Freelancing and Happiness – Do They Mix?
Flexible working hours. Working from home. Choose your clients. These are things often mentioned by would-be freelancers as the reasons for for taking the leap into being a full-time freelancer. But what’s it actually like?
Meet Terence Pek, a freelance web designer, developer and visual creative. Currently in his mid-20s, Terence has taken the path less travelled by his peers and decided to work as a freelancer not long after leaving university.
Do not let his youth deceive you – he has over 9 years of experience building websites for a wide variety of clients.
When he is not out working on awesome projects for his clients, he lectures at Singapore Polytechnic, guiding young minds in the art and science of games design. He is also a vital part of IoTalents, – serving as our Community Manager! Talk about being multi-attributed.
To find out more about freelancing from a young millennial’s perspective, we sat down with Terence for a breezy afternoon of conversation and sharing.
As it turns out, being a freelancer can lead to a fulfilling, quality life, as we will discuss below.
A typical day in the life
Terence begins by telling us how life is like for him on a daily basis. “I wake up at 7:30, laze around till 8, meditate until 9. Then I start work at that time,” he says.
Adding on, Terence says, “Everyday is different. I have an office in (co-working space) The Hive, where I work as much as possible because it’s simply a more effective workspace. So on the days when I have a lot of work, I hit up Starbucks, buy myself a drink, then sit down to do work.”
At this point, I pointed out that the flexibility of working location as a plus point of being a freelancer. Terence wholeheartedly agrees.
Why he got started as a freelancer
Every freelancer gets started in their own unique way. Their reasons for wanting to do freelance work also differs. In Terence’s case, it was clear as the conversation went on that, work-life balance and quality of life was of utmost importance to him.
“I have always thought that doing a 9-5 job, for 25 years of your life till retirement, that’s a little meaningless. You might get material comforts, like a nice condo to live in. But if you buy a nice place to live in but you have no time to stay there, what’s the point, right?”
“As a freelancer you get to decide your hours, you get to decide what you want to do and what you do not want to do. You have no boss. Everything works out really well that way. You are in control of your life. Life is not about working.”
How it all began
To Terence, his success comes from a combination of good fortune and sheer luck. This is clearly exemplified through his answers below.
“My first client was my coursemate, an artist. He was a young artist getting lots of people paying him to draw. He also got lots of people asking him if he could do websites. He could not, be I could. So he started referring deals to me, and that was how I got started.”
“When I was serving my national service, I met people who wanted me to build their websites for them. My appeal was that I was an affordable, younger chap serving my national service. That was how I met a lot of my clients. Over time, it just snowballed.”
Eventually, things got even better.
“One of my former lecturers recommended me to an ex-colleague who runs a web design agency so I got a job with that.”
Since then, Terence has gone on to handle many more projects, including for a big name like NTUC Fairprice. But staying true to his humble and forthright nature, he reiterates that his success in landing clients was not something he actively sought to achieve – he was just lucky.
The secret-weapon: Meditation
The practice of meditation is well-known. Many top-achievers, like superstar athletes and billionaires have sworn by the life-changing effects of consistent meditation. Terence himself attests to the power of meditation in keeping him in the best mental condition to handle life’s day-to-day challenges.
On his biggest challenges at work, Terence says, “The biggest challenge for me would be to get myself focused on work when I’m at home, otherwise, there are not that many challenges. I guess part of it is because I started meditating, so I feel like not everything is a challenge anymore.”
“Problems are just situations that you have to handle, so when you see challenges that way, you will see life as a series of situations. When you are centered, the situation becomes more manageable.”
“Often, you are stressed not because the situation itself is stressful. For example, you can have two people who go through the same situation, and the first person just preserves through. The other person instead has a lot of anxiety about what is going on. Therefore, it is all about how you perceive and handle things.”
“Meditation helped me to not see everything as a problem, so life just became so much easier for me, so much of a breeze. I handle situations better now and am more relaxed, more at ease. When you are at ease, everything you do just gets better.”
Terence finishes his point about meditation with this golden nugget of advice, “If you want to be good at handling situations and challenges, meditation is a great thing to do. If not, you can also do some yoga, anything that helps you centre yourself.”
The Big 3 Qualities
Excelling in their careers and life is something that the great majority of the world desires. At this point in our conversation, it became clear that Terence was someone who able to deftly mix happiness and freedom into his life – and made his freelancing career a part of it.
Curiosity got to me, so I asked Terence to share 3 qualities that he feels are critical to succeeding as a freelancer – and life in general. He shares:
Have clarity – see things for what they are
“Firstly, clarity. Clarity defined: you see things for what they are. A lot of times in society, we value logic a lot and information a lot. Thus, we think that in order to do something, we have to ask other people who have the experience and some kind of information that you don’t have. But you do not have to really do that.”
“If you just free your mind from all the conditioning that society has placed on you, from all the schooling that you have gone through, all the business talks that you have been to, you’ll find out that you have a lot of answers. But you just don’t see it because you think that those answers are not right. So I would say, having clarity, that is the most essential.”
This is a sentiment that echoes that of many great entrepreneurs and thinkers. Billionaire investor Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates fame once said,
“Truth – more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality – is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.”
Having clarity helps you to see the truth more accurately and thus, achieve better outcomes.
You are fine – no matter what happens to you
Failures and setbacks happen, even to the best of us. While it is impossible to avoid all the hailstorms life hurls at you, you can change the way you perceive them. On this, Terence says, “Establish a quality where regardless of what happens to you, you are fine.”
“Often, in whatever we do, we are attached to the results. This is because it becomes part of our identity. For example, if I do websites for a while, I might start behaving in such a where I believe these websites are who I am. If something happens to these websites, or certain things happens to my business, I would feel bad about it.”
“But, if you establish the quality in yourself where you know that no matter what happens, you are okay, you will be able to handle a lot of situations better.”
Tying into his previous point, knowing that you are alright no matter what bad situation you fall into helps you build persistence.
“Have persistence. You can fail as many times as you want, it’s fine you know. Failure is not a big deal. Just do your very best every time and be good.” What words of wisdom!
My conversation with Terence left me with great positivity and profound wisdom. It is clear that Terence knows what he wants out of life – to find happiness and joy in what does and how he lives. Freelancing is not just what he does to put food on the table – it helps him pursue his other life goals too. It is the ‘work-life balance’ that many strive for – but few attain. You truly can find happiness and joy from a freelance career indeed!