Sunday
May212017

Staying focused

IF you’re a comic book fan, you’ve probably noticed that there’s usually a writer and an illustrator. It’s usually the same with picture books. And if you’re familiar with the advertising industry, you’ll know that there are two types of creative directors, one for art and another for writing.

The reason for this is that writers usually aren’t good at drawing and artists aren’t good at copywriting.

But don’t say this to Andrea Tan, a self-taught writer and illustrator who believes that you can become good at practically anything if you set your heart to it.

Andrea only had a secondary school education and worked as a secretary for almost a decade before she pursued her dreams of being a writer.

She started off by reporting part-time for a local newspaper in Kuching.

“I didn’t have any formal training in journalism,” she shares, adding: “I learnt on the job. It was a great experience — I covered everything from personalities, travel, food and lifestyle to music, fashion, the Internet and movies.”

After moving to KL in 2008, she began doing freelance copywriting work for various companies and eventually took up drawing too.

Andrea talks to Savvy about what it means to juggle being a writer and an illustrator. She also shares her philosophy about lifelong learning.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY?

I’m a freelance writer and part-time content writer for an agency. I also take on art commissions and sell my art online.

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A WRITER FIRST AND AN ARTIST SECOND OR VICE VERSA?

I would have to give both equal billing although my interests these days are more towards art and design. But I do like switching between the two as writing can be quite a left brain task while drawing is more right brained. I do mini-comics which are great because there’re both writing and drawing involved.

YOU STARTED OUT AS A WRITER. WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BECOME AN ARTIST AS WELL?

I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw better but never got around to it. One day, I finally made that effort to do so and discovered that I’m quite good at it. My friends encouraged me to set up a Facebook page to showcase my art. The process of creating that page required me to really think about what I wanted to do with my art. It was then that I decided to do it professionally.

WHAT MADE YOU BELIEVE YOU COULD DO IT?

I generally try not to overthink things. I believe in just doing things because overthinking can really kill any initiative and also take away all the fun.

HOW DID YOU TEACH YOURSELF TO DRAW?

Many friends recommended Betty Edwards’s Drawing From The Right Side Of The Brain. For an art book, it’s actually very text-heavy. But it’s a great guide for anyone who wants to learn how to draw. Before I was even halfway through the book, I had already begun to see vast improvements in my drawing. But learning never stops. I’m still learning and practising every day.

THERE IS A NOTION THAT ARTISTS ARE BORN, NOT MADE. DO YOU AGREE?

I believe everyone is born an artist. Think about it. As a child, you draw naturally. It may just be squiggles and lines but you’re drawing, so it’s something innate.

Not so with writing, which you have to be taught. But to become good at drawing, you have to train for it. Talent is only a small part of the equation. Without practice, talent will be wasted.

HOW IMPORTANT IS PASSION TO THE EQUATION?

Very. It’s the interest or passion that really makes the difference. If you’re not into either drawing or writing or any other pursuits, you won’t have the drive to practice every day. And that’s what you’ve got to do if you want to be good at anything. Artists and writers must never stop learning and practising, otherwise, they become stagnant.

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A WRITER AND AS AN ARTIST?

My biggest challenge as a writer and an artist are rush jobs with tight deadlines. It happens from time to time, and I have to make it work and deliver the goods. But it’s hard to do a good job when you are rushed like that.

DO YOU EVER HAVE WRITER’S OR ARTIST’S BLOCK?

Whether as a writer or an artist, the scariest thing is staring at a blank page or canvas and not having anything come to mind.

In such situations, I force myself to write a few words or draw some lines without worrying too much about whether it’s any good or not. It’s important to just begin writing and drawing. If I make that sound easy, I assure you that it isn’t. I do struggle from writer’s or artist’s block from time to time.

WHAT MAKES YOU CONVINCED THAT YOU CAN LEARN ANYTHING YOU HAVE SET YOUR HEART AND MIND TO?

