‘Expats Freelancing It’ is a Yay For Today Q&A series on freelancing expats.
Kia Ora! I’m Jasmine and if you didn’t already guess, I’m a New Zealander from Christchurch. I have lived in Doha, Qatar (Middle East) for close to 5 years with my husband and 3 young children. I’m a freelance graphic designer, with a passion for all things crafty and creative. We moved here for my husband’s work (Education) with the aim that I would be able to do some kind of work. If not graphic design, then perhaps making and selling some craft/design products. We only ever thought we’d live here for 3 years, then head back to NZ. Clearly that didn’t happen and we are still here, with no immediate plans to head back ‘home’. Me being able to freelance is a big factor in staying an expat here.
Jasmine Shaughnessy is a freelance graphic designer from New Zealand and currently based in Qatar.
What is the background of your business?
I studied Graphic Design and worked in both NZ and London in a variety of design agencies. When living in London for 4 years, I freelanced through a recruitment agency which was easy as they find you the work. Back in NZ I freelanced for a bit (independently) then worked full time for a few years in an agency. Once kids came along I just did the odd bit of freelancing until moving to Doha.
Do you think being an expat changes what you offer and the way you do business when compared to others in your field?
I do a lot more brand creation and strategy living here as the market really needs it. Being an expat certainly helps as the expat community relies heavily on word of mouth recommendations. I mainly work with expat companies as ‘we speak the same language’ and work in similar ways.
Are their unexpected challenges you didn’t anticipate when you took your business to a new location?
I didn’t research it much before leaving NZ, but I honestly thought there would be recruitment/freelance agencies here. But there isn’t, so that meant I had to find my own clients, which is hard at the best of times, not to mention being in a new country. Thankfully there are a lot of expats and expat companies here so English is widely spoken (for both locals and expats) therefore English language/western style design is needed. Next place we go to I’ll certainly do more research and hope for a good expat community!
What are the benefits of being an expat freelancer as opposed to just working as a freelancer in your home country?
I’ve worked on some great jobs that at home would probably go straight to an agency. Companies are more willing to work with a recommended freelancer as there is a lot of cowboys here that will not charge much but the design is reflected in the price. I earn good money, and have flexibility to holiday when we want. Being a tax free country means I don’t have to do all my tax returns too which is such a relief!
Are there any external frustrations that make it hard to do the work at the standard you expect.
Yes, the printing industry here isn’t flash and its very expensive. They seem to have the equipment, but not the skilled people to operate it. It’s disappointing seeing a design not at it’s best because it’s printed badly, or there isn’t all the print finishes available (like at home). Deadlines are always missed and trying to instill the need to meet deadlines with quality work is very hard and frustrating. You need to establish good relationships with people but it’s hard in a transient community.
What percentage of your work is for local clients and what is for overseas clients?
All my work is for companies in based Doha. They are mainly expat companies, and some of my clients I have actually never met in person! Conducting everything online via email, phone calls and Whatsapp, makes it an easy job to take with me when we leave here. Ideally I want to work with clients long term as I like to invest fully in their brand. If this is the case, it really doesn’t matter where I am located as long as I have the internet.
Is language a barrier at all?
I’m lucky here in Doha as English is the main language of business. There are some jobs I have done that need Arabic in them, so I needed to learn a bit of Arabic formatting. I’ve also met a couple of translators and I always ask clients to supply everything in Arabic and English to ensure I get it right. Dealing with printers can be a bit challenging with the language barrier, especially when talking about technical stuff, but I heavily rely on them knowing English.
Jasmine Shaughnessy is from New Zealand and is a freelance graphic designer currently based in Qatar. She has also lived in London. You can contact on firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on linked in https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasmineshaughnessy/