in Freelance

Freelancing by accident

When I was 5 or 6 years old I was running around near the woodland of Lubok Antu, playing hide and seek and swam with my sisters in the river of Batang Lupar. Lubok Antu is a border crossing town at the frontier of Indonesia and Malaysia. Nearly every afternoon we went for walks in the nearby swampy rainforest. During the monsoon season the river will swelled up and the rapid water create turbulence that formed whirlpool in the river creating a ‘sucking’ sound. Later my father got transferred to work in a different town and the family moved too.

When I was 9 years old, at school I sold canned soft drink that my parent bought in cross border ‘duty free area’, for a profit to my classmates at a price that is cheaper when compared to those sold in the local canteens. I took orders and payments on the day before and on the following day I brought the sold products to school for my classmates.

When I was 12 years old, I have two groups of friends, one from my school and another from my local neighbourhood whom does not know each other. One day, one of the friend of my schoolmate wanted to sell his old BMX bicycle, so he could buy a new model of BMX from a different brand. Coincidentally, a friend’s friend from my neighbourhood was looking to buy a bike. I negotiated and facilitated the sales of the bike, got my mother to pickup and delivered the bike; making a small profit in the transaction.

Fast forward 27 years, after spending some time sailing across 5 different oceans, gained 3 different degrees in 3 different countries, having lived in the ‘middle kingdom’, worked in hardware and services companies; with startup, small middle sized enterprises and large multinational. I arrived at the cross road of my professional career.

I decided to up the ante and applied to one of the big three management consulting companies (MBB). Since I am into software development, I applied to one of the business unit that develop software solutions for Fortune 500 clients. I worked hard to prepare for the rigorous interviews and selection process, that involved written test, practical case studies and 4 in-person interviews, all while managing a full-time work.

I was ecstatic when the HR person call me for our final debriefing. He started with “I have good and bad news for you”. I told him to start with the good news, “The good news is that you got thru the selection process” he said ” and the bad news is that the client which the project that you suppose to work on has postponed his ‘buying’ decision for the next 3 months”. 3 months became 6 and eventually the business unit that I was supposed to work with got restructured and the position that I applied for was moved to other location.

In the meantime, I lost my full-time job due to internal re-organisation. At the same time I got in contact with a company whom was looking for an interim general manager, in the domain that matched my interest and skills. I took the challenge and became a full-time freelancer. Since, then I continue to pursue this path with a purpose (idea for a post).

The flexibility of freelancing allows me to work on my startup project, developing a product that helps freelancer to find their next mission (again, another idea for a post). I do this while balancing my freelancing commitment that pays the bills and building my startup through bootstrapping, for now.

The key take away is, “if some kids who grew up near a rainforest can successfully transitioned from a corporate work to freelance work – it must be possible for you to achieve the same”. As long as you are prepared and work for it.

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