Thursday, April 15, 2010

Do I have 'schmuck' written across my forehead???

I take pride in my work. It could be coming up with a slogan or writing a five-page article, but no job is insignificant. And since I left my job as a magazine editor and full-time writer, I embrace the creative freedom as a freelancer with zest. I can pick and choose my projects as I please and I work when my mind feels like it - which in turn ensures I spin out the best writing possible and not for the sake of meeting a deadline in 45 minutes.

And although I have left the trappings of an office, I often find myself surrounded by more idiots in my freelancing world. Just because I have the freedom to work at my own pace does not mean I'm going to be flexible with my remuneration. I detest the notion that freelancers don't 'need that much money' because, hell, if we could afford to take that chance to work on our own then we can't be THAT in need of money, right? Because I don't have to pay for office rent. Or I don't have to buy nice office clothes. Or I don't really mind living the 'struggling artists' life.


I have to pay the same bills as you do and, well lookie here, I don't have a nice paycheck waiting for me at the end of very month, do I? So what makes you think I'm going to say, "Oh no worries, this job's on the house" for you? And it irks me to high hell that you have the CHEEK to expect the best quality job for the lowest price. What planet are you living on, El Cheapo? Now I find this a double-edged sword because, 1) I'm not going to compromise my quality and reputation by doing a half-assed job but 2) I'm not going to break my back and lose sleep over a job where you're going to pay me peanuts. So what's a freelancer like me to do? Negotiate till my nose bleeds, I suppose. But sometimes, some clients are so cocky and think that I would be doing MYSELF a favour by working for them at minimum wage. Think again, loser.

My fiance, Haw, and I are full-time freelancers - I do the writing and he does design and photography. If we got a dollar for every client that has underpaid, insulted and undermined us, we'd be sipping margaritas in Bora Bora by now. We take such pride in our work and nothing makes us happier than a satisfied client, don't get us wrong. Although it's not all about the money, in this world it has to be somewhat about the money. It's simple economics, people: We provide a service, you pay us for services rendered. We've actually had clients who refused to pay us even after the jobs were done as they claimed they "didn't need it anymore." Oh ok, so can you give me back the 48 hours I've been working on your crap? I didn't think so.

And I'm sorry to say this, the local clientele are the worst. My best clients have been from outside Malaysia - not only do they pay better wages, but they are so much more professional. Which automatically makes me want to do my best for them. Another thing is how our people (ie. Malaysians) have little regard and appreciation for the arts. "Aiyah, draw a bit only mah, so expensive meh? Don't draw so big la." - Ya, why don't you go jump of a cliff and do us all a favour. "Not much to write bah...Sikit sikit only, why you charge 30 cents a word?" - Because by right I should charge you 50 cents and if it's so sikit to write, why don't you do it yourself?

This is why there are so many starving artists and writers in the world, eh? Everyone's a critic but in Malaysia, everyone's a cheap critic - lagi lah teruk. But maybe it comes down to us, the freelancers. We've been doing too many favours for people that suddenly we're expected to every single time. And when we name a price, we get a funny look that says, "I thought we're friends...How come you charge...?" Don't get me wrong: We love giving back now and then - when we do it, it's sincere. Because we really want to. But when people expect us just give, give, give...It's a big turn-off.

So if you want the best, be sure you can afford the best. And we're not good enough for you, then it's your right as a client to find a better suited supplier - no hard feelings. BUT if you do choose to pay peanuts...You'll probably get monkeys.

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