The Downsides of Freelance Work

Two years ago, I left the stable comforts of a full time job with the Ministry of Education for a new life as a freelancer. There were a number of reasons for that decision, the most important one being I wanted chase my dream of being a music composer. It’s a long story, maybe one day I will write an autobiography and share my journey.

It was a difficult decision at that time, being the sole breadwinner in my family with many mouths to feed. Two years on, I have no regrets.

I am relishing the new challenges I face each day, the new opportunities for growth. I enjoy the times I share with my Choir students and my Math students. I enjoy the long road trips I get to take with my family.

The biggest downside is the financial instability. On good months, I can make more than what I used to take home at MOE. During the dry months, I get practically zero income. This has really forced me to trust God to provide. I needed to build up my level of Faith, to believe that he will open the right doors for me and to shut the doors that lead to traps. I am learning to manage my emotions, my spending and my greed. Sometimes when I have jumped the gun and relied on my own human wisdom, the situation backfires and God gives me a gentle “I told you so” look.

Today, I experienced another downer. A few months back I took up a Math student from a foreign family (I won’t name the country because I don’t want to tarnish the reputation of a whole country just because I have a bad experience with one of their nationals)

The student herself was wonderful… Soft spoken, but puts in effort to practice and improve, although her Math standard was rather weak.

I took her for about 9 lessons before the mid year exam and after that the parents asked to take a break. The norm is that I would be paid after completing every 4 lessons, but because they wanted to take a break for the mid year holidays, I asked the mother to close the accounts first and to pay me for the last single lesson that I had completed. She said OK, but never paid me. That was in May.

June passed, July passed and I dropped the mother a message, asking if they would be continuing lessons with me, and if they didn’t intend to, to pay me for the lesson fee that they owed me. No response.

Being foreigners, I also wasn’t sure if they were still in Singapore or if they had returned home, like they hinted they might.

Last week, my student dropped me a text, asking me if she could have a few lessons with me to prepare for the coming exams. I said sure, but I requested to be paid every lesson, as I didn’t want a repeat of the issues with late payment.

I don’t mind being paid after every 4 lessons, but provided I’m being paid on time, and that I don’t need to chase you repeatedly for payment. If I’m not going to have a lesson with you for 4 to 5 months, then kindly settle the balance that you owe, so that I can close my accounts. I’m not even asking you to pay me in advance.

Thankfully God has been faithful, I have more than enough students and varied sources of income. I don’t need to be held to ransom anymore. I believe in my abilities and have seen dramatic improvement in many of my students grades in a relatively short period of time. I can afford to state my price and to insist on my conditions of service. My time is precious, I only want to invest that time on people who believe in me and who appreciate the value that I bring to the table.