Managing a freelance career comes with a myriad of predicaments. But that doesn’t mean that life is a bed of roses for full-time employees!
Full-time employees often face the fear of retrenchment and not being promoted and pay stagnation. Given the speed of technology changes, many traditional firms may soon be taken over market disruptors that use the market platform. (Think Grab and Airbnb). This may mean many employees could be out of jobs!
On the flip side, freelancers may be in the right place. Self-employment provides flexibility, gives freedom and spurs innovation, and this means that it’s easier to adapt to the changing economy.
There are many great examples of freelancers who earn well and live comfortably, and of course those who became successful business owners.
With careful planning and good self-management, self-employed individuals can be financially stable, support a family, pursue their interests and contribute to society.
Here’s a list of top concerns of freelancers (according to recent surveys by the Singapore government) and suggestions on how mitigate them:
1. “Lack of regular income”
Widen your client base. Freelancers who rely on just a few regular companies for work could face the risk of having insufficient income. Consider how you could reach out to companies that may be looking for your service.
In many developed economies, freelancers advertise their skills through market platforms or online freelance marketplace. Some platforms could create an international pool of clients for freelancers. Market platforms could be a new concept to freelancers in SE Asia, but it is a trend that will definitely catch on.
Make good use of your windfalls! There may be good months where your earnings are higher than usual. You could channel funds into your Medisave account to pay for insurance or pay off your housing loan so that you can be debt free earlier.
2. “Not having employment benefits such as sick leave and compensation for work injuries”
These fears don’t just apply to freelancers. Employees may in fact face the fear of losing their jobs if they fall sick too often, or not be covered by company insurance if they have pre-existing health conditions and so forth.
Self-protection is crucial for freelancers. Freelancers need to protect against work injuries through Personal Accident or Income Protection plans.
Discuss contingency plans with clients in advance. Think of how the projects will be affected should you fall sick or be caught up in an emergency and possible solutions.
3. “Fear of not being paid”
Avoid working under verbal contracts. Verbal contracts are hard to enforce should the client refuse to pay. When signing contracts that are drafted by the other party, look out for biased terms, which favour the other party. Don’t be afraid to discuss payment with the client or ask for upfront payments.
Join a reputable market platform. Market platforms could help freelancers collect or chase for payment and ensure that all written contracts are impartial and enforceable in court.
4. “Not having time and money to upgrade skills”
Focus on new skills that enable you to earn more. Attending a course may be time consuming, but it’s a worthy investment to make if it means that you could offer a variety of services or command a higher pay.
Make sure that your skills are relevant for the future. Technologies are constantly changing and it’s important for freelancers to have skill sets that are marketable. Look out for courses that are organised by trade associations, which could be offered at subsided rates. Singaporeans could tap into skills-future credits to pay for courses. http://www.skillsfuture.sg/credit
5. “No employers to contribute CPF”
Freelancers may worry that they don’t have enough funds for their later years or money to pay for medical bills. This is a concern faced by many self-employed professionals in other industries as well.
Practice self-management. Make regular contribution to Medisave, which pays for important insurances such as Shield and ElderShield. Some freelancers prefer making it through GIRO deductions in case they forget to make payments.
Everyone needs to have a solid retirement plan. This is regardless of whether you are a freelancer, employee or business owner. To find out more see this article (link to article on retirement)
6. Not protected by labour policy
Be familiar with government measures to protect freelancers. Governments all over the world are rolling out new policies to meet to protect the wellbeing of freelancers. The TS Media Freelancer (Tripartite Standards) launched by the IMDA in Singapore is a good example.