Featured goLancer: Shekhar Mahapatra
Hello friends, I’m Shekhar Mahapatra I live in a small town in West Bengal called Howrah, (as per Geological Survey of India, it’s called Haora), it’s called twin city of Kolkata. I have completed my bachelor in Arts and Law with Honours (BALLBHONS) from Department of Law, Calcutta University, Hazra Campus in 2008. I am working online since 2010. My first job was in rights organisation in 2007. I am an organic, veteran legal expert (self-made, legal expert to be precise, as never ever a reference worked for me), ex-litigation lawyer, offshore legal, worked extensively with India, US and UK based client, along with clients all over the world.
I've expertise in law of contracts, business law and have experience around 13 years+; my experience includes legal drafting and writing per business requirements.
goLance: Shekhar, when did you decide to become a freelancer and why? Is freelancing your only and main source of income or you provide your legal services on some other basis?
Shekhar: I did not actually decide on any given profession! Including freelance, it’s just a matter of coincidence. I had pretty much clear about freelancing even when I am in school, I know it means to work independently. When I entered law school my idea was just to leave a mark among legal luminaries but as years passed I entered regular litigation, I understood that I am passionate about legal drafting, analysis, review, arbitration, including techno-legal convergence. But after working in Pune and Mumbai, I have understood the work in the legal outsourcing industry is very rigid, template-oriented, boxed and there is very little scope to show the best ability, out of box thinking. The project durations and work pattern are too fragile for a long term work or career objective. Thus freelance or independent working begins to spark while to locate a particular site worth the trust is very difficult in those days as there are mostly scams but still I have located my ex-colleagues profile in oDesk. It’s like a pleasant surprise, how neatly the site and its support helped people but later they are plagued with bugs, financial issues, and sold off to elance and finally upwork was came into being, and I continued this freelancing work without oDesk!
Yes, since 2010 freelance being my major source of income. I provide online offline support and services regard to legal matters and worked in a regular office in between.
goLance: What’s your opinion about the freelance industry during the pandemic? How has COVID influenced your situation and earnings?
Shekhar: Covid influenced the world economy too badly; as such freelancers are part of this world economy. Most freelancers work on a contractual basis and there is mostly no guaranteed or fixed income, even in normal times, and during uncertainties, most of the entrepreneurs were afraid to hire people and even big corporates to outsourcing, information technology companies begin to downsize and in fact, this downsizing and lack of faith in economy or confusion continued, for quite some time and may last for a couple of years. Covid was just like an international disaster so conspired to prove supremacy. The initial months were very tough, even for me, almost no jobs were, posted! During covid several people died of disease, hysteria, committed suicide due to lack of livelihood, false news and even several of them were still suffering due to undue wage bargaining that started with mass lay off in offices, factories.
There is no denying those initial months when prices of food and essential goods skyrocketed, the pulse that barely cost one-half dollar was increased to cost $5-$10 dollar, per kg, for example, the work on freelancing sites depleted to zero as no new job as is being posted and obviously all freelance jobs dried up across the most populous sites. Even now things have not reached normalcy yet it is ticking.
goLance: What’s the most challenging part of your work as a freelancer?
Shekhar: It actually depends; there are sites, where duplicate jobs/dummy jobs are posted regularly and not even moderated this is one primary challenge in an unregulated site!
As a newbie and for quite some time I was encountered with this typical breed of client those who simply wishes you to do their work, get their job done under any pretext while not paying any money! Like taskr or getlance, worknhire, etc that came into being from nowhere and lost into oblivion, so the point being an unruly freelance site needs be avoided at all costs it is challenging what to choose and what to avoid and one can learn that through experience!
Otherwise to help a client as per their actual requirement is challenging, as most of the clients cannot describe or forget to describe what they are actually looking forward to. This is challenging because you cannot deliver if you are unaware of client requirements, it is normal, in any professional, including legal, I agree and accept the responsibility.
But sadly during all recession periods or this covid period most challenging part is, to identify who is a real client and to see client remains on the radar post days of discussion.
While there are many challenges primary being legal, analysis, finding a solution to business and legal issues, understanding technicalities, business specifics, previous agreements, understanding, covenants, restrictions, specific legislation, client-specific terminology, business dealings, previously signed non-disclosure issues, patents, trademark, reservations, industry-specific issues, these ultimately reflect on legal documentation. But as such drafting legal document is not that challenge in my current stage of freelancing career but one needs to be careful all the time. A successful exclusive legal work means days of hard work it’s not few hours of brainstorming! It’s like allowing brainstorm without causing destruction, without losing patience or being hyper.
goLance: Do you work exclusively on one freelance platform or do you also provide your service on multiple freelance platforms and potential earning channels? How do you compare goLance with other freelance websites?
Shekhar: At the initial stage of my freelance career, I was working on oDesk and also through, online job boards, but then in the due course, I did open an account with almost all the freelancing sites where my skill is relevant or I can open an account.
There are very few freelance sites that are well organized, charging a relatively small fee and have direct to bank payments options, which I miss since oDesk cease to exist, golance is among the very best for these reasons, but client regard to my (legal)work area are pretty few, that is something really an issue but hopefully, people will learn about goLance in long term and it’s actually beneficial for both buyer and seller but people inevitably like to follow the crowd but if you step back to see goLance you will not be disappointed.
goLance: You describe yourself as a self-made successful freelancer. What would be your word of advice to your fellow newbie freelancers?
