How To Market YOURSELF as freelancer in Singapore

Freelancer in Singapore

Freelancer in Singapore has grown over the past ten years and will continue being a big part of the Singaporean working future.. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, freelancers account for 50 million of the 300 million (about 17 percent) service jobs in the world. The trick behind this is using international support offices or freelancers efficiently. 

Singapore Freelancing Culture

Singaporeans are not risk-cautious as you think, especially the country’s young population. It seems that an increasing number of Singapore’s generation Z is choosing to become full-time freelancers instead of going out to hunt regular jobs.

Why? Well, freelancing has its own share of benefits that millennials and generation Z really appreciate. They include; freedom of time, personal space to do the things you want; freedom to go for holidays whenever you want and as soon as you are done with a particular task.

Freelancing vs. Regular Jobs In Singapore

freelancers versus regular office workers in singapore

Singapore’s older generation tend to think of freelancers as brethren as “weirdos who don’t really work” because some of them always are often going out late at night or drinking beer at 2 pm during weekdays. In fact, a majority of the hardcore partiers in the country happen to be tuition teachers, bloggers, ebook ghostwriters, article writers, copywriters, among others.

But try freelancing and you will realise within a week that it is not all love and peace. In fact, most of the so-called benefits of freelancing are somehow concealed curses. Here is what you ought to have in mind before you decide to dive into it on your own.

Flexibility Is A Two-Edged Sword

Not having to deal with a 5000-word article on the 8:30 am sounds like heaven until you have actually attempted working flexible hours. Some people jealously make fun of freelancers for sleeping in until 12 noon. However, they don’t understand the agony of struggling to complete a project at 3 am when all the entire world is asleep.

Freelancers might have very good flexibility, but that should not mistake for complete freedom. In most cases, much of the time they tend to have is usually at the mercy of their clients even if they are working from home.

When you decide to become a full-time freelancer in Singapore, it is important to be prepared to tackle projects as later as 12 am to 5 am, and that can be quite exhausting. Some freelancers in Singapore also work for clients in other time zones who submit assignments and projects at 2 am and rather than going to bed, they are often compelled to keep their eyes open and handle the tasks for an extra 2 or 3 hours.

Nonetheless, freelancers in Singapore usually have greater control over time than their employees/clients compared with regular employees. For instance, a freelancer will never have to struggle with a peak hour crowd (unless he/she is freelancing on-site on a 6 to 8 basis), nor do they have to burn their weekends running errands or going to the dentist.

But if you are thinking that freelancing means you will be working only when you want, you are very wrong. Just because you have flexible working environment does not mean you will not be forced to work when you are really feeling like going to bed. You will be surprised to find yourself working in the hours during which, as a regular employee, you would be sleeping or out have fun.

Working As Little Or As Much As You Want?

“If I am my own boss, I can decide to work as little or as much as I want! I am not forced to toil daily!” This is a thought that some of Singapore’s older generation tend to think about freelancing.

Well, the reality is that some freelancers in Singapore haven’t been able to go “on-leave” like regular employees usually do. And even when they go on holiday, they are working on the plane or in the hotel room.

Sure, it would technically sound easy for freelancers to tell their clients that they won’t be accepting work two or three weeks. But that isn’t very possible as it means they won’t get paid. Some freelancers even find them working even on weekends and public holidays.

While most Singaporean freelancers know they could ‘work less’ if they wanted to, a great number of them take very few holidays than they ought to simply because the idea of forgoing that pay is just too sickening.

Before you attempt freelancing, it is necessary to have in mind that, at least in your first year in the industry or perhaps more, it will be hard to decline as many projects as you think. In fact, you may find yourself agreeing to take work you shouldn’t be doing or assignments for which you are being harshly underpaid, all for the sake of cementing your profile.

By all accounts, it is unlikely you will be working as little or as much as you like. More correctly, you are be working your fingers off as much as possible.

More Money Every Hour Does Not Always Mean More Money In The Long Run

Whether your freelancing job will pay more than your regular job really is dependent on how active you’re at finding clients as well as the nature of the project.

James, a former eBook writer in Singapore who takes on freelance projects, says freelance eBook writing pays many times more compared to what regular employees doing the same job earn.

“When I began writing eBooks for as a company employee in Singapore, I was earning $1,500 a month. Now, as a freelance ebook writer, I can charge $2,500 for a six-page website, which I can complete easily in a day because I already have the required experienced”, he says. Freelancing unstable nature, on the other hand, means that some freelancers earn more every hour but realize lower annual earnings because of unemployment pockets.

Sophia, a freelance academic writer who takes on students assignments in Singapore, says the future isn’t always certain after completing assignments. “I get more flexibility than regular employees since I can work from home so long as the jobs get done or come and go as I want. I also earn more than I would as a regular employee. But each year I am jobless for two to three months.”

