Jaimelynne Toh grew up in Singapore, a microcosm of western modernity and Asian outlook that many only know as the backdrop of recent Hollywood romcoms. It’s clear that she loves her city. In an interview with ContentGrip, she describes going from chatting with a hawker center “auntie” over some street food, to buying an original Apple product, to living the high life on a rooftop bar with a killer view of the skyline — all within walking distance of home.
But while the city made her teenage self feel like anything was possible, Jaimelynne describes her upbringing as “decidedly Chinese,” with clear expectations of academic excellence and a traditional career plan.
“Perhaps it was the rebel in me that wanted to go down a different path. Picking up the Korean language on my own, I spent at least five years honing my skills on the side, eventually getting my first translating gig when I was 15,” recalls the now-full-time freelancer. “The catch was that I had to craft an interview and write-up for it as well. I made sure it was a job well done and I was hired for a more long-term position. Interviewing K-pop boy bands and dashing to concerts as a member of the press, while juggling school life, was one of the highlights of my youth, and one that fed into who I am today.”
Jaimelynne went on to earn a degree in marketing from the National University of Singapore, a school that claims a 7% acceptance rate. While studying, she dabbled in marketing internships for fashion and beauty brands and worked as a researcher for the Korean and Chinese markets at a boutique research firm. After graduation — and a few lucky breaks — she dove, head-first, back into freelance lifestyle, beauty, and entertainment writing.
The bleeding edge of K-pop
Today, the 23-year-old has her thumb on the pulse of all things K-pop. Jaimelynne is a regular contributor to SCMP Style’s digital desk, one of the best-performing divisions of the Hong Kong-based media mammoth South China Morning Post. The outlet has tens of millions of monthly readers, making it one of the largest in the world. In addition to interviewing K-pop stars and covering news on the vibrant scene, she provides on-site translations for Korean companies and events.
She also contributes regularly to Asian Consumer Intelligence, a research firm that focuses on the Korean and Chinese markets, providing up-to-date reports on products and marketing strategies for beauty and personal care products. Jaimelynne’s reports are published on the company’s subscription-based portal for large multinational clients such as Instagram, Proctor and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, and others.
But living on the bleeding edge of K-pop as a freelancer is not for the faint of heart, says Jaimelynne. It’s not all glitz and glamor, either. Hard work, daily hustling, and occasional anxiety are things that quite simply come with the territory.
“Personally, I do feel like a huge stumbling block that will never be fully removed is the fact that freelance income depends on how much work you end up taking on. Sometimes we don’t get hired for as many things as we would like, and this takes a psychological toll on you in terms of feeling secure.”
Jaimelynne says her freelance career provides income comparable to what she would earn if she had taken a full-time job after graduating in 2019. According to her, however, while she does get to enjoy a level of freedom and control that her peers do not, the trade-off is that she often has to work harder and longer.
“There’s a lot of freedom in time management but the downside is that it can be a double-edged sword. If you’re a workaholic like me, you really never know when to stop and take a break. I often work through breakfast and lunch and only get to my first meal around 4 or 5 pm,” explains the journalist. “That said, I absolutely love being in charge of my own time and being able to adjust my schedule to fit my lifestyle.”
Jaimelynne Toh is still at the sunrise of her career as a freelance K-pop media professional. Having an early start in high school helped arm her with a level of fearlessness that not all young people in Singapore have. In the context of advice for other young and aspiring freelance journalists in the Lion City, Jaimelynne has only a few tips.
For her, it’s important for freelancers to hone the skill of pitching stories routinely. Inside ContentGrow (a managed marketplace and workflow app for content teams), Jaimelynne pitches to clients each week.
For those who don’t know, a story pitch consists of a short headline and a paragraph or two that sums up the topic she wants to cover. It may include background info on the issue at hand or the names of K-pop stars she is keen to interview. The important part of a story pitch is that it’s clear, concise, and relevant to the conversation at large for the buyer.
“Usually I keep up with the news daily in the mornings, so I’ll file away important bits for later reflection and eventually craft them into pitches,” says Jaimelynne. “Talking in terms of the ContentGrow platform, I usually go on once every week or two to pitch a whole bunch of stories at the same time. If I note that the client doesn’t focus on time-sensitive pieces, I will employ this method, as I find it easier for both me and them.”
These days, with her byline seen across the world, freelance opportunities seem to pop up often for Jaimelynne. But she doesn’t say yes to everything. In fact, filtering out the gigs she truly wants from those she doesn’t is a big part of her routine. According to her, the most important things are to play to your strengths and don’t try to be someone else.
“I mostly look at two things. The first is the name of the publication and its reach. The second is if the writing style and coverage fit my own. Although possible, it can get difficult to try to change your tone of voice constantly to match the publication, so I try to find one that I can do naturally,” says the Singaporean.
She adds, “Look for a buyer that fits your niche and is aligned with your style of writing. Also, don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there or doing cold calls.”
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