Freelancing in Kazakhstan: both stepping stone and ultimate prize

ASTANA – The rise of the internet has given new opportunities to people who don’t want to have bosses and work in offices from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is now the age of the freelancer.businessnewsdaily com 2

For some, it’s a precarious life. For others, this is a pinnacle of achievement, considering that they work only when they need to or want to.

“I worked in a trade company for four years as a staff system administrator. I didn’t like that job and I always wanted to schedule my work myself, be independent – and I definitely didn’t like to report to my boss. The last one was a pain in the neck. That is why I decided to start working as a freelancer. To be honest, I was afraid to leave my job in the company, because it had obvious advantages, such as a guaranteed salary and free lunches. And I had many friends there,” said Kalibek Kuanyshev, a 31-year-old freelancer from Astana, in an interview Feb. 8.

“It took me approximately one and a half years to get 15 to 20 loyal customers and decide to quit. At first, I rented a small office, but I understood that there is no need to have an office, because most of my clients worked with me from different cities and even different states. And local clients didn’t come to my office often. Usually, they came to get documents. I realised that working from home would save me money and I started to send all documents to my clients using Kazpost,” he said.

“Later, I made sure that it was the right choice and I was able to travel around the country. I used the opportunity of office-free life to travel abroad and work from Thailand. Besides, I met many freelancers and traders in Thailand and I know that there are many of them in India. Unfortunately, life there isn’t so cheap after the tenge devaluation, but I hope to try living there again if our national currency grows or I start earning in U.S. dollars or euros,” Kuanyshev added.

“I want to warn everybody: freelancing isn’t heaven. I always thought I was a realist and I thought I understood everything and could plan my life. But I was wrong and I was too optimistic when I decided to quit my job and start working as a freelancer. I didn’t know how many challenges I would have to face, how many problems I would have to solve. So, if you have decided to become a freelancer, you should understand that the absence of a boss and employer means that you have to be a boss and employer for yourself. Literally, you have to do everything your boss or employer does: manage you, find orders, control your operation, pay taxes and bear all expenses. It is not easy! And that isn’t for everyone,” he said.

“So, what do we eventually have? I would say that a freelancer has freedom, but a very limited freedom. I do not regret that I changed my life. I think that it was definitely the right choice, but I see many people leaving freelance work and deciding to find a job working for ‘the man.’ And I don’t judge them, because the life of a freelancer is full of risks and uncertainty. You never know if you will have an order today or not. Will you get good payment for your work or not? Now, after I have been working as a freelancer for five years, I understand that working in a big company at a good position isn’t a bad choice. Freelancing gave me great opportunities: great working experience with different clients; I met different people and learned to cooperate with them; I had to organise myself and learn how to advertise my services,” Kuanyshev concluded.

“I was born and lived in a village. I went to university in Ust-Kamenogorsk and lived there for four years. After I graduated with a translator’s degree I tried to find a job in the city, but my efforts were not successful. Nobody wanted to hire a graduate without work experience, in spite of the fact that I was good at translation,” said Angelika Balashova, a 28-year-old project manager from Ust-Kamenogorsk, in an interview Feb. 9.

“I moved to my parents’ house and had to live in the village again. Of course, living in such a small population centre was torment after entertaining life in the city. I tried to find a job for many months, but it is very hard if you don’t live in the city. I couldn’t afford to live there without a job, but I needed to live there to get a job. It was a vicious circle,” Balashova said.

“Eventually, I found a translation agency in Ust-Kamenogorsk that had a vacancy for freelancers and I was happy to start working via email. In one year the agency offered me the position of project manager and staff translator and I moved to the city and began to work in their office,” she said.

“I am sure that the freelance experience was extremely important and useful for me. At first, it was a great opportunity to get work experience and earn money. Secondly, freelancing was a stepping stone for me that helped me get a staff position in the company,” Balashova said.

Freelancing is quite popular in Kazakhstan and is becoming even more so as even large companies strive to save money and hire experts only when they really need them. Having such experts on staff is of course more convenient, but it is much more expensive.

Freelancers in Kazakhstan are usually registered as self-employed entrepreneurs and pay quite low tax rates.