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Suraya

The Comprehensive Personal Finance and Support Guide for LGBT in Malaysia

Let’s face it: Malaysia is NOT a good place for LGBT individuals to freely express themselves. But no one can choose where they’re born at, can they? Discrimination is sadly common, usually justified by religion.

If you disagree with ‘the LGBT lifestyle’, I ask for your empathy. This is not a ‘guide to be gay’ article, this is a ‘what to do when you need help’ article. Know the distinction. Don’t kick people when they’re down. No religion teaches that.

This article answers the following questions (in order):

  1. My family kicked me out after they find out I’m gay / lesbian / bisexual / trans / queer. What can I do?
  2. I need to check my STD / HIV / AIDS status and find out where to find information about medical help, treatment and support
  3. My colleagues at work are bullying me because of my sexual orientation / gender identity. I need the job. What can I do?
  4. I need to talk to someone. What are my options?
  5. My gender does not align with the sex I was born with. How can I transition and what kind of expenses can I expect?
  6. I can no longer/do not want to stay in Malaysia. What can I do?
  7. I am in a committed, if unrecognised relationship with my partner. If anything happens to me, how can make sure she/he can inherit my money and properties?
  8. I don’t have immediate problems but would like to prepare myself financially, in case anything happens. What can I do?
  9. I’m LGBT individual / ally with financial means. How can I help?
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Link Roundup #6: 10 Things to Know This Week

Accelerate your personal finance knowledge with this regular feature on Ringgit Oh Ringgit – the Link Roundup! I promise you’ll find these 10 links informational 🙂

1. Here’s How Much Money You Save by Cooking at Home – Forbes

The data is from US, but it’s still a fascinating read. They compared between restaurant, meal kit delivery (not common in Malaysia I think) and cost of ingredients and found that you can save up to five times more by cooking all your meals at home! Another point of interest: ordering protein-based meals from restaurants are more worth it if compared to carb-based meals.

Granted, the US does not have our mamak slash cheap food culture. You can get food relatively cheap here. Personally I’m a big fan of rice + dhal, and that’s fairly nutritious and maybe cost a few ringgits at the most.

Whether we’re willing to give up our food obsession is another story, though. Trying out different cuisines is practically a national hobby.

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[Sponsored] Fintech ‘Unconference’ at Langkawi Beach Resort, Because Why Not

Let me start with a TL;DR – FintechNews.my is organising Fintech Barcamp at Holiday Villa Beach Resort & Spa, Langkawi on 9-10th August 2018. Tickets cost USD 145 each (about RM580) and include the cost of participating in the event only.

According to FintechNews.my’s write-up, this event was organised to encourage a vibrant fintech community; they do not intend to profit from it. You have to arrange your own accommodation and transportation. You can purchase the tickets from Eventbrite.

If you want to make the event but concerned about total cost, you can:

  • Choose a cheaper accommodation (RM100-ish-per-night accommodation is possible)
  • Buy your flights now (last I checked, RM200+ return tickets from AirAsia are still available!)

Langkawi’s cool. If you want to extend your trip, check out my 4D3N budget Langkawi weekend trip article. I spent RM1239.47, all-in, including flights, accommodation, car rental, food, entertainment and souvenirs.

End TL;DR.

fintech barcamp langkawi

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How to Charge Clients: 5 Methods Freelancers Can Use

One of the questions I regularly get from friends and readers who do freelance work is, “Suraya, a client is interested in my services. How much should I charge them?”

I’m still learning myself, but let me share what I know. Here are five methods you can use to figure out how to charge your clients. This guide is mostly for freelancers who sell services like writing, designing, consulting, etc, not products.

Please comment if you have additional info to add.

Method #1 – Get the client to make an offer

This is a favourite method of mine – I use it whenever I can, especially if the request is slightly different from usual and I have no idea what’s considered a ‘fair’ compensation for it. Your conversation might go something like this:

  • Client: Hi, how much do you charge for X?
  • You: Thank you for your interest! X will take me x days/weeks/months to complete and involves (brief steps). My rates are flexible and I am happy to receive an offer on your end.
  • Client: Great! We typically pay [amount]

Four things can happen here: the client gives you a better-than-expected rate (I’ve had this happen a few times), the client gives you an okay rate (good), the client gives you a low rate (not good obv), or the client insists on getting your rates (see other methods). What you can reply back:

  • Better-than expected rate: Great, that is more or less my usual rate (you’re bullshitting but whatever the client doesn’t need to know that)
  • Okay rate: Great, I accept the offer
  • Low rate: I’m sorry, but that is below my usual rate. My usual rate is [higher-than-usual amount]. Can we meet in the middle and settle on [a lower amount that is worth your time]?

My assumption is you’re not desperate for the work. If you are, and you will work for the lower rate just to make ends meet for now, go ahead and accept the offer. I respect your hustle.

