The new Pioneer Generation: Freelancers

THE WEB GUY: Time for family and to pursue big dreams

The nature of Mr Khan's work makes it perfect for freelancing - dealing with computers and the Internet means he can easily work from home, allowing him to spend more time with his family.
The nature of Mr Khan's work makes it perfect for freelancing - dealing with computers and the Internet means he can easily work from home, allowing him to spend more time with his family.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Pursuing a dream to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, strengthening his programming skills and catering to the demands of his growing family - Mr Syed Anees Khan has been able to do all these by becoming a freelancer.

For the past eight years, the 41-year-old has been working as a freelance Web developer to have the best of all worlds.

The push to go freelance came when the firm he was working for changed to a new server framework. "I was getting stronger in PHP (a programming language)," he explains. "I could choose to pick up the .Net framework (which the company was switching to) or focus on getting better at what I already knew."

The 41-year-old chose the latter.

Quitting his full-time job, however, was difficult as Mr Khan's wife, who was not working at that time, was expecting their second child.

He started out first by freelancing while staying on at his full-time job. The short trial reassured him that he could quit and still make enough to cope with the higher household expenditure.

  • FAST FACTS

  • NAME: Syed Anees Khan

    AGE: 41

    JOB: Web developer

    A FREELANCER FOR: Eight years

    EARNS PER MONTH: $7,000

    ADVICE FOR OTHER FREELANCERS: "Financial discipline is very important. There are some bad months when money will be tight, so you always have to save for a rainy day."

The nature of his profession also made it easy for him to be a freelancer. "If I were working on a factory line, I would need to be there but, with computers and the Internet, I can work in a home office," he says.

The father of three children - aged three, seven and 11 - treasures the time he gets to spend with his family.

"Family time is a major concern," he says. "I want to be there not just for the big moments such as graduation but also the smaller, everyday ones."

MORE FAMILY TIME

Family time is a major concern. I want to be there not just for the big moments such as graduation but also the smaller, everyday ones.

MR SYED ANEES KHAN, on one of the reasons freelancing works for him.

He also has more time now to work on a variety of programming projects he would otherwise not have had time for.

He hopes that one of his passion projects can "make it super big". "There is always the hope and it drives you," he says.

On average, Mr Khan handles three projects at any one time. At his busiest, he has managed 10 projects. Each lasts about three months. The rigour, in turn, has made him a better programmer, he says. "If you stay in one company, you have to follow its direction which may not necessarily be in line with (the latest) technology."

As a freelancer, Mr Khan stays on top of the latest technological trends.

"This is my passion," he says. "When my clients come to me, I will implement the best and latest solutions. So they are happy, and I am happy doing what I do best."

Mr Khan started doing freelance projects when he was an engineering undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University. He took a course in Web design and applications in his second year and enjoyed it so much he decided to make it his career.

He had previously worked for a couple of years at a non-profit outfit and an educational firm.

"It's not that I didn't want to work, but I wanted the flexibility to see my children whenever I want," he says.

Still, he misses the social aspects of working full-time, such as learning from colleagues, going for coffee breaks and letting off "work steam" with them.

His last drawn salary was about $4,000, and he makes an average of about $7,000 a month now.

"I might be drawing more than (what I earn now) if I stayed on in my job," he says. "But I am richer in other ways."

Aw Cheng Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'THE WEB GUY: Time for family and to pursue big dreams'. Print Edition | Subscribe