Confessions of a girlfriend-for-hire
Friend-for-hire demand is up but clients have to be at their best behaviour during the 'date'
Some people turn to private-car hires to make money in their spare time.
Others take up tuition jobs or do shifts at restaurants.
But Belle (not her real name) earns extra cash in a different way - she is a companion-for-hire.
Brimming with confidence, the chirpy 27-year-old said: "I get to make a few hundred bucks a month and it complements my life.
"I get to meet new friends in my free time and get paid for it, it's pretty good!"
Belle, who has a day job as a human resources manager, freelances for Pally, a local company which provides friends-for-hire.
Anticipating our question, Belle told The New Paper: "It's all professional and clean, all my clients respect the boundaries and know where to draw the line."
No inappropriate touching is allowed - customers can only make just enough bodily contact to keep up appearances.
Some handholding is necessary if I am acting as a girlfriend, but nothing more than that Belle
"Some handholding is necessary if I am acting as a girlfriend, but nothing more than that," said Belle matter-of-factly.
Pally offers companions for different situations. According to its website, having a two-hour dinner with someone like Belle costs $100. But bringing a companion home to meet one's family and friends, say for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations, costs $250.
There is demand for her services and on most weekends, she will have at least one customer to accompany, said Belle.
The prices might be steep but Belle insists that customers will get their money's worth.
Before the meeting, the customer and companion will have a discussion over the phone to prepare for their "date".
Said Belle, who has been doing this for over a year: "I have a script already in my head and I know what to look out for.
"Everything is discussed, like how we met, what I have to wear, what my personality is."
Belle's main clients are professionals in their early 30s.
All communication is done through an agent at Pally, who sets up the phone discussion between her and the client.
They meet up a few minutes before the date or event that she gets paid for, so they have some time to get acquainted.
"It's practical because no phone numbers are exchanged and we keep it professional. The customer gets what they pay for and there are no complications."
She admitted that there are repeat customers because they frequently engage in Pally's services.
One of them even indicated "other kinds of interests" to her on their subsequent "dates". Belle said she had to be firm.
"He did drop some hints but I told him I liked the way things are now and we have to be professional because after all, it's a business transaction," she said.
"I like to be free! I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to mix her work life with her personal one."
Other than a few close friends and her brother, no one knows that she works for Pally. She said things are "simpler" that way.
How long is she planning to do this job? She laughed before saying: "I guess I'll keep doing this for as long as I have the free time to do it.
"This work that I do is such a good way to earn money because there's a strong demand for it here."
Secrets of the trade
1. Confidence is key. If you're going to be a professional companion you have to know how to talk and keep conversation going.
2. Be alert. There will always be people who have less than noble intentions and you should know how to find help if you need it.
3. Learn to adapt. Different customers will ask you to act differently, so you have to make sure you can be the person they want you to be.