Method #2 – Ask fellow freelancers in the same or similar fields

If the client insists on getting your rates and won’t make an offer, then what you can do is ask your peers. I offer writing services, so my information is biased for this field, but I’ve seen people in writing-related FB groups ask how much to charge:

  • Per word, page or project
  • For editing, proofreading, translating, speech-writing etc
  • For website, brochures, newsletters, articles, reports etc
  • Across different industries and niches
  • And more

So you can see how varied the rates can be – no wonder setting them is a hard process for new freelancers! If you’re lucky enough to get replies from your contacts, you can use the rates as a benchmark. Eventually, you’ll want to set your own rates (we’ll get to that in Method #4).

It’s a good idea to start joining groups related to your field now, even if you’re just starting out. Share information and be helpful when you can. Start cultivating those relationships early. Freelancing tends to be a solo activity, but it doesn’t have to be.

Method #3 – Find out the market rate

I personally don’t like this method but still have to put it out there. ‘Market rate’ ranges so much between platforms, specialisations and many other factors that it’s hard to pick which rates is the ‘right’ one. When I first started, I thought I was overcharging at $20 per article after seeing many writers on the same freelancing platform charging just $1 for each article!

Note: worth mentioning – some clients picked me anyway despite technically costing 20x more. I guess you get what you pay for.

Having personally used this method, I don’t recommend it at all. Maybe this method will work better for other industries? I don’t know tbh, comment if the industry you’re in follows set rates. I imagine freelancers who are attached (even loosely) to a company or agency will find it easier to find out their average market rates. Examples: Coway agents, property agents, Grab drivers, etc.

Method #4 – Calculate your own rates

Some people would advise this method first, before everything else presented in this list. Sure, if it works for you. It’s just incredibly hard. I’ve been self-employed for a few years now and STILL sometimes have no idea what is my own rate. Method #4 forces you to think of how much you value your time, and heck that’s a hard process for the soul.

I remember Tina Isaac’s advice here (she’s one of the core members of Malaysian Writers Society). In a workshop I attended, she said this regarding rates-setting:

Work backwards. How much do you want to earn from freelancing per month? How many hours can you dedicate to it? Say you want to earn RM4000, and you work 40 hours per week, that means your hourly rate is RM25 (RM4000 divide by 160 hours). If the project takes about 10 hours to complete, then charge RM25 x 10 = RM250.

That sounds simple right? Straightforward. However, from my own research, I’ve seen both advocates and haters of this particular method. It’s fair to highlight haters’ arguments too:

  • You’re limiting your earning potential because you’re already capping your income
  • You’re not paid for admin work essential in running your business – getting leads, answering emails, etc

Valid points too. Well let’s not choose sides. If you lean towards this method, you can give yourself a high monthly income and include admin hours when billing clients.

Method#5 – Just pull a number out of your ass

I’ve used this method, and, uh, I have to say, it’s strangely effective, if somewhat risky. Let me explain.

  • Client: Hi, what is your rate for X?
  • You: Thank you for your interest! X will take me x days/weeks/months to complete and involves (brief steps). The total cost of the project is [amount that is favourable for me].

From here on, there are three possible outcomes: client agrees, client negotiates, or client ghosts you.

  • Client agrees: Great! Now you know you can charge this rate and get away with it. Next time you can use this as the benchmark, or maybe even quote a higher amount.
  • Client negotiates: Good, at least you know this type of work with this specific client cannot fetch this rate. Depending on the counter-offer process and the final rate the client is willing to pay, I may or may not proceed with the job
  • Client ghosts you: If you want the job, follow up in a couple of days. Sometimes they really did miss your email.

This method works best if you can show the client how solution-oriented you are. Here you’re selling efficiency and quality, not just your time. It’s a good idea to send a combination of your work samples, testimonials and qualifications to back up your claims. “Here’s how I solved a similar problem in the past” works way better than “I can do x”.

Conclusion

There you go. Five methods you can use to figure out how much to charge your clients when they are interested in working with you. Established freelancers, which of these methods works best for you? Or do you use another way? Share in the comments section 🙂

On a separate but related note, what else do you want to know about freelancing? Let me know and I may turn it into a guide! Make sure to read other self-employment slash freelancing guides I have here at Ringgit Oh Ringgit too!

Short plug: I’m organising a personal finance-themed writing competition. Tell me your stories! Check out the details here.

Budget Update: June 2018

june 2018

Budget Update: June 2018

More than half of my June 2018 expenses went to Donations and Gifts. RM1250 given out as duit raya, and a whopping RM2500 given to a friend to help her out.

Might as well tell you what happened. A friend (someone really dear to me) was driving and got busted for having recreational drugs in her possession. The police demanded RM3000 in bribe money. My friend was not able to negotiate it down and didn’t have enough in her bank account. She had to find the money asap, and came to me.

