Career

As a Freelancer, Here are 3 Headaches the People In Your Life Give You

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Joanne Poh

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The number of freelancers in Singapore is steadily rising, and guess what, they’re not all Grab/Uber drivers.

But freelancing isn’t a permanent vacation during which you spend all your time ordering coffee with latte art at hipster cafes while casually glancing at your Macbook Air now and then all in the name of “work”.

Nope, it’s dealing with deadlines at 4am, when all your gainfully-employed friends are fast asleep. It’s also about dealing with the following, no thanks to the people in your life.

 

Explaining to your friends that you actually work damn hard

Most of your friends with stable jobs no doubt think you earn money as a freelancer just by existing. That’s why they can ask you to meet them for a one-hour lunch at Raffles Place when you live one hour away from the CBD.

Just because you have a flexible schedule doesn’t mean you work less hard them your salaried peers. While it’s certainly true that many freelancers work less than 40 hours a week (although many actually work more), 25 hours of freelancing is a lot more intense than 25 hours spent sitting in many offices.

As you’re only paid for work you produce, the times when you’re busy at work have to be highly intense and productive. On the other hand, someone who sits in a cubicle for 8 hours a day is likely to be doing less than 8 hours’ worth of productive work.

In addition, freelancers don’t get to go on MC even if they get the ebola virus, nor can they rely on colleagues to help out when they’re on holiday. This is something salaried people rarely realise—all they see is the fact that you can go swimming at 3pm on a weekday.

 

Gaining acceptance from parents

If you have the sort of parents who are always scrutinising your life choices or get alarmed when you don’t follow the model of the ideal Singaporean, your choice to become a freelancer can result in some familial strife.

This is especially so if you still live under the same roof as your parents. It’s all well and good to say you won’t care about the opinions of others. But when you become the victim of lots of nagging, it’s hard to turn a deaf ear.

Unfortunately, lots of Singaporeans still have trouble believing their kids don’t have a “real job”, with a steady paycheck and the prestige that only a true professional or at least PMET can have.

Your parents may also think you’re goofing off and sponging off them without earning your keep if they see you waking up at 12 noon every day, never mind if it’s because you were working till 5am.

The only way to deal with this is to engage in some open communication. Show them your work and try to help them understand what you’re doing and how much you’re earning.

 

Unreasonable or non-paying clients

To be frank, as a freelancer, you’re likely to be treated more respectfully by your clients than are their actual employes. Your clients aren’t going to insist on face time, since the only thing they care about is that you get the job done. Nor are they likely to develop prejudices against you or make out-of-bounds remarks.

On the flipside, freelancers aren’t immune to clients with unreasonable demands. Every freelancer will at some point have to deal with a client who, after you’ve submitted your work, does a 180 degree turn and changes the entire brief to the point where it’s recognisable. It’s then up to you to tell the client that that’s not acceptable and you’ll need to charge them as if it were a new piece of work.

But the worst clients are no doubt those who don’t pay, or only pay after being bugged repeatedly by the freelancer. Right now, there is little recourse for freelancers who don’t manage to claw back the money owed to them, short of running to the Small Claims Tribunal.

The hard part is that, unlike colleagues you would see at work every day, it is all too easy for clients to start avoiding you or to go MIA.

When working on big projects, it’s always a good idea to collect a deposit from your client or to make them pay in stages, rather than in a big lump sum at the end. Obtain their agreement in writing by getting your contracts, quotations and invoices in order before commencing work.

What are the three biggest problems the people around you have caused you as a freelancer? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.