Zimbabwe has been subjected to power cuts and load shedding for a while now. This has gotten even worse in the past six months with Zimbabwe’s electricity sole supplier suffering from a lifetime of poor maintenance and low levels of water at Kariba. It is hearsay that the levels at Kariba are at the all-time low levels they hit during the 1992 drought. So yes we have no power, electricity is gone for long hours at a time, as much as 18 hours.
We all have an idea of how these power cuts affect large business; with power gone most of the time, companies are forced to run up their operating costs as they use electricity alternatives that in most cases demand installation, fuel and maintenance costs. Also, the marginal utility of energy substitutions is expensive as no one can manage the economies of scale that a power company has, resulting in lower costs.
It would be good to note how this has affected the little man (Freelancers) in business situations all over the country.
- Mobile availability – the power cuts have disrupted business for most non-corporate business people because most business is handled on the phone, appointments set up, feedback received and in some cases payments made. Now imagine the person you are trying to call is unavailable because they couldn’t charge their phone (how could they? Power has been gone for 12 hours!). So if they are unavailable you cannot blame them. The nature of freelancers is two-fold, either they work from home and rarely leave or they are always mobile. Both cases pose a risk for them as both can result in them being unavailable on their mobiles due to the power cuts.
- Freelance disruption – in an economy where a lot of people are unemployed, a lot of people are looking to go into some form of freelancing. I would love to insert an unemployment rate percentage but since the Zuva ruling, that figure rises like Zimbabwe dollar inflation in . A good number of young Zimbabweans now engage in freelance work in the areas of Web Design and Graphic design, ideal freelance work to do from home at your own pace without having to incur too many costs, just have a good Internet Service Provider (ISP) and you are good to go. That is the ideal situation, unfortunately, the power cuts pop that bubble. With power gone for more than 12hours, unless your laptop or battery is new, you don’t have a lot of hours of productivity. If your laptop does do a lot of hours unplugged you are lucky, but then without power, you most probably will not have internet connectivity (this is considering you went and got fixed internet like fibre or ADSL which are faster and more reliable than the wireless alternatives). So now creative are forced out of their homes and into the CBD…where they can either buy a pot of coffee for every hour spent in a café with Wi-Fi; or no coffee but poor aeration and the ridiculous company that makes it hard to concentrate.
In these two respects being a freelancer is already harder than it should have to be. You may plan for your resources to cover you and do you a good job but it seems ZESA has the last say for Zimbabweans.
Luckily, there are ways to beat this though. There are a lot of existing and upcoming Entrepreneur Hubs and incubator hubs that offer entrepreneurs and freelancers a chance to have workspaces with all the resources they may need for a fixed cost. These Hubs allow freelancers and entrepreneurs to rent-a-desk on a daily or monthly basis and then benefiting from all the resources they would have needed while also allowing them to be in an environment that allows for them to work undisturbed. They can also benefit from the assistance or presence of other individuals in similar industries or support industries. Examples of resources available in addition to a desk and power are internet access and access to business coaching
A few such hubs in Harare are Moto Republik, Muzinda Hub, Stimulus Hub and Hypercube Hub. Get in touch with them via their social media pages and you could change the way you work. You will get assistance that will better not just you work culture but your business acumen as well. The Hubs are ideal for Freelancers who want to be in an environment with similar individuals, who want to take advantage of the databases that these Hubs have at their disposal for the aid of their members. So join, become a member and better yourself. Freelancing may be about being an island, but it is very hard to improve yourself without external influence.