From personal experiences. I managed to teach myself how to write well and draw well and now I’m doing both professionally. I’m always learning new things because I have so many interests.

For example, last year as part of my part-time job with a creative agency, I had to pick up filming on a mobile phone and video editing as well. It’s great. It is so much fun. And the more I do it, the better I get at it.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT TO LEARN?

The list is so long — animation, herbalism, book-binding, growing succulents (a type of plant that retain a lot of water), print-making. My biggest challenge is to not get distracted and to take on one new thing at a time so I can focus and do well in it.

WHAT IS THE KEY TO NURTURING CREATIVITY IN CHILDREN?

Play. Let them play and nurture their curiosity. Let them make a mess, ask questions, figure things out on their own and make mistakes. It’s how they learn. Get them to do things with their hands and not just stare at mobile, computer or TV screens. If they show interest in something, encourage them to pursue it.

Sunday
May142017

Chasing dreams on the racetrack

Always a car aficionado, Read really got into racing after she won a spot on the all-female Red Bull Rookies team in 2014. After she and two other female drivers beat nearly 300 participants for a spot on the team, they were put through some advanced driving courses and competed in the 2014 Sepang 1000km Endurance race, which entailed a gruelling 161 laps around the Sepang International Circuit.

She’s now a member of Dream Chaser, an independent race team that partially subsidises the cost of her training and competition expenses. Racing is a very expensive sport, which is why she also has a day job as an oil and gas executive.

Read speaks to Savvy about what it’s like to be a woman in the male-dominated world of race car driving, her need to have a day job in order to finance her racing passion and how she hopes to inspire others.

YOU’RE A RACE DRIVER BUT YOU ALSO HAVE A DAY JOB. WHAT DO YOU DO EXACTLY?

Contrary to what some people might think, we don’t get any kind of salary from racing and sponsorship is sparse because it’s such a niche sport. So, really, the only way for me to support my racing activities is to have a day job. I work as a quality assurance executive in an oil and gas company. Basically I take care of their processes and procedures. It’s nothing to do with racing, just a job to pay the bills.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPOSURE TO RACING?

I was more into cars than racing at first. When I was in university in Australia, I had a Honda Integra that I’d bought from a car show. What appealed to me then was the look of a car. I wasn’t really into performance or anything like that because I wasn’t yet a racer. The closest thing I got to racing was watching some illegal drag races there. But I liked driving. I was part of a group that was really into cars and I remember we used to go on long drives from Melbourne to Sydney, for example.

HOW DID YOU END UP IN THE RED BULL ROOKIES TEAM?

A friend told me about the search and suggested that I try out. I didn’t really expect to be selected because there were so many participants but I figured it was worth trying because even if you don’t make the team, you get to attend their driving courses, notably the defensive driving and advance training courses by the Asia Advanced Driving Academy. Very useful — definitely made me a better driver!

WHAT TYPE OF RACES DO YOU TAKE PART IN?

There are so many types of races but I do what’s called circuit racing, which means I only race in Sepang. I don’t do things like drifting, for example, which is a whole different thing. I race in what’s known as a touring car and the types of races I do are either sprints, which are just for a few laps, or endurance races, which is at least an hour but could be a lot longer too.

SINCE YOU’RE NOT A FULL-TIME, PROFESSIONAL RACE CAR DRIVER, HOW DO YOU PAY FOR THE COSTS OF RACING?

Mainly out of my pocket. I’m part of Dream Chaser, which is useful. They help me with the crew and the car, which is made available to me at a subsidised rate. I’ve also got some sponsors such as Rowe Motor Oil, Monspacemall (an online shopping mall) and Momentum Auto Parts. Every little bit helps.

DO YOU SEE A TIME WHEN YOU CAN DITCH THE DAY JOB AND RACE FULL TIME?

I think every racer fantasises about racing as a career but the only ones who can really do that are the F1 drivers. And that’s not my ambition, so racing for me is pretty much a passion.

SO WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS, RACING WISE?

