A Brief Guide To Handling Idiocy (Freelancers’ Edition)

Having been a full-time freelancer for nearly a year now, I can safely say that although it has taken a while to achieve financial stability, I have no regrets leaving the nine-to-six scene for this life. I get to pick and choose my assignments, and therefore, get to focus on work that I truly enjoy and / or pays more. And since I love writing, teaching and performing, anyway, picking assignments according to pay and location is a breeze.

I no longer have to set my alarm for 5:30 AM every weekday, which is heaven for a non-morning person such as myself. I no longer have to contend with the rush hour crowds of gym rats, or the notoriously hellish rush hour  traffic, or the insufferable rush hour commuters on public transport. I no longer have to deal with an understaffed department, and therefore, no longer have to worry about being overworked. As a result, I rarely ever fall ill (my amazing immune system seems to have decided that it will fail only in the face of extreme mental or emotional stress), and have the simple luxury of plenty of alone time, something many take for granted.

At the same time, I cannot accurately express just how refreshing it is to be able to make and accept social engagements with friends and keep them, barring actual emergencies, which are no longer work-related. In some cases, the “emergency” is that I would really rather spend time with myself, a drink of choice – alcoholic or otherwise – and my music and books. I should mention, though, that I mean no offence to any of my friends; I love you guys, but I think I love myself just that little bit more.

However, as with any path in life, there are downsides. Thankfully, the main downside associated with my particular career choice is usually the work of other parties, and can be dealt with simply by ignoring or sassing them, depending on my mood. The following is a list of comments I have actually received, and suggested responses to them (mostly based on my actual responses, and aided by drag queen GIFs). For my fellow freelancers who are too nice to either ignore or get sassy, well…it’s about time you learnt how to shut some people down:

1. “Like that can earn enough money meh? No CPF contribution leh!”

Suggested response: “Maybe I don’t need that much money. Maybe I do earn enough, or more than enough, even. Maybe I’m not planning to retire in Singapore. And maybe, just maybe, it’s none of your business. Oh, wait. It’s definitely none of your business.”

2. (condescendingly) “I don’t know how you do it. No job security, no routine…I need routine, or else I’d have no discipline.”

Suggested response: “Actually, I have more job security than you do. All I have to do is show up, do my job, leave, and collect money after that. You, on the other hand, have to spend nine hours everyday with the same people, deal with office politics, and possibly a boss from hell. It’s also good to know you need a corporation to force discipline on you.”

3. “Freelance ah? How much you make ah? Got give your mother money or not? Must give, you know! And must save hor; don’t anyhow spend! Wait next time you want to get married, buy house, have children…all this very expensive leh!”

Suggested response: “You know, I’ve never considered hiring a personal financial planner, but if I ever do, you’ll be the first person I call!”

4. “When you go for a job interview, aren’t you afraid your potential employer will ask you why you don’t want a stable job?”

Suggested response: “If I’m going for an interview, I think it’s safe to say I’m not afraid of being asked questions.”

5. “So how do you feel about being a freelancer when all your cousins and friends are in banking / finance, law, marketing / advertising, engineering, medicine etc.?”

Suggested response: “I feel like you need to stop talking. But if you really must know, I’m very happy all of us are productive members of society.”

6. “(You didn’t take the job because it’s) too far away / paying too low? I didn’t know freelancers can afford to be so choosy.”

Suggested response #1: “Time is money, and I’m not about to spend that much time travelling just to earn so little money.” 

Suggested response #2: “I’m a freelancer, not a beggar. And I’ve met beggars who have more dignity than some of the cubicle rats with whom I’ve worked.”

7. “I guess a lot of comms grads are like that. You all prefer to own time, own target. No responsibilities, and you don’t care about anything.”

Suggested response: “Oh, I’m sorry. I had no idea being a responsible adult means being a miserable office drone. Pardon me as I selfishly enjoy my ‘me’ time while earning a decent living.”

Apologies for the sudden GIF spam, but I think this one deserves three:

8. “What does your family think? Don’t they disapprove?”

Suggested response: “The only people whose opinions concern me are the people who pay me. If they ain’t happy, I ain’t getting no money.”

In conclusion, I’d just like to say that your chosen path in life – what you do for a living or for leisure, where you go, who you love or don’t love, and when, how or why you do those things, go to those places or love / don’t love those people – is entirely up to you. There’s no pleasing everyone, and the world has no shortage of naysayers. Let’s face it: everyone’s a fucking critic (yes, even me. Isn’t it just too fun to resist?). The self-righteous pass judgment on others, and follow up with unwarranted and unwanted “advice”. What do we do with such people? Why, put them in their place, of course. And by that, I mean graciously reserve a VIP seat for them on our respective shit lists. And after that, we simply continue living our lives like the awesome people we are.

As a full-time freelancer, however, I fully recognize the importance of being as versatile as possible, so to all reading this, I have one parting message:

Have a lovely weekend, folks!

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