Payment woes for freelancers in Qatar
With a large migrant population, stringent sponsorship system, and limited diversity in the job market, freelancing is the best option for many in Qatar; especially professionally qualified trailing spouses. However, doing work doesn’t always guarantee payment.
Over the last few days freelancers, mainly writers, were venting their frustrations on Twitter.
JustHere spoke to a few freelancers from other industries and learned it was not just writers who faced payment problems.
One of the major issues concerning freelance jobs is that most of the time there is no fixed contract between the freelancer and the employer. Says 3D artist J.K. who has been in Qatar for over two years. “There are no fixed terms and conditions. So employers end up giving us additional duties that were not mentioned to us at the start. Most of the clients that we work for are not proficient in that particular field, hence they don’t realise the time and effort that goes behind completing a project. With work overload deadlines are often missed, the project gets scrapped and then we are blamed for it. As a result, our payment is affected.”
Another issue that he points out is that some companies don’t stick to the amount that was agreed for initially. “They know we can’t take any legal actions against them. So before the project, they will agree to our cost. And once the work is done, they will reduce the cost to an amount they consider fit for the quality of work.”
After dealing with several bitter experiences, the 3D artist gave up freelancing and is currently working full-time.
Now there are companies that do pay you, but only after a considerable amount of time and a couple of excuses. A freelance translator from Syria, who has been working in this field for over 10 years says, “It’s difficult to follow-up with them. Each time I call, they will tell me that their accountant is on leave or is sick. I know these are just excuses. And I prefer cash to cheques, as it takes even more time to be signed and approved. I used to work in Damascus before, and never faced any such problems there.”
But more than delayed payment what he finds unfair is how some companies end up not using the work of freelancers. “I spend so much time completing an assignment, and at the end they will say sorry, we cannot use your work due to some reason, and they don’t even pay me for that. What should I do with their sorry? This is completely unfair.”
It also seems like payment issues for freelancers isn’t just restricted to Qatar. A former freelancer in the advertising industry Saddique Waggia also complained of similar issues in Bahrain.
“The longest I had to wait for my payment was three months. This was because I was directly dealing with clients. If you freelance for clients through an agency, payment is a little quicker though not on time. But the Middle East is better than back home. In Cape Town I waited for almost a year.”
It’s how you deal with clients
A few other freelancers that JustHere spoke to had no complaints. Shalinee Bharadwaj who has been a freelance writer for nine years says she always shared a good rapport with people she worked for.
“I have come across several blogs that spoke about how freelancers never got paid. Luckily for me, I never faced any such issues. People have always been quick in responding to my emails and queries. I think it’s important to make it clear from the beginning about what you can deliver and what you can’t to avoid any hang-ups. When you keep the other person waiting, negative feelings will naturally arise.”
Sonali Raman, a freelance fashion consultant says it’s important that you negotiate with companies in the right way. “You need to be clear with them about payment conditions right from the beginning. There were times when I had issues and I put my foot down. Of course when I have to deal with individuals, payment gets a bit delayed. But then since it’s important for me to build a good relationship with them, I am okay with their reasons. But I have always been paid and most of the time there was no delay.
“In fact, there has been delay from my end when it comes to collecting cheques.”
As freelancers fall outside the purview of labour law, they receive little or no protection. Though some organisations, including JustHere, insist on a freelance contract, to protect the interests of both parties.
Though the contract may not be binding, it at least provides in black and white the terms and conditions, and contractual obligations.
Are you a freelancer? How has your experience been?