I’d like to race internationally. Right now, my experience has all been local. To secure an international racing licence, you must have the experience — the hours put into racing. So, I need to really put in the time and effort. I’m working on it.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT RACING THAT YOU LIKE?

I think besides the thrill of racing itself, I like the challenges involved: The challenge of finding sponsorship, the challenge of defying stereotypes, the challenge of overcoming my own fears. How can I push myself harder and drive faster? There’s a great thrill in beating your own personal best.

WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK?

Just money, I guess. But it’s the same for everyone. It’s expensive to race and most of us can only afford a few track days a year. I do have a race simulator at home but it’s really not the same as being on the track.

YOU USED TO BE A NATIONAL SQUASH PLAYER IN YOUR YOUTH. DID YOU EVER PLAY AGAINST NICOL DAVID?

I did! We played against each other in my very first Sukma Games. She’s a few years younger than I am and back then, her racquet was almost as big as she was. But despite my being bigger and older, she totally demolished me on the court. I knew there and then she was going to be huge in the world of squash.

HOW LONG DID YOU CONTINUE IN SQUASH AND ARE THERE THINGS FROM THAT SPORT THAT HELPS YOU IN RACING?

I continued to compete in squash until Form Five but then I had to make a crucial decision — to study or to pursue squash professionally. I opted to study. So, that was the end of my squash career but there are things from that period in my life that are still useful today. I think my competitiveness comes from my early training in squash. And also visualisation is something I learnt from my squash days.

UNLIKE MOST SPORTS, RACING DOESN’T HAVE DIFFERENT GENDER CATEGORIES, RIGHT?

That’s correct. Women race against men. There’s no women’s category.

IS THAT DAUNTING?

No, it’s a motivation. I want to beat the guys. I want to see how far I can go with this. I want to break stereotypes.

When I started racing, there were many doubters — people who thought I was chosen by

Red Bull because of my looks etc. But now that I’m actually racing and people can

see my performance, they’re not so dismissive.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE FROM RACING, SINCE MONEY IS CLEARLY NOT THE MOTIVATION?

I’d like to inspire other girls, not necessarily in racing per se but in pursuing whatever

it is they’re passionate about — even if

it’s in an area dominated by guys. Just go for it.

OFF THE RACE TRACK ARE YOU A SPEEDSTER TOO?

No, I’m a safe driver. On the track I push myself 110 per cent but on the road there’s no temptation to go fast.

Driving for me is just about getting from A to B, safely.

HOW LONG DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE RACING?

I’ll stop when it isn’t fun anymore. As long as I enjoy it, I’ll keep doing it.

Sunday
May072017

Tough business being funny

BEING a comedian is no joke. It’s a tough business in general and being a female comedian is even tougher. But that is precisely why Shamaine Othman is so drawn to this profession.

After obtaining her Bachelor of Performing Arts at Monash University in Melbourne, she returned to Malaysia and took on a job as a broadcast journalist. She then went on to become an assistant administrator with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra before venturing into stand-up comedy.

Shamaine talks to Savvy about how she got started and what it’s like being a female comedian in Malaysia.

WERE YOU ALWAYS FUNNY, EVEN AS A KID?

I guess the right people to ask that question would be my family. I always liked comedy because that’s what my father was involved in, producing sitcoms like Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu and 2 + 1. I was always surrounded by comedy and my father taught us how to always see the humour in all situations.

DID YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO DO AFTER YOU GRADUATED?

I had studied performing arts with the intention of becoming a full-time actor. That was my ambition. Then I got fat and realised that that dream was over. Now, I spend my days scriptwriting and performing comedy. Not in a million years did I think I’d be doing these things. I really thought I was going to end up as an actress.

WHAT GAVE YOU THE CONFIDENCE TO TAKE ON SUCH AN UNUSUAL PROFESSION?

I think the fact that it is such an unusual profession. Back when I started out, the only other female comedian performing regularly was Joanne Kam Poh Poh. Male comedians like Kuah Jenhan and Phoon Chi Ho were very encouraging; they’d say things like: “Go do it, we need more female comics”. I must say I love a challenge.

