A year of full-time freelancing

It’s been a little over a year since I set out to be a full-time freelancer. I first wrote about the experience five months in, and while I do still identify with what I wrote, I feel like I’ve learnt enough in the months’ since to warrant an update.

A part of me is kind of amazed I’m still standing, really. That this whole freelance journalist (plus occasional other roles) business has not only kept me fed, but has resulted in me finally (barely) earning enough to pay income tax this year. I’m sure the idea of being able to pay income tax is far more exciting than the actual act of forking the money over, but to be at this point at all seems a bloody miracle.

It still feels weird when people ask me for advice; I try to be helpful, but often feel like a newbie myself. There is so much that I’ve not figured out, and I am, so often, my own worse enemy.

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The bottom of the totem pole

A publication I’ve not heard of before, and they’ve written to me – a nice change from the endless pitching and often-never-hearing-back that is the life of a writer for hire. They’ve seen my work and they like it. They want me on board. But…

The position is unpaid. They’re new, or new-ish, and aren’t making a profit, you see. But they have passion, and goals, and plans.

I’m approaching my first year of full-time freelancing, and I’ve learnt that this happens often (or often enough). I’ve learnt that while some roles – doctors, corporate lawyers, bankers – are valued and well-compensated, other roles – like mine, and those of many of my friends in the arts and creative industries – are valued and barely compensated. There appears to be a belief that we who deal in words and lines and colours eat passion and conviction while others eat rice.

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The Contradictory City

As a journalist trying to explain my tiny hometown/state/country (yes, they are all “Singapore”) to foreigners who know little about the place, I’ve often been guilty of relying on certain devices. Chief among them is the one where you emphasise how rich or clean Singapore is, and then say, “BUT…” It’s quick and easy, a combination much loved by writers with word limits and deadlines.

The danger of using such tropes, though, is that one can sometimes go too far, painting a picture of Singapore with such broad strokes that the complexities and nuances of this bizarre young nation are completely erased.

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