Since the 2008-2009 financial crisis which caused the economy to fall into recession and people to lose their jobs, we saw the burgeoning of a new alternative work arrangement called the ‘gig economy’. Following the likes of ride-hailing platforms such as Uber and Grab, freelancing which is a part of the gig economy, has taken the world by storm as the future of work. The Harvard Business Review reported that approximately 150 million workers in North America and Western Europe are now working as independent contractors.
What is the future of work
The quill was perfect until someone invented the pen.
In the past, print media, television and radios were thought to be the ‘holy grail’ of advertising until digital media came into space. Most recently, Artificial Intelligence had come along and replaced digital media as the future of advertising.
Drawing parallels between ideas, the 9-to-5 workday which was first invented by the American labour unions in the 1800s, was thought to be the most efficient then. After more than 200 years, however, with advancements in technology and changes in our lives, people have come to realise that the 8-hour workday may not be keeping up to date. As such, freelancing, which defies the traditional work model of working from 9-to-5 for an employer, has gained huge popularity in the workforce.
Reasons why you should consider freelancing
1. The demand for freelancers is growing
Improved communication processes such as face-to-face digital conferencing and live chats have enabled clients and freelancers to communicate instantly and have work done more efficiently than before. As such, there is little-to-no difference between hiring a freelancer and an