This is one that’s been a bother for me ever since I came to Taiwan – how to explain what I do. It’s easy to say that I’m a web developer, but explaining that I’m a freelance web developer hasn’t always been easy.
Until recently I would say ‘case’. This is one of those English words that is now in common use here. To the question of who I work for I might respond:
Wǒ shì jiē case de
I accept work on a case by case basis
The other way was to say that I was a SOHO worker. I know this means a home worker, but if I’m honest I only just recently looked up what it actually stands for: “Small Office or Home office”. Using SOHO to respond to the above question I might say:
Wǒ shì SOHO yīzú
I work from home
It wasn’t until I was filling out a recent Taiwanese visa application that I discovered the actual word for ‘freelance’. The system has changed recently and you’re now required to fill out an online application wherein they provide a selection of job types to choose from. One of them being the Chinese equivalent for ‘freelance’:
Now I can respond – 我是自由業 (我是自由业 Wǒ shì zìyóu yè). However, that doesn’t solve the problem completely. Just like there may have once been/still is stigma surrounding the word ‘freelance’ in English, using the word 自由業 in Chinese might lead people to believe you are actually unemployed. So just for backup keep the above two examples readily available in your vocab just in case!