Meet Nina, a freelance Actuary

reading time: 5min | #freelancers #testimonials | 26 January 2022 | Daan De Bock

GIGHOUSE's newest area of expansion is in the actuarial field.
Today we interview Nina Noorali who has been freelancing for 15 years. Nina was a life actuary employed in Brussels and London for 8 years before becoming an actuarial consultant. She has recently joined the GIGHOUSE team in order to cater for freelance actuaries and risk managers looking for assignments. She shares her exciting adventures that opened up to her since she made the swich here below.

Nina, it seems you've been freelancing as an actuary since 2004. Were you always a freelancer ?

Indeed, it's been a while and I never looked back. I was an employed actuary in various consulting firms beforehand because in the 90s, it wasn't that common to freelance in the actuarial field. In the insurance world, work is complex and repetitive so therefore, it's easier to have employees assigned to specific tasks rather than hire consultants and have teams changing. But I've always worked on projects, so I was lucky that way - I wasn't too attached to the routine.

So what made you quit as an employee and join the freelance world ?

Well, actually an opportunity came knocking on my door. I had just quit my job in London and I moved to South Africa. I had a really hard time finding a job over there. After a few months, my ex-employer called to offer me a short term contract for one of his clients. He flew me over for a 4 week project, all expenses paid for and for a generous hourly rate. I said yes immediately and I was back in London, this time, as a guest and earning 200% of my previous salary. I was blown away by this new style of working! While I was there, I decided to apply for consultant jobs and few weeks later, I landed the job of my dreams.

This sounds exciting. Was this another freelancing offer in London ?

Actually it was a freelancing offer in Germany as an actuarial project manager who accepted that I continued to live in South Africa while flying to Germany every few weeks. It wasn't easy to manage the distance but the project was really interesting so I accepted. I managed a team across Europe in the meantime and it was so enriching to adapt to different work environments, teams and working on an innovative project that not only reinforced my actuarial skills but got me hands-on project management skills.

This sounds incredible as a freelancer. However how did you manage such an important project while being on a short term assignment?

Good question. Very often, contracting companies sign a 6 month contract (or shorter) for a long term project to see if there's a good fit with the team and the skills of the freelancer. This is a good way for both to assess each other. In my case, the contract was renewed several times and I ended up working for four years on the project.

So what kept you interested in the project for that long?

Well, the project itself was very innovative with a great team so it was a lovely working environment. Financially, I was happy and I wasn't limited to the fixed annual number of holidays either. So, it gave me the flexibility to pursue my other interests , ie. to train in India and become a yoga teacher.

Oh that's great, so you were able to enjoy your work assignment, be financially happy AND have free time to follow other passions ? Were you just lucky or did these type of opportunities come your way again?

Well, I was grateful for this arrangement because I wasn't sure if it would happen again. However, a different adventure started in 2009 where I worked part-time (3 days/week) for a re-insurance company while continuing my volunteer work - the perfect work/life balance while managing my budget and time.

Sounds like a great combination for you. So you never had any anxiety during the times where you didn't have any assignment ?

Not really. I chose when to take a break and enjoy my free time because as a freelance actuary, there were a lot of opportunities and companies preferred to complement their teams with freelancers when working on project-based deadlines. So it really depended on me and the market being in demand, just like it seems to be a tendency again nowadays.

Yes, that makes sense but maybe those opportunities don't last long?

Insurance regulations and requirements vary with time so there are often opportunities. For example, in 2011, I had another adventure where I worked for a UK based re-insurer who accepted that I relocate elsewhere and continue to work part-time for them. See, if you want to move while being an employee, it requires effort and willingness for the employer to find you a position in another subsidiary (assuming this is possible). However as a freelancer, the process is less cumbersome for the employer; as long as you continue to deliver quality work on time and as expected, it's easier for your request to be accepted.

 I now fully understand why you didn't regret your choice of being a freelancer. Anything else you would like to share ?

Yes. Being a freelancer is risky however the benefits really surpass the uncertainties if you have the right experience to offer in your field and that the market is ready. I shared my personal stories with you because sometimes, going from an employee status to a freelancer seems like worlds apart and yet, once we make that step, we wish we had taken it earlier (in my case). Besides, after few projects, if you feel that freelancing is not for you, you can also revert back to full time employment. Everything is possible!

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