WHY ARE THERE MORE MALES THAN FEMALES DOING THIS?

Traditionally comedy has been a male-dominated scene. I think women just need to see more women doing it, so they can muster the courage to give it a go. That’s why I think it’s important for show promoters to include female comics in their line-up. Things are improving though. In the past few years, we have seen the emergence of all-female stand-up nights.

WHAT DID YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOUR CAREER CHOICE?

Well, considering what they do - my mother is also involved in TV production - they obviously weren’t against it. Their only worry was whether I could get by financially because they know only too well how tough showbusiness is.

SO, HOW’S THE MONEY BEEN?

I’m a full-time scriptwriter and comedian and frankly, it’s my scriptwriting that pays the bills. Corporate comedy gigs pay well but I don’t do those because I’d have to censor my material, which can sometimes be risque. I want to keep my comedy as raw as I can because I deal with enough censorship writing for TV.

IS BEING FUNNY SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO BE BORN WITH?

I personally believe that some people are born to be funny. If you’re naturally funny then you can train to become really good at it. For example, if you want to be a professional comedian, you have to train at it. But at its heart, being funny is something innate.

IS THE COMEDIAN NETWORK A TIGHTLY KNIT ONE?

Very much so - everybody knows everybody. Online, there are chat groups for comedians and the Crackhouse Comedy Club is like home base for us to hang out. We help each other out.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS FROM?

I mainly get ideas from my own life - things that happen to me or stories that I hear from friends or stuff that I see in a documentary. I watch a lot of TV and online videos and these things do spark ideas for me.

COMEDIANS OBVIOUSLY WATCH OTHER COMEDIANS. IS THERE A FINE LINE BETWEEN BEING INSPIRED BY SOMEONE AND PLAGIARISING THEM?

Joke borrowing is joke stealing. This should never be done. It’s okay to borrow ideas or themes but not specific jokes. For example, a few comics in the local scene - including myself - have jokes about how to talk dirty in Malay. The general concept is the same but each comedian has his or her own jokes with different premises, set-ups and punchlines.

WHAT’S THE MOST SURPRISING THING ABOUT BEING A COMEDIAN?

That we’re not 100 per cent funny and bubbly all the time. When I’m on the stage, I turn it on 100 per cent but off stage, I can be a rather subdued person.

WHAT’S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

You know what? Everything is hard for me. Having the discipline to keep writing new material, making sure your material is funny, generating fresh ideas, staying true to myself - all of that is hard. I think most people don’t realise that when comedians are up there telling their jokes, they’re giving away a part of themselves to you.

WHAT MAKES YOU KEEP ON WANTING TO DO THIS?

I can’t see myself doing anything else. Telling these stories that are so personal to me and making the audience laugh makes me feel really good.

WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING AT THIS YEAR?

Some personal projects that I’m looking forward to doing is finishing my first feature film script. I am working on my solo one-hour comedy special - hopefully stage it at the end of the year or early next year. I’m also planning to launch a female-centric comedy channel on YouTube.

Sunday
Apr302017

Foster creativity

AS we go about our busy lives, trying to make ends meet and pay bills and debts, it’s hard to find time for external projects that are done as a labour of love. Yet without such projects, our lives can be rather bland and unchallenging. Having some external passion is crucial for sparking creativity, which in turn can help our careers.

One person who really believes in this is Nizar Musa, an architect by profession who also dabbles in drawing and writing children’s books and writing plays, among other creative pursuits. Upon graduation with an architecture degree from New Zealand, he joined a big architectural firm in KL where he worked at for eight years before striking it out on his own. Walking away from an established company wasn’t an easy decision to make but Nizar hasn’t looked back.

“We do interesting stuff at QID,” he says. “We call our approach identity+design where traditionally-independent disciplines such as graphic design, architecture and interior design, are unified under one banner.”

Nizar talks to Savvy about why he thinks it’s important to have non-work-related external projects and shares his views about creativity.

