, it is like the initial rush when we see ‘on sale’ board on the door. People quit after some time, you need to stick a bit longer. Patience and perseverance is the key.
Inc42: Not having flexible working hours, sometimes demotivates people in taking up full-time work, what are your thoughts?
Jayanthi Vaidyanathan: It is critical for organisations to support women employees especially with initiatives like work-from-home and flexible hours, and even lower hours of working when they come back after a maternity break.
Inc42: How Important is Upskilling and global exposure for women, especially in the tech sector?
Jayanthi Vaidyanathan: It is critical to keep abreast with newer skills, global best practices and changing technology trends. Data shows that 40% women are constrained to taking a career break of which 90% want to come back to work. It is also important to be agile, to have a collaborative attitude and to embrace the digital mindset. At PayPal, we have a programme called Recharge that enables women technologists to come back to work after a break.
Audience: A lot of women cannot take up full-time jobs owing to family pressures, do you think freelancing instead could enable such women to build independent careers?
Jayanthi Vaidyanathan: PayPal works with freelancers across the world, many of the products like paypal.me have been designed for this segment to grow.
Progressive companies like PayPal are very open about freelancing and also support you if you want to do something more than what you are doing at work as long as the conflicts of interest are protected, and there are guidelines around that. So, there is a tremendous opportunity.
Audience: In smaller cities, people are not aware of the idea of freelancing work, how do you think one can build awareness about the freelancing opportunity?
Deepa: It is true that freelancing has caught up in bigger cities, it is a matter of time where it is going to reach smaller cities. People tend to get a little scared when you use big words and jargons, it’s more of a conditioning of the mind. Be very casual, be very friendly, the best part of freelancing is you make a personal connection with clients.
You should firstly connect with your clients, then pitch your idea, and then you should be good to go. They won’t go anywhere else once they have a personal connection with you.
Jayanthi: With the increase in digitisation, the world has become smaller; enabling us to connect with others, and there are opportunities across the globe. Software services is a great example, how it generates revenues for millions of people across the world independent of which town or city you come from. It’s about understanding the opportunities and avenues available.
Audience: Globally it has been observed that women’s wages are low as compared to men, do you think this trend has seeped into freelancing as well?
Jayanthi: I don’t think so, today there is definitely more conscience about these differences and managing them. At PayPal, we ensure that people that are employed with us do not see such differences at all. It really is an equality driven market today. I don’t know of any differences in the freelancing world as well.
Deepa: There is no remuneration disparity based on gender. It just about the value that you bring to the table which makes the client decide if you are worth the package that they are going to give you.