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Tips to Thrive As A Freelancer in Singapore

Interested in being a freelancer? Check out our tips on how you can do it successfully.

Freelancing is a great way to earn a living while having a flexible schedule and lots of exposure in multiple industries. Freelancers are also able to decide where they want to work. This flexibility allows people to work on multiple projects simultaneously or adding a freelance job to their main job as additional income. However, being a freelancer does not guarantee that you will be successful. Take a look at some of our tips on how to thrive as a freelancer.

Select Your Niche

Before you hunt for work, you have to find out where your expertise lies. It helps to build off of something you have worked on before or something you are very interested in learning. To start off, make a list of the skill sets that you have and select a few that complement one another. For instance, if you pick web development, then related skills that go along with that could be computer graphics and web design. Three things to keep in mind are:

  • You enjoy exercising the skill you want to offer as a freelancer. There is no point doing something that you will not enjoy.
  • You are experienced and competent in that skill. You will be expected to have a working proficiency in the skill that you select.
  • You are able to find clients interested in paying for your services. Many people will try to pay under the regular rate for your work or will ask you to do it for free as a favor. Always know the value of the work you are doing and look for clients willing to pay.

Lean On and Build Your Own Personal Network

One of the best ways to get work as a freelancer is by receiving referrals from previous clients and your own personal network. Referrals serve as testimonials for potential clients and can help spread your name around. This will help you build a network and result in even more referrals in the future. There is no shame in asking for a referral. Remember, the worst a client can say is no.

Another way to find work is by creating a website to advertise your services via content marketing or search engine optimization (SEO). You can attract potential clients to you after creating a platform that showcases your work and skills. You can also push the platform by paying for ads on social media, but be careful to not spend too much on marketing and promotion if it is not returning any clients to you.

The third way to try and get clients is by manually reaching out on platforms like MyCareers and UpWork. When you log in and create a profile on one these freelance platforms, you are able to find jobs related to your field making it a much smoother process. These platforms also let you compare yourself to other freelancers doing similar work allowing you to gauge pricing and services offered across the industry.

Determine Your Fee

Determining a fee structure is one of the more complicated tasks of becoming a freelancer. Many freelancers add up their personal costs like their mortgage and grocery costs to calculate their fee, but that method may leave you without work. Your fees are not related to your expenses.

Many freelancers get nervous and suffer from impostor syndrome, while others overcharge without realizing there are others charging much less for the same work. The easiest way to determine your fee is to look at others offering the same service and pay yourself an equivalent amount.

However, if you are leaving a full-time salary job then there is another method that can help you. Sumeet Goel, founder of HighPoint Associates, an advisory firm that staffs independent consultants, recommends taking your annual full-time compensation and dividing it by 250 (number of billable days after taking out sick leave, vacations, etc.) and adding 30%. Take that number and compare with the industry average and the rates you have gotten from your network and adjust as you feel fit.

Furthermore, many freelance jobs are seasonal, which will require you to change your rates throughout the year or specify your rates in more detail. For instance, photographers charge certain rates per hour, but during wedding season it makes sense to increase the hourly rate. The other way to set up pricing would be to have wedding photography as a separate category under your fees. That way all wedding jobs will be covered year round.

Remember to save up money in case of dry spells, because freelance work is not guaranteed. It is best to be prepared in case you go through a time when your trade does not have a high demand. As recommended by Jayce Than, Co-Founder & Chief Businesswoman of CreativesAtWork, you should save for 6 months of living expenses, by the end of 6 months "you'll know whether freelancing is for you anyway." A great way to ensure that you are spending efficiently is by utilising the cashback and rewards earned through credit cards on your daily spending. Here are some of the best cards offered in Singapore.

Set-Up Using an Accountant and Contract Legal Issues

As a freelancer you are now considered self-employed. This comes with a few more complications than a regular job. Many may assume the best way to start is by registering as a business, but if you run your business under your full name in Singapore, you’re not legally required to register the business. If you are looking to save money, it may be wise to not register.

Some freelancers may decide on registering the business as it adds credibility to their work and opens up other opportunities like government tenders.

If you decide to open up a business and register, we recommend that you consult with a lawyer and professional who can help guide you through the process of registering a business. Below we have a very simple breakdown of two business structures made for single business owners:

Table that compares Sole Proprietorship and Limited Partnership

You should also go through your first contract with a lawyer. Once you know the ins and outs of your contract and how to draft one, you will be able to deal with contracts from clients independently.

We always recommend consulting with an accountant and lawyer to fully understand how being a self-employed freelancer will impact your taxes and business registration process.

Sahmi Chowdhury

Sahmi is a finance graduate from Northeastern University. He has had experience in the financial services sector working at Brown Brothers Harriman in trade settlement and True Capital Management as an investment analyst prior to joining ValueChampion.

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