Still, freelancers often have to grapple with income instability which tends to be offset by lower costs of operating.

Freelancers Can Also Be Retrenched

freelancers also get retrenched in singapore

Some people tend to assume that freelancers having real job security, because of their diverse income sources and they can’t really be dismissed by a single client on whom they depend on for their financial survival.

Well, in the world of Singapore freelancing, some freelancers tend to have more diversified sources of income than others, and some people are highly likely to be redundant.

Freelancers with a large client base, such as taxi drivers or tuition teachers tend to enjoy more job stability because any client that chooses to stop using their services is just one among many.

For instance, James has more than 30 clients, and with many referrals from his current charges is already a full-time freelance ebook writer. A client who decides to discontinue using James’ services cannot really affect his earnings chart.

There so many freelancers, on the other hand, that work for just a few clients at a go. This generally happens when one or two clients send in substantial amounts of work.

If you spend 25 hours a week working for a single company, it would be hard to take on 15 other regular clients not unless you’re a robot.

For freelancers who only have a few of clients to work for, losing a single one of them not only annihilates their income but will certainly see them scramble in a panic trying to source new clients.

This is sometimes even worse than being sacked as it may come unexpectedly — your client may all of a sudden decide it was more economic-wise to hire a full-time employee instead of outsourcing the job to freelancers, or the strategy of the company may change and they no longer need the services you have been offering them.

There is no severance package, one month’s notice, or even, in some cases, a simple “thank you” appreciation.

So, Why Are Singapore’s Millennials And Generation Z Doing It?

Despite the headaches and uncertainty of freelancing, more and more of Singapore’s young population is doing it. However, the reasons as to why they do it do not exactly benefit as such, but somewhat lifestyle choices that might not suit the older generations that prefer regular jobs and employment.

Getting experience to work on a wide range of various projects, having a broader range of lifestyle choices, not have to deal with politics and taking your maiden steps into the entrepreneurship world is what keeps freelancers going. This is in spite of the fact that like every other work, freelancing is at times a grind, more so when you are running on caffeine and sleep deprived.

The freelance lifestyle is indeed worth the tears for so many people in Singapore.

Freelance Market

Singapore is one of the biggest freelance hiring markets in Asia. According to Elance-Desk (an online platform that hires freelance), the search for talent is rapidly shifting online, and companies and individuals are increasingly hiring freelancers on a flexible basis.

Rich Pierson, SVP of geographies and categories at Elance-Desk, says that businesses globally spent a total of $925 million in 2015 hiring online via and By the close of 2015, Elance-Desk’s community reached the 14.5 million mark, with 9.8 million freelancers and 3.9 million businesses.

Of this, Singapore has 37,000 freelancers and 30,000 businesses. These stats position Singapore as one of the best markets in Asia for online talent hiring and a top 10 global ranking. Singaporean businesses spent 47% more on hiring freelancers versus 2014.

For 2016, Elance-Desk predicts that freelance administration will be a core skill. Standout professionals are going to be those that are skillful at managing distributed team members and freelancers as the technical skills gap increases.

Also, every business in Singapore will operate efficiently with its own virtual assistant. and currently have 1.6 million virtual assistants.

In 2016, virtual assistants earned $60 million and as one of the fastest flourishing positions hired on Elance-¬Desk, with the number expected to go up by 55 percent this year.

Further, the number of virtual freelance agencies will outshine that of traditional agencies. Agencies are opting to move online to avoid the soaring cost of running a physical office. Improvements in communication tools, project management, and a flexible working environment will facilitate virtual freelance agents to flourish.

Pierson says, “The freelance economy is going to play an important role in overpowering the talent supply crisis and aiding businesses to improve their potential.” More than thirty thousand businesses currently use Elance-Desk platform in Singapore with many other freelance websites available in the country — their number is predicted to rise by 50% this year.

Singapore freelancers are also going beyond borders to work online for clients as far as in the United States, Germany, France, Australia, Canada and the UK.

How Singapore’s Environment Helps Freelancers

The Labour Ministry has highlighted the concerns of the country’s freelancers and including putting place measures aimed at supporting them. This is a huge step that has seen more people looking into freelancing as a reliable and secure industry.

Another key factor that has really helped in the growth of the industry is the high literacy levels in the country. Singapore is home to some of the best universities in the world, which is known to produce some of the best talents. Many of its graduates have gained quality education as well as skills needed in the broad freelance world. As such, they are able to handle almost every project in their respective fields with ease and professionalism.

Above all, freelancers in Singapore have in a great way embraced digital marketing as one of the most effective ways to promote their services to prospective clients. A great number of them are now using Facebook videos, YouTube, Instagram, and personal blogs to reach out to a large audience both in in Singapore and beyond.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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