WHAT DOES QID STAND FOR AND WHAT KIND OF DESIGN FIRM IS IT?

The company was originally named Qoravant Ideas & Design when I founded it in December 2008. At the time, I was looking for another challenge, to explore my interest in other design typologies outside of architecture. This studio was the means to do just that. At first, we took on all manner of design jobs: office interiors, animation, graphic murals, advertorials, corporate identity, car showrooms, etc. Doing so many disparate things was fun until financial realities began to set in. Clearly, being a Jack-of-all-trades wasn’t sustainable. When 2016 rolled by, we decided on a reboot. We shortened our hard-to-pronounce company name to QID and we reworked our processes and business logic to come up with the identity+design concept. We’re now very specific about what we want to do. If you want to know more, visit our website qoravant.com.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT OF IDENTITY+DESIGN AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Our motto, which means to produce design that forms identity, is a rationalisation of the work we do. It incorporates principles shared by many design disciplines. At QID there’s no distinction between logo, building, and any other type of objective design as they all fulfil the same purpose of being articles of identity to their owners. The differences are only in scale and complexity of function, which for us aren’t an issue since we have the experience and know-how. At the end of the day, clients want to see themselves in the design, and that’s what we give them.

CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF IDENTITY+DESIGN IN PRACTICE?

We’ve just completed a retreat in Hulu Langat called Tanah Larwina where we designed the rooms, corporate identity, booklets, website and signages. It was end-to-end, A-to-Z design. The client’s really happy with the results. And for us, it’s immensely satisfying work.

ANY NEW PROJECTS YOU’RE WORKING ON?

QID’s developing a couple of identity projects, one in Singapore, the other Hong Kong. We’ve also been invited to collaborate on the design of an iconic pedestrian bridge in Sepang, which should be interesting. Our Tanah Larwina client is also keeping us on our toes with more additions to their grounds. The quantum of work isn’t huge, but it’s keeping our small firm afloat.

BESIDES YOUR DESIGN JOB, YOU DO OTHER THINGS LIKE ILLUSTRATING AND AUTHORING BOOKS, PLAYWRITING... — ALL INTERESTING STUFF BUT HARDLY BIG INCOME EARNERS — WHY BOTHER?

Honestly, I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t doing art of some kind. My earliest memory of drawing was tracing and colouring Donald Duck with my late grandmother. And then there were the books and comics. Mum always encouraged me to read, and I did that. The best part about reading was that these stories transported you somewhere else. That intrigued me, which led to a huge portion of my teenage years spent creating my own comics, writing plays for school, producing fantasy games that my friends could play. My artistic pursuits today don’t make much money but I enjoy doing them.

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR YOU TO DO A RHYME BOOK THE HELPFUL ROBOT?

This was my first book, released last year under my pen-name Unizaru. I’ve always had a passion for science fiction and technology so having a friendly, Made-in-Malaysia robot, in the spirit of C-3PO and R2-D2, seemed like a novel idea. I’m also big on Asian values, respecting your elders, helping other people, etc. That had to be in there, too. I felt a rhyming story will be an interesting approach for a uniquely Malaysian story. It wasn’t easy to do but how often do you get the chance to rhyme English words with char kway teow? I’m currently working on a sequel.

YOU ALSO ILLUSTRATED THE BOOK. WHAT DOES DRAWING DO FOR YOU?

Sketching for me is like opening a tap — twist the handle and out gushes the things I see in my mind. It lets me test any idea, and quickly. A new book character, logo options for a client, a construction detail to solve a frameless glass wall-to-suspended aluminium ceiling intersection. All the magic happens at the end of my pencil.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE EXTERNAL PROJECTS?

It fills you with good energy. Achieving something through your own blood, sweat and tears is empowering and it gives you a tremendous sense of self-worth. And in a corporate world littered with reality checks, short tempers and biting criticism, that self-worth does wonders for your mental and emotional wellbeing.

