We’re starting a new series called Featured Soloist, highlighting a LocalSolo Freelancer every week or two. We’ll ask questions about their freelance work, get advice for other freelancers, and learn the lessons they’ve picked up along the way.
This month’s featured Soloist is Ghazal Khan. She’s a technical product manager from New York City with nearly 10 years of experience.
Her unique mix of technical and management skills plus familiarity with South-Asian culture have created an opportunity for her to help US-based companies manage offshore teams. She works as the go-between for product owners in the US and technical teams in Asia. We think this is a great example of how a local freelancer can provide an invaluable service in managing offshore talent.
Before becoming a full-time freelancer, Ghazal worked for a number of firms on projects including media and publishing websites, entertainment events ticketing platforms, international money transfer software, and Salesforce API integration.
What’s your elevator pitch to new clients?
I act as a bridge to help manage offshore South Asia development teams.
I can come in the middle by being in touch with the developers in South Asia, and communicate with you, the client on your end. I help you manage the whole software development project. The developers hire me to communicate with western clients, and clients hire me to communicate with the offshore teams. It’s a win win. I also take meetings late night so the client doesn’t have to.
How did you start freelancing?
I had a daughter and took maternity leave. When I decided to go back to work, I decided to give freelancing a try, and figured my niche would be in great need.
What led you to realize your service was needed?
I ended up being selected by the companies I’ve worked for to manage offshore teams due to my cultural understanding and language. I figured there was a great freelance market for this skill.
What do you love about freelancing?
I like the fact that the hours are flexible. Especially since I’m a new mom. I have the ability to control the projects as I see fit, which is a ton of fun for me. Dealing with people on my terms is a big plus!
What’s some advice you can offer to other freelancers?
You have to surrender and have to go with whatever project goes your way when you are starting out. You have to be open and learn from people’s experiences, especially people who have been there and done that.
What recent work are you most proud of?
Currently I’m working with a couple of development teams from Pakistan. They’ve hired me to help manage their projects with US clients. Right now I’m working on animated videos and content.
How do you keep the work and new clients coming in?
I use LinkedIn extensively to proactively reach out to potential clients. Other than that, it’s networking through my contacts. I focused on business development and networking for the first month! That really helped.
So now I’m focusing on the work that landed. When those projects are over, I’ll do a cycle of business development again.
What’s your advice in dealing with clients?
Listen more and talk less. Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves in difficult situations. What really matters is the overall success, so ignore the small battles and disagreements, don’t take those to heart and focus on the end goal.
What are some tools you use that make your work life easier?
I use Skype a ton, especially because I’m working with team’s abroad. I prefer to talk on Skype rather than to Slack, as in South Asia, that’s the communication style the dev teams are used to.
For task management I prefer to use JIRA.
What’s next for you?
In a year I want to be able to continue with freelancing and have a constant flow of work. In a few years, I may move back to South Asia and work from there. So since I’ve worked in the North American market, I’ll be twice as valuable in the South Asian market.
What are common challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Just starting out in business development, this is the main obstacle. I’m new to promoting myself. So overcoming that is just to take what comes my way to start, rather than trying to find the perfect gig.
I’ve been flexible and taking a pre-sales and account management role at the start of projects, as that’s how my current clients wanted me to start, as opposed to just managing the project once the work has landed.
Check in every few weeks when we’ll highlight another LocalSolo Freelancer. If you’d like to be a featured Soloist, just send us a message.