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Building Our Own Table: chima mmeje
Meet the founder of the Freelance Coalition for Developing Countries
I’ve been paying attention to chima mmeje’s work for a while. At first, it was because we were both Black freelancers. Then I watched with fascination and pride as she took her freelance business global with confidence and style, becoming a sought-after expert on SEO and related topics. But that wasn’t enough: chima then set her sights on helping others, and the Freelance Coalition for Developing Countries (FCDC) was born. Please meet chima, and learn more about the FCDC.
chima, tell me briefly about your background prior to founding the Freelance Coalition.
I started out in the industry working for a UK based content mill. I say content mill because quantity and not quality was the goal. I was writing around 5,000 words a day, five days a week. I worked there from August 2017 until April 2019.
These companies prey on people in developing countries who don’t know their worth. People like me seeking an escape from poverty will take any gig as long as it pays. In this case, I was earning $500 to write 92k-100k words a month.
I left after joining several copywriting groups. I saw writers charging $1 per word for content and it totally blew my mind.
I was scarred from the experience and decided to work for myself from that moment on. I got my first US client in April 2019, a few more clients followed after, and the rest as they say is history.
Give me the elevator pitch for the Freelance Coalition.
The Freelance Coalition is an organization that provides free mentorship and training for Black and Brown freelancers/professionals in developing countries. We rely entirely on community support to remove barriers that prevent us from gaining access or growing in the industry. Right now, our main focus is SEO and copywriting as these are two skills where I have a strong network
And in more detail?
There are several ways that donors provide support.
They can sign up to mentor a freelancer or professional who is trying to close skill gaps in SEO or copywriting.
They can provide free access to a paid course.
From September we’ll have cohorts where industry experts take on classes of ten students and teach them tech SEO from scratch. Next year, I’m hoping to expand this to copywriting as well.
What inequity were you trying to redress/address, and why is this important?
When I left the content mill, I realized that most people living in developing countries have the same story. We are exploited by cheap agencies for pennies. Some stay in the rot because they don’t know there’s another way. Others are exposed to higher earning professionals who encourage them to upskill. However, they face a challenge when they try to work with clients in developed countries.
People question your ability to speak and write English.
They lowball you with shitty offers because they expect you to be cheap.
You have difficulty scaling because you can’t afford courses or mentorship to improve your core skills.
These issues have a compounding effect. If one person is undercharging to compete for clients, then everyone else is undercharging to stay afloat. It feeds into the dangerous notion that you have to be cheap to compete on a global marketplace.
These are the issues we’re trying to address. Provide free access to premium training so freelancers have the skillset. Provide mentorship with successful professionals so they develop the mindset they need to increase their income.
How’s it going? What has the response been?
The response has been incredible. We’ve provided 102 scholarships and training through community donations. We’ve also connected 53 mentors with mentees. We just received a large course donation that ensures that everyone who signs up for the freelance coalition will receive access to a library of premium courses courtesy of knowtheterrain.io.
One of our major goals is to provide entry-level training for people who don’t have any knowledge of the industry. We’ve received course donations to help us achieve this goal. Also, one of the best SEO specialists in the world, Aleyda Solis will be hosting the first cohort of ten students. We’re hoping the cohort is successful so we can admit more students from the waiting list of over 150 applicants.
What’s next for the Freelance Coalition? How can people help you achieve your aims?
We’re going to start a video/audio podcast soon. We’re also going to set up a community-powered learning centre where experts can contribute a one-hour video teaching members of the community a skill.
You can help us achieve our goals by signing up to provide support here.
Support the work I do by purchasing my course for a member of the coalition or donating a paid course to a member of the coalition.
Any other interesting ventures coming up for you personally in relation to redressing inequity?
No, I’ve got too much going on right now.
In relation to racism, what’s your vision for the future?
My vision is a truly remote world, where people from developing countries can compete on equal footing with people living in developed countries.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Background image courtesy of Getty Images - Colors Hunter - Chasseur de Couleurs
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