Can Freelancing Be A Sustainable Long-Term Career In Singapore?

Many professionals, especially millennials, seem to be jumping on the bandwagon in the freelancing and gig economy in Singapore these days. The overall rise in demand for more flexible work arrangements has also allowed more people to take on freelancing work on the side to further boost their income.

The question is, is the freelancing trend here to stay? Is freelancing simply a trend that will die down in Singapore after a couple of years? Or can it be a sustainable career option in the long-term? 

Let us analyse the Singapore work landscape to ascertain the viability of freelancing in the long run. 

Overall Reduction In Hiring Costs  

Companies, both big and small, are reaping the rewards from the gig economy as they are now able to hire freelancers to undertake specific projects. 

By hiring freelancers on a contract or project basis, both Singaporean and foreign companies benefit from increased flexibility in hiring. By not including freelancers to the company payroll, these companies can enjoy cost savings as they are only paying for freelancing services when work needs to be done. 

Consulting Services 

From the perspective of hiring managers, freelancers, especially experienced ones, can be valuable assets because of their professional network as well as expertise within their respective industries. 

Furthermore, seasoned freelance professionals usually have commendable work histories of working with various top-tier industry clients. Consequently, companies can even consider hiring these professionals on an interim basis to provide incisive analyses on how to approach business strategy or to tap on their experience to improve existing business processes as well as troubleshoot underlying commerce challenges. 

Internet Economy 

In recent years, various user-friendly Internet software and applications have been making their debut in the market. With the accelerating rate of technological changes and inventions, more fresh graduates, as well as seasoned professionals, are opting for the freelancing route due to the widespread opportunities enabled by such technology.

The prevalence of the Internet economy has resulted in professionals’ work output and productivity becoming both time and location-independent. This means it’s no longer necessary for a worker to have to show up in a physical office and clock in a specific number of hours each day to be productive. Many workers, including freelancers, can work at any location at their preferred timing and continue to be as productive as how the company needs them to be. 

Owing to the multiplication of high-quality technologies and online digital businesses, professionals can constantly be contactable and available for work projects, whenever and wherever they are. 

Increased Costs Of Living And Job Uncertainties

Commonly hailed as one of Singaporeans’ economic pain points, rising costs of living have resulted in many people taking on additional gigs to supplement their monthly incomes. 

Singaporeans from the lower to middle-income strata are not satisfied with just one source of income to cater for future medical expenses and retirement needs. With rising job instabilities and the simultaneous availabilities of flexible side jobs, freelancing will probably remain an additional income source for Singaporeans to prepare for rainy days and to boost their finances in the years to come.

Freelancing As ‘A Middle Ground’ For Working Parents

Owing to government incentives for married couples to have more children, many working parents regard ‘working-from-home’ as the ‘middle ground’ to balancing work with familial responsibilities.

Freelancing allows parents to decide the number of hours and clients for themselves. Self-employed parents can spend more time with their families and enjoy the simultaneous income stream and job satisfaction that paid projects might offer. Bearing this group of Singapore’s population in mind, freelancing is not likely to vanish as a career trend at least in the near future.

Freelancing For Senior Professionals  

Freelancing also provides a solution for older retrenched professionals to continue tapping into their expertise to value-add to companies, both individually and in teams, without necessarily needing to find employment in a full-time capacity.

As long as senior professionals are eager and able to update themselves with the relevant skillsets, and are receptive of being employed in a non-full-time capacity, their accumulated professional networks and experiences will continue to be of good use in the freelance economy.

The Challenges Of Freelancing

Given the aforementioned aspects, freelancing might be here to stay as a career option in Singapore.

However, freelancing is not a piece of cake, as what most experienced freelancers would tell you, and as what many who are new to freelancing may not realised when they first start. There are many challenges to freelancing that bewilder even the more seasoned professionals.

Responsibilities of Self-Employment

The flexibility that freelancing purports to bring does not come without its own sets of responsibilities. For example, freelancers have to file their taxes, calculate their earnings and even pay their employees, if they hire any. Many self-employed professionals are not experienced in these business support functions and therefore have to learn these from scratch, taking valuable time away from their core work. And remember, unlike being a full-time finance or HR professional, you are not getting paid for any of these support functions that you also need to do.

Chasing Payments

Sadly enough, some clients engage the services of freelancers and disappear after that without paying – for days, weeks and even months. Many freelancers have to chase for their paycheck without avail. Besides tons of follow-up email and phone reminders, many freelancers have had to resort to the small claims tribunals in Singapore to get their well-deserved compensation.

To complicate matters, a definite set of laws has yet to be established by the Singapore government to safeguard freelancers and their rice bowls. Freelancers are not covered by the Employment Act and thus have to resort to the Tripartite Standards that provide industry best practices for both companies and contractors/employees.

Until comprehensive legal rights for freelancers are fully endorsed by the government, professionals preferring more employee safeguards against errant companies might eventually return to full-time employment instead of continuing to freelance.

Read Also: Digital Nomads: 5 Asian Cities For Living And Working Remotely

Hopefully, you have gained a better insight as to the factors influencing freelancing in Singapore. Evidently, the circumstances affecting the viability of freelancing in Singapore differ.

That being said, with governmental guidelines to safeguard both the interests of freelancers as well as employers being underway, it is unlikely that freelancing as a trend would entirely vanish from Singapore’s landscape in the near future. More and more companies and professionals are becoming more risk-driven to embrace the overwhelming benefits freelancing provides as opposed to its possible pitfalls.

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