Eugene Tay – Freelance Writing Work in Singapore & Beyond

by Wayne Yeo Wei Zhong, Victoria Junior College

“You are not just a writer,” Eugene Tay, the author of the Supernatural Confessions series and the founder of a creative writing school for young writers, began by proclaiming that writing was going to be the least of one’s challenges in the world of freelance writing.

It is an unorthodox paradigm that contrasts sharply with working in an office. Finding and managing clients, publishers, editors and an entire host of other characters is a significant part of what freelancers do — your content creation is through writing, and that’s only a small portion of the time spent.

Because a freelancer has the privilege of being in charge of most of the writing process, he is in the unique position to make the most out of it. Eugene continued by speaking about strategies for new writers to build value for themselves and their craft, along with the importance of getting paid by your clients. “Never do it for free!” the importance of not undervaluing your creative work was belaboured, as Eugene highlighted this common pitfall that freelance writers face early in their career. “Businesses will squeeze you dry with the excuse of building your portfolio,” the audience was warned. Not being remunerated for commissioned work is a chronic concern amongst the ranks of freelancers in many creative fields, which are not limited to writing.

Eugene emphasised on the importance of biting the bullet, and saying ‘yes’ to unfamiliar and portfolio-broadening jobs. Especially in the beginning stages of a freelancer’s career, it is paramount not to turn down jobs even if you aren’t in your niche. Instead, you should focus on finding the needs of others and focus on how you can fulfill their needs. In today’s world, with all that’s available online, a proficient writer can teach themselves anything necessary. What makes a successful freelancer is one’s willingness to put himself out there and sell himself and not just his writing.

Where the writing industry is (often unfairly) stereotyped as being introverted, and characterised by long stretches of working alone, it will do a freelancer no good to fit into this mold. “It is important to sell yourself; not just your writing,” Eugene advised. When asked what is the most important personality trait he sees in freelancers across industries, Eugene told us that it was the quality of being shameless.

“It’s exciting when money isn’t an issue,” Eugene described a typical day in his life, “there are peak periods and periods of rest. Sometimes I find myself writing at 4am and waking up at noon.” A testament to the sheer amount of flexibility afforded by being a freelancer, and being your own boss.

However, we were assured that freelancing isn’t about accepting every job offer that comes your way, or fighting over scraps with your peers. As your career progresses, you will have the opportunity to build a brand for yourself, and solidify a niche in a specific genre or area of interest. That’s where the quality of your craft is able to position yourself as the expert in an area. With increased clout, so will the rates you are able to charge your clients increase.

Indeed, Eugene has a message that will resonate with the man on the street: to always value the work you do, to learn to work with people of all stripes, and that there truly is nothing without labour.