When it comes to jobs people have traditionally looked for a number of factors: stability, fair pay and the opportunity to grow in one’s career. But in contemporary times people are searching for different criteria such as “remote,” “freelance,” and “flexibility.”
Pakistan has an exploding freelance market across fields including writing, tech, finance and customer support. So much so that the government has set up its own freelance training program. People in creative fields, consulting, or even those who are running their own businesses, have also opted out of 9-5s.
Each year State Bank of Pakistan’s fiscal report shares figures on how massive freelancing is here. Since 2018 we have ranked in the top 5 freelance worker countries in the world, last year we came in in 4th place and there are an estimated 1 million freelancers active in the country. Pakistani freelancers contributed nearly $400 million export remittances in the 2022 fiscal year.
People taking the unconventional approach to work are doing so because they do not want to be tied down by conventional standards.
“I’ve always preferred the laissez faire approach to work so I like having the freedom of choice in how I allot my time, how much my time and effort is worth and most importantly, which projects align with my style and identity,” said Maryam Raja a fashion stylist. “I’m willing to compromise on the security of a monthly pay check that comes with a stable 9-5 job, andI feel the corporate culture is going obsolete fast and it might get replaced with a new culture of working.”
Constraints of work culture and structure were a common factor for the unconventional workers we spoke to.
“As a freelancer I set my boundaries, I set my hours, I decide so much and beyond the power of being my own boss I am more successful because I am tailoring everything to meet my needs so that I perform my best,” said Omer Zahid Ali who does remote work in IT.
Working around your own time table was something Hassan Tariq who works as a consultant in development pushed him to leave his 9-5 and work for himself.
“Timing is a big thing for me personally. I know I work best at night, after 6 pm is when I concentrate the best,” said Hassan. “In university I was doing freelance work and was earning pretty good, so I wish I had trusted my gut and kept going once I graduated, but I learned what works for me after trying out my office job.”
Sarah Malik a fitness trainer who decided to leave the gym she was training in to start her own private training business.
“Doing fitness training with clients on my own allowed me flexibility. I don’t want to be misleading there is a lot of stress when you are working for yourself and do not have someone else’s structure to follow like in a traditional office job but the structure can work against you,” she said. “For me to be present and excited about what I do I need the hours I work to work around me rather than I work around them if that makes sense.”
For others being your own boss is meaningful and a success in itself like for Arsh Shakeel who worked for multiple publications doing art direction and design, pivoted to working for herself taking on book designing for authors and book publishers.
“This job is more time consuming but I control everything about it so even though I have to work probably longer than a traditional 9-5 would even ask of you it’s work I am doing completely on my own, I am very proud of it,” she said.
Of course, it is all based on preference and availability. Millions around the world work in offices and without a doubt many definitely prefer the structure and stability of traditional work environments, but the trend of opting out does not seem to be slowing down.