External projects for me started when I was 12, when in addition to doing my school homework, I was also drawing, making up games and writing stories. I kept at it through high school, university, even after quitting my job and starting QID.

DO YOU THINK MALAYSIAN CREATIVE PROJECTS CAN MAKE IT BIG GLOBALLY?

Best-selling books? TV shows? Movies? Mobile games? It hasn’t happened yet. We’re a creative people but perhaps our mindset prevents us from striving for better and smarter content. I hope to see in my lifetime more Malaysian creatives breaking out internationally. Out with the jaguh kampung mentality, in with the Jack-Ma-All-Conquering attitude. I want to see Malaysians going toe-to-toe with the big boys at a global level. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having success locally or modest success at the Asean level but I believe we can, and should, aspire to greater heights.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CREATIVE MALAYSIAN TALENT GOING ABROAD TO FIND SUCCESS?

Places like the US, China, Taiwan and the UK all have the creative infrastructure, supporting industry, massive fan base and global visibility to attract our best talents, which irks me a little bit because it contributes to the country’s brain drain. But I’d be lying if I said moving abroad has never crossed my mind. I’ve never seriously considered it though because a part of me — perhaps naively — still believes in the potential of finding success without having to uproot myself. What’s really important is for some local heroes to emerge to inspire others. Just like in sports, when one of us wins, everyone wins. And you needn’t look further than Lee Chong Wei for an example of that. His victories have inspired all badminton players.

IS CREATIVITY SOMETHING INHERENT OR CAN IT BE TAUGHT?

I think a bit of both. God-given talent can’t be explained, only appreciated. Yet talent alone can only get you so far. I was born with an innate ability to draw. Yet despite having that natural talent, I was never the top student in architecture school. There was always someone better than me, even though they couldn’t draw as well as I could. But what they couldn’t deliver in that area, they made up for in others.

They built intricate models out of wood and steel and acrylic. They produced 3D animation. They did paintings. They charmed the socks off our tutors with assured, confident presentations. What I’m getting at is that having natural talent doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be more creative than the next guy. Hard work and good old-fashioned commitment to the craft is required to deliver superb results.

Sunday
Apr232017

The online freelancer

CERTAIN types of work such as editing and copywriting are options that can be done from home but the challenge is the constant need to source for leads, which is hard to do from home. Azlina Abdul Jalil faced that problem when she decided to quit her job as a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

At first, she tried her hand at running a business involving advertising and publishing. She thought such a business would be suitable as it involves writing. However, she soon discovered that much of her time had to be spent chasing sales rather than writing.

This prompted her to look for writing-based work that could be sourced from the comforts of her home. Azlina talks to Savvy about online freelancing and how she has made it work out well for her as a stay-at-home mother of two.

HOW DID IT ALL START?

I turned online to look for available opportunities out there and that was when I discovered an online freelancing site called Elance (now known as Upwork). I signed up and started getting translation and writing jobs through Elance. That was in 2011. I wrapped up the advertising business about a year later.

DID YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS WHEN YOU FIRST EMBARKED ON YOUR ONLINE FREELANCE JOURNEY?

I quickly secured some translation and writing jobs from Elance so there was no reason to have doubts. Once I got my first big online job — which paid US$400 (RM1,762) — I was convinced that online freelancing could be a source of regular income for me.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ONLINE FREELANCING AS OPPOSED TO THE MORE CONVENTIONAL WAY OF SOURCING FOR FREELANCE WORK THROUGH EXISTING CONTACTS?

I chanced upon the online freelancing sites like Elance after searching for “money-making opportunities” online. This approach was ideal for me as I didn’t come from a writing background so I wasn’t well-known and didn’t have many contacts in the industry. With Elance, the clients were already there.

Through online freelancing, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many international clients, something I don’t think I’d be able to do if I were just to look for clients on my own.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN ADVANTAGES OF ONLINE FREELANCING?