Shekhar: Frankly, I do not consider myself successful or failure it’s meant for others’ perception, who perceive these things, till I die this observation among people will be there as my performance consistency will be measured. I do not agree with anyone recommending a course to become a freelancer, it is not the right thing even today when we have so many institutions offering such courses. Self-made being the only solution if you can afford to keep experimenting with your skills while keeping your eyes and ears open!
Here is my advice:
Freelancing is serious work; whether you do it part-time or full time and you are supposed to meet challenges and deliver. Freelancing is very challenging and time-consuming than any regular job as you are working on your own, you will be handling negotiation, presentation, determining fees, finally to deliver and support clients.
Challenges may be around language, understanding, and of course, you will meet millions of clients who will try to tell you things like upfront or escrow is not the process or system they follow, but it’s completely suicidal if you accept their proposition.
Learn when to negotiate and when to leave.
The client community is well aware of illness alibi so do not use alibi for lazing around.
Do not mix professional and personal life, do not think am saying this because I belong to the legal profession but the moment you breach, this most important rule, you are going to lose your wage, trust, goodwill forever!
Whether you are a web designer or coder or creative artist or legal expert or any other field of freelancing you just need to follow these simple rules, do not promise what you cannot deliver, do not sell yourself low, do not do free work, negotiate, polish your skills and obviously do not cheat. And finally do not burn the precious you!
Pursue a hobby, like doing yoga, reading books, movies, traveling, in long term, this will be very detoxing. But I can see several of the freelancers just do the opposite in the hurry to get quick work they almost reduce themselves so low that in long term they lose interest in doing work or burn themselves or remain dependent on others regard to even paying bills.
I personally like watching movies, one of my law college teachers uses to say that, even reading a film magazine and frankly being yourself is nothing wrong!
goLance: What are the goLance features and options that you appreciate the most?
Shekhar: There are loads of features in goLance. Starting with the profile, goLance does treat users like a qualified individual who is different from most of the freelance site; It asks you about your education, awards, and even “patents”. goLance does not wish to make you bankrupt under the pretext of some skill test, or promotion, or even charging fees, you will be surprised if you are an Upwork user then you are aware of hopping 23% plus fees and even the most decent freelance site still charges you around 10% + on your earning but golance just charges 7.95, offers cash backs, (sound like a charm!) without asking you to pay the further membership fee, to reduce fees to this extent, even this answer what you are reading, golance posted this interview of mine without charging me a penny, where, as the most freelance site in the market asks you pay through the nose just to promote a profile.
Coming to receiving money, golance follows an unconventionally friendly approach where most of the freelance site asks you to verify payment method using a credit card, but golance allows you to attach normal saving bank account and take full responsibility to convert the receivable into your local currency being Indian it’s like a whole lot of relief!
Overall goLance has a whole lot of benefits that attracted me, to open this account. But I have not found many jobs around my work area! Here on the site but my profile is pretty old!
Last but not least the color scheme and the way all features are organized it looks pretty cool!
goLance: What is the best way to increase every freelancer's chances of being hired and establishing a long term working relationship with clients based on your personal experience?
Shekhar: In my opinion skills, presentation, negotiability, being flexible yet upright, honest, clear about capability, warm, friendly approach, accepting timeline strictly, as lifeline goes a long way to ensure long term association with the client.
goLance: What can you tell us about your other interests, besides the law and freelancing?
Shekhar: I like technology, I love to read, understand new technology, conduct a scientific experiment, in our day-to-day life, and out of sheer willingness to retain my oldest android handset I have learned to port open-source OS after getting a lot of support and advice from several of XDA family.
I love writing and have several anonymous blogs, and even worked for one client’s creative project but otherwise, it’s mostly amateur.
Apart from that, I like psychology; I had one certification even! I like to read and understand human psychology and I got complimented (hopefully that’s not a joke) for talking like a philosopher! It’s pretty important and helpful both in personal life and obviously in the business world. For a long time, I have used Kik (instant messenger based in Canada) based anonymous community to reach out to people having distress, depression, and once that anonymous community was shut down I have joined Quora to continue, supporting people, having issues including depression, relationship, trauma, etc. Even I have answered on other issues as well like technology etc.
goLance: Would you recommend goLance to your friends and colleagues?
Shekhar: Yes I would very much recommend goLance to everyone reason being, golance has pretty decent features, goLance charges only 7.95% against some sites that charge 23-30% on freelancers earnings, goLance is quite organized, goLance provides wallet which is pretty decent for direct to bank account transfer without involving third party currency conversion ( and conversion charges are huge). In my perspective working with clients all over the world will be quite easier sans a golance wallet. goLance does not charge, any fees for skill tests it simply uses tools in collaboration with indeed( the job board).
goLance does not charge you whopping fees for enabling 7.95% fees it comes naturally to every user.
Even this interview that you are reading now does not cost me anything whereas other freelancing sites could have cost me a fortune, it’s just a random Twitter conversation that led to this interview being published at goLance blog with active interest on the part of goLance.
goLance: You're quite active on Quora. Would you recommend Quora to freelancers and why?
Shekhar: I was quite active on Quora especially during covid times. There are whole lot of, people, seeking help through Quora. I could not stop helping people on Quora.
Quora is indeed a huge community, to interact, learn about anything, it’s more than what Wikipedia use to be in ’99. It’s good platform to connect with new people but I do not think connecting with potential client would be possible there.
How To Hire Shekhar Mahapatra?
Check out Shekhar's profile on goLance where this highly experienced lawyer and paralegal doesn't hesitate to outmatch his next client's expectations.