Freelancing

So … freelancing, eh? That sounds pretty good to me right now, and I shall explain why.

Three weeks ago, I started my five-month internship with a nice little company called Emoxis LLP. It’s a small production house numbering no more than five in terms of full-time staff, occupying a third of an apartment around the East Coast area of Singapore. This whole internship thing is really a school subject at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and is one of the two centrepieces of the third year curriculum across all diplomas at Ngee Ann. It’s either this, or a final-year project. I chose an internship, and that’s how I end up here, working for Emoxis. It’s probably made worse by the fact that this really is the first job I’ve secured, and not under my own power.

It’s not that bad, though. The people at Emoxis are an open bunch, and despite working in one-third of an apartment in an ancient shophouse subjected to blackouts once in a while, the fact that I’m working in a high income area never goes unnoticed. Mind you, I see a Porsche 911 almost every day, so much that the effect of seeing one is actually starting to wear off on me. There are also some pretty good restaurants and coffee shops nearby too. There’s one that sells Korean, another that sells Chinese, and then there are the local shops that sell the all-too-common chicken rice and variants thereof. The best part of all is that it’s only eleven bus-stops from my house, and I have a direct bus to get there – mind you, if my job ended at 6.30 pm, I won’t even take the bus; I’ll walk the 3.5 km from work every day.

I still have seventeen weeks of my internship to go, but I’ve already learnt so much from Emoxis … and not just in terms of software proficiency either. There’s their whole pipeline for organising files, which was a massive headache on my first day (and it still is), and an extremely specific way of packaging stuff for clients (deviate from this method by a millimetre, and get blasted for it). Then there’s my boss, who’s a bit temperamental, especially if I try asking him for advice too much, or if I work too slowly (which I am, regrettably, because I’m a stickler for accuracy). They also have some pretty cool tools and utilities to do some things, like that Canon Pixma printer that can print CD labels, or Sorenson Squeeze, which they’ve modified so that it converts files into web and DVD formats just by throwing the files into it. Some of their computers even have an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), which is essentially a backup battery in the event of a power failure. The UPSes came in handy today, because there was a blackout in the late afternoon, no more than a millisecond after I saved my work.

The one thing I’ve learned that I think is the most important, however, is not any of these. It’s from the group of people that Emoxis outsources jobs to when they don’t have enough hands to handle every single project under their belt. That’s right, I get to meet real freelancers while at work.

Both my mum and sister have told me several times in the past that being a freelancer in Singapore is extremely difficult, and for good reason. Freelancers do not have many benefits that employees have. Employer-contributed pension funds, for instance, or paid leaves. There is, however, one thing that being a freelancer provides that being an employee can hardly ever provide: personal time.

I value personal time far more than I do a stable salary. Fine, it’s probably because I’m still 19 and a naive moron, but that’s how I feel right now. I know how to scrimp if I really have to, so I don’t need a lot of cash to sustain myself. I take great pride in being self-sufficient in nearly all respects – something that I cannot really be happy about if I’m an employee, since I get a set amount of cash every month due to several lines of text typewritten on a piece of wood signed by my boss and me.

Yes, being a freelancer is difficult; the two freelancers I’ve met at Emoxis said this to me on separate occasions when I asked them. However, this seems like the path I’m going to take, given that the industry I’m going to work in is far too small in Singapore, and because I have neither the desire nor the money to find a job in another country. I mean, I’d like to work in Finland if I’m that capable, but I’m not expecting that to ever happen, so I’m stuck here.

And, like I said before, I’d rather work for myself than work for money. I can stretch a dollar to as far as it can go without breaking. All that’s left is my capability in this industry, and that, really, is up to me to sort out.

I’m hoping that my internship will give me the know-how to be good at what I do. Even if it only gets me half the way there, I’ll learn how to do the rest myself – which, ironically, is something my boss is trying to teach me at this point in time.

On a final note, I acknowledge that I don’t post often here. My reason is simple: there’s nothing worthy to post about. If it’s about complaining, it’s not worth a mention here. This is especially more so since I tend to completely squish other people’s toes when I make a blunt statement. I’ve seen how other people got into trouble with the government and/or the people for being an arse on the Internet; I do not wish to be like them. Complaints are a very personal thing, and that’s what a diary is for. Trust me, there are enough people complaining on the Internet to make your head explode.

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