The main advantage is that the client and the jobs are already there. Another one is the payment system. It’s very simple and secure. Clients are required to deposit their fund into the escrow system once they engage you for the job. This means that the money is already there and you don’t have to worry about it disappearing or having to chase anyone for payment.

Once you submit your work, the site automatically generates an invoice and bills the client. The client has 14 days to review your work, after which, if they do not take any action, the site will release the payment to you. Payments can be transferred to PayPal or direct to your bank account.

HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH TO CHARGE?

When I first started, I did some online research to get an idea of how other freelancers were charging for their work.

So, I went with the general market rate at the time. There was one instance when a client actually told me I was charging too low for the project and actually suggested a higher fee! But many of the clients I took on were already used to engaging freelancers and they had standard fees for different kinds of work. I’d look at their budget and if it felt right to me, I’d take on the work.

CAN YOU GIVE US EXAMPLES OF WORK YOU HAVE DONE RECENTLY?

I’ve been working on translation of news articles and marketing material for health and beauty products.

There was a job where the client wanted me to adapt and localise their marketing material from US English to Malaysian English.

DO YOU HAVE REGULAR CLIENTS OR IS ALL OF YOUR WORK AD HOC?

I do have some regular clients whom I do work for on a weekly basis. The work is usually small and quick. The payment for such work isn’t big but I’m happy that there’s at least something coming in every week.

WHAT’S THE MOST UNUSUAL WORK YOU’VE DONE?

I once had to do a transcription of terms people used on voice searches. It sounds simple but it’s not so easy making out the words being spoken when so many accents are involved.

Some people spoke too softly, others too fast, some voices were creepy, while some phrases were rather inappropriate. Transcription of voice searches is quite a time-consuming job, as well as taxing. It’s certainly the most unusual work I’ve done so far.

WHAT KIND OF WORK DO YOU ENJOY MOST?

I like doing translation of subtitles for TV shows since it means I get to watch the shows. It kind of feels like being paid to watch TV!

WHAT KIND OF WORK PAYS THE BEST?

Translation and technical writing work pay the best. The best paymasters are companies that are well-established as they provide regular work and are willing to pay good money for work well done.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION THAT PEOPLE HAVE ON FREELANCING?

That freelancing means you have a lot of free time. Yes, we get to choose the work we do, and it is up to us when and where we want to do the work. But that doesn’t mean that we have lots of free time to lounge around.

I put in a lot of effort and care into the proposals I send to clients. Some of the writing and translation jobs can be very technical and require a lot of research. I think about work so much that sometimes I have dreams where there are words just floating in air bubbles in front of me, non-stop!

WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT FREELANCING?

Flexibility. Since I work from home and can set my own schedule — as long as I meet deadlines — I’m able to send and pick up my children from school and spend quality time with them at home without having to worry about finding daycare.

WHAT’S THE WORST THING?

Not knowing where your next pay cheque will come from. There are times when there’s very little work or when the bulk of the jobs coming in are small ones that don’t pay too much.

This is when you need to tighten your belt and be on the lookout for new jobs.

DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT SEPARATING PERSONAL TIME WITH WORKING TIME?

Usually not so as I generally try to finish off as much work as possible in the morning, when the children are in school or late at night when they’ve gone to sleep. With my regular clients,

I know their basic work schedule so they send me the jobs around the same time each week and I’m able to arrange my time based on that.

But, sometimes, there are unexpected requests from regular clients or new jobs posted online that I just can’t resist! Such work does eat into my personal time. But this doesn’t happen often.

WHAT TYPES OF PEOPLE ARE SUITABLE TO BECOME FREELANCERS AND WHAT TYPES ARE NOT?

If you have a specific skill such as writing, programming, design or even accounting skills, and you’re looking for work or additional income, freelancing is a good option.

With online freelancing, there are thousands of jobs available every week, all posted online for you to look through. And you can do all this from the comfort of your own home.

But if you don’t like working alone or prefer to have a fixed 9-to-5 schedule in an office environment or need the security of a steady income every month, then freelancing isn’t for you.