I was pissed off. Pissed off at the friend, pissed off at the police blatantly asking for bribes, pissed off at myself for giving the money anyway thus contributing to this stupid corruption culture in Malaysia.

Never again. I will never do this again. This is not the kind of person I want to be.

Tell me your bribe stories. Everyone has one. Tell me what I can do to protect myself if this happens again. 

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Link Roundup #5: 10 Things to Know This Week

Accelerate your personal finance knowledge with this regular feature on Ringgit Oh Ringgit – the Link Roundup! I promise you’ll find these 10 links informational 🙂

1. ‘Quit your job and travel the world!’: A travel blogger confesses the grim financial reality behind the Instagram dream – Business Insider

Hands up if you follow Instagram influencers and bloggers who travel all the time. One day they’re in Paris, the next they’re in Greece, eating olives or whatever. So jelly, no?

Yeah, that lifestyle does look great. But what they don’t share as often is the cost and stress of maintaining that lifestyle. If you have a steady remote-working job, great, but you’ll spend lots of time in your room – you still need to finish your work. If you have irregular income, you’re going to stress about money and won’t be able to fully enjoy your travel.

I still think the best way to travel is to save up enough money for it beforehand. And have multiple passive income streams so working becomes a choice rather than a necessity.

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WANTED: Your Personal Finance Fiction/Non-Fiction Stories! (PAID CONTEST)

If there’s one thing I learned during this whole blog-writing journey, is that Malaysians are HUNGRY for fun personal finance content. Wow, you really like to hear stories, not advice! There are too many advice – no wonder people keep calling it a ‘dry’ and ‘boring’ topic.

So let’s change that. Let’s make personal finance fun to read and consume. GIVE ME YOUR SHORT STORIES SO I CAN COMPILE THEM INTO AN EBOOK. I’m offering cash out of my own pocket to all accepted submissions! See the details below:

writing contest malaysia

Personal Finance Writing Competition: The Details

  • Length: 1500 up to 5000 words
  • Theme: Personal finance
  • Type: Fiction and non-fiction short stories
  • Language: UK English or Bahasa
  • Format: Submit as GDoc link
  • Submission date: by 15 August 2018. Send it earlier if you want feedback and stuff
  • Submit to: submissions.ror at gmail dot com
  • Prize: RM100 flat OR a % of book sales within 1 (one) year. I’ll promo the heck out of you too.
  • No of winners: Unlimited (aiming for 50k words total)
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15 Things I Stopped Buying and Didn’t Miss

This post was inspired by one of my favourite personal finance websites, The Financial Diet. Check out their version of the article here.

‘Don’t buy shit you don’t need’ – how many times have we all heard this six-word money advice? It sounds so simple, right?

The thing is, the definition of ‘shit you don’t need’ will differ greatly from person to person. What I think I don’t need and can cut from my budget is someone else’s necessity item, either required for their life/work or something they decided is worth the expense and thus budgeted in (instead of budgeted out).

Here are 15 things I have personally stopped buying and realised I didn’t miss.

#1 – A Car

Sometimes, the fact that I don’t own a car really surprises people around me. It’s considered a rights-to-passage-to-adulthood expense, something people buy as they start working.

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How You Behave With Money, According to Your Personality

Because money and personality are two topics I love to mesh together.

Your Personality, Using the Big Five Personality Traits

Before we go on, we have to spend some time talking about personalities – what is its definition? In comes behavioural science.

The book Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being by Professor Brian R. Little gave me some great info about the categorisation of personalities, so I’m going to use that. There are many ways to test personality types, including the popular Myers-Briggs model, but Prof Little said the one I’m about to share is the most peer-approved one.

Note: It’s important to remember that for most people, it’s never as clear-cut as A or B (ie, introvert or extrovert). It’s more like a spectrum. Not only we can have qualities of both, we can adjust it to the situation as well.

The Big Five Personality Traits which can be used to explain the spectrum of our personalities are:

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Link Roundup #4: 10 Things to Know This Week

link roundup

Accelerate your personal finance knowledge with this new regular feature on Ringgit Oh Ringgit – the Link Roundup! I promise you’ll find these 10 articles informational 🙂

1. The-Fuck-Over-Ability Index – Millennial Revolution

This content is so good I’m breaking my personal ‘no f word in the blog’ rule. The Fuck-Over-Ability Index is an actual calculator they invented to measure how ‘fucked over’ you are in your life. Said situation is calculated based on how much you need your job because you need to pay your monthly commitments, like mortgages and car payments. The higher your score, the more likely you will put up with your crappiest bosses.

The author admitted they were drunk when they discussed and created this lovely thing. This article is definitely in the category of dark humour.

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