So I've joined a couple of freelancing websites. They pay about a penny a word, which, bearing in mind that you can't just pick up jobs one after the other, means knocking off a 1000 word piece in an hour to make it worthwhile, in terms of the money that is. Another site has jobs of as little as 100 words - at the same rate. It seems to me that once you know what you're doing you may be able to bang them out without much thought - but it has to be said getting my head around what a website selling car tyres wants to the extent that I can write 250 words, all for £2.50, is not an attractive prospect. Currently I can't imagine it taking less than an hour to work out what I was going to write, check against their style, purpose and audience and then write it.
One of the jobs I came across was an invitation to write a blog post on how much money to give your girlfriend's parents for Chinese New Year. I have some experience of this. So I thought I would put myself to the test, see if I could bang it out in half an hour and then see if they accepted my offer - this is in reverse to the normal order of things but my main aim was to see if I could quickly write something suitable, at least on a subject I knew something about. This one at least didn't have to be particularly search engine optimised or contain links to manufacturers of red envelopes!
So, I wrote the post in about half an hour, which would have been viable. Sadly, the customer chose another offer, but, rather than waste it, here it is, a short piece for the uninitiated on how to play red envelope roulette.
How much money should you give your girlfriend's parents for Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is approaching for the first time since you got together with your girlfriend, or perhaps the first time since she made the big step of telling her parents about you – make no mistake, telling the parents about a suitor, particularly a foreign one, is a significant milestone in a relationship. Your girlfriend will of course be visiting her family, assuming she has already left home and you may even be accompanying her. Naturally, you want to make a good impression, aware of how important this is, particularly given your status as an outsider. And so the issue of hong bao (red envelopes) arises.
Initially, particularly if you have not been in China for long, you may have difficulty with the idea of giving envelopes stuffed full of money to family or friends. To your mind, gifts are more personal and hard cash seems rather mercenary – as if you’re saying exactly how much they’re worth. People do give money as a gift in the west but it is often in the form of tokens and more likely to be for children. Lets face it, a gift of money says to you “I really couldn’t think of what to get you and I didn’t want to risk getting it wrong”.
This is something you just have to get over! You are not going to single-handedly change Chinese culture and as you come to a deeper understanding of it, you will see that this practice is not so strange or mercenary. Bear in mind that giving money is not unheard of in European culture – for example pinning money to the bride’s dress in Italy. Nevertheless, you know you are going to be judged on how much you give and upon whether you get the figure right, avoiding inauspicious numbers. Get it right and you may well have smoothed the way to a fruitful relationship with those who may one day become your in-laws. And what goes around comes around – strong family relationships can be very helpful in Chinese society, particularly in terms of getting started out in married life and providing childcare.
Fortunately, you have one asset up your sleeve – your girlfriend. You love her. You trust her. She understands the culture. The simple answer is, you should let her decide. She knows best. Really. Talk to her about it, tell her how you feel about it and discuss what you can afford – there may be alternative figures depending on how much you have spare. But do not skimp. There really is no point and it will only get you into trouble. The likelihood is that you are well paid compared to most local people and even if you are short of money at the moment, as far as they’re concerned you should be well off. The fact is, this is more important than a couple of nights out with your mates as you enjoy ten days off work. You should listen to her while expecting her to listen to you too. And then do what you’re told.