Wednesday, February 2, 2011



Erm. I mean, freelancing is something like this:

Hard for me to explain, see?

My old mentor, Zainal Alam Kadir, taught me that any skill I learn in one discipline can be applied in other things.

Take, for example, writing. I spent most of my free time in high school reading and writing. That's all I ever did. Aside from watching my ass.

See, writing takes skill, right? Well, so do reading. When you read something, a writer would always, always, get inside the author's head. You need to.

For young kids, just think of Copy-Ninja Kakashi from Naruto. Kakashi has one Sharingan eye, which he uses to copy the moves of other ninjas.

It is not the moves, really, that you are learning. It is the essence. Because if you only follow the style, you're missing out on a whole shitload of stuff.

If you must know, I copied a lot of Tatsuya 'Sinfest' Ishida, Chris Rock, Neil Gaiman, Brian Michael Bendis, Frank Miller and Warren Ellis for a lot of my shit. Though I must say Gaiman is uncopiable, because he uses the same technique. His writing is basically done in the style of past greats like Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison and Ursula K LeGuin, as well as the Elder God of Writing Alan Moore.

Alan Moore is simply an alien. I can't get into his head. I just can't.

So anyway, freelance. Yes. Applying my not inconsiderable writing skills, I tell myself that I can write anything. And I did.

I have written articles, books, novels, short stories, scripts, papers, proposals, translations, whatever, man. You name it, I wrote it. I have written for any and all disciplines.

Sometimes, I didn't know how to do it. So I found out. I didn't know how a film script looks like. So I asked around. I got Yasmin Ahmad to show me her script. I bought the script and some artwork for Mirrormask - a movie Gaiman did with Dave McKean. Cost my over 200 bucks. I went to and downloaded some scripts such as the Academy Award winning A Beautiful Mind. Didn't cost me a thing.

See, if you want to do something, you can't simply do it by having the idea of it. A lot of people just like the idea of something. But when it comes to doing the work, they run away and hide. Why? Cause they're cowards.

Rule #1 - Freelancers must have balls.

I'm not saying actual testicles. I'm saying, you need to be brave. Courageous. Every problem is an opportunity to exercise your creativity.

If people ask me, 'Can you write this shit?' I'd say, 'Hell, yeah, I can.' You know why? Because I can. I do.

I have had normal and strange requests thrown at me. Anything from writing poems to be read on live TV (one by Lisa Surihanie and another by Rahim Razali and Fauziah Nawi, no less), to a 12-word translation for an accessory company.

I have been asked to write books, films, you name it. There is nothing written that I haven't tried my hand before.

Once you understand how a writer's mind works in order to come up with passages that resonate with you, or just some bits that you like, you can write. The next question would be, do you want to?

The Truth is, freelance writing is just like any other freelance job. The freedom, the risks are more or less the same.

First thing you have to learn, is that it's a big bad world out there. Some people won't pay you. Some, would press you like you're their bitch. Well, if it's a high-paying gig, then that would be okay. If it's not, RUN!

Always, always protect yourself with black and white. Contracts are vital. Emails are important. If possible, NEVER delete any email. Some courts accept email evidence. And the people's court can be just as damaging.

Be careful what kind of contract you sign, if any. Read everything. EVERYTHING. If you don't want to, do not be a freelance writer. Get a desk job somewhere or fuck a rich guy. Or have your mother fuck a rich guy.

Now, the interesting part. How do you get freelance jobs?

Well, to this day, this remains a mystery to me. In 2003, after I graduated, I got lots of jobs writing. In 2006, I got even more jobs. In 2011, it seems as if that door has opened again.

The universe will provide for you. If you're good at your craft, word gets around. People will look for you.

If they don't, you've got to start looking. In fact, I look everywhere. I do not say no to meetings. I check my email every day. Return all my missed calls. You never know, you know?

Where to look? Well, there is the Internet. Don't be fooled by MLM scams or conmen. Know your industry. Know what people want. Know how the world works. And never trust anyone. Always have your own back. Never lend your money to druggies. I learned that the hard way.

I also believe in karma. I have done some good in my day, and I am reaping the benefits. I did not do those things so I could benefit from them, but it is a very humbling lesson that no good deed I have done has ever gone unrewarded or unpunished in some way.

Make yourself open. I believe that in order to accept, you have to let go. No new thing will come into your life until you have let go of some old things.

Be realistic. No one is going to say, "Hey, Amir, I'm going to pay you a million bucks a word while I suck your dick." It's not impossible, and I welcome it, but come on.

There are also people who bitch and moan about how little they get. Well, if they spent the time they wasted on bitching and moaning about it on actually finding work, they might get some.

Finding the work is important, but never forget to do it. Always set some standards.

With me, it's simple. I do the best I can, or I don't do it at all. I'm the best at what I do, or I don't do it.

Remember, when finding freelance work, or doing any kind of business, always believe in abundance.

I'm not talking about some stupid delusional abundance some rah-rah idiots subscribe to. That's pathetic, insulting and stupid, to assume that things will just fall into place, that work will do itself, that jobs will just fall out of the sky. I have met lots of lazy-assed people. Great minds, heavy ass. If you meet these people, RUN! RUNNN! You know why? Cause you'll end up with all the work, and you can't afford that cause time - your time - is money. Your money.

That being said, I have experienced some occasions when some jobs just fell out of the sky. I am not ashamed to tell you that when some of these things happen, I go home and fucking cry. Like a bitch.

It will happen to everyone. I believe that. You just have to live long enough for it to happen. It's not magic, it is the accumulation of your good work, your good name and your good deeds. Also, lots and lots of luck.

I asked one guy the other day, "How did you find out about me?" He said, "I dunno. I just Googled 'writer Malaysia' and your name popped out in a list. No one else on that list replied to my emails."

I tried to Goggle 'writer Malaysia' or 'Journalist Malaysia' and my name was not in any list. I'm not a legendary journalist, nor do I want to be one. But for one moment, one instant, the Gods of the Internet showed him my name, and my email. And lo and behold, I was writing a proposal for something that could keep me afloat for some time.

Some people I met in a bar recommended me for some jobs. All I did was share my views on women. I didn't know it was a job interview.

It's nice to have contacts, but it is not necessary. Also, I do not believe in being a cutthroat Machiavellian or doing things the macha-vellian way.

As long as it is not confidential, I like to share my information and knowledge. Will writing all these tips spoil the market for me? Will people who follow these things I wrote take away jobs from me?


Well, at least I don't think so. See, I am not a man of faith, but I do have faith in myself, my skills and my work ethics. I'm not a wishy-washy pimple-faced teenager. In fact, I never had a serious pimple problem.

I do not believe in harping on scarcity. I believe in abundance. I believe that there is more than enough for everyone. Also, that the more you share, the more you gain, but that is not the point of sharing.

At the end of the day, just be good. Be good at what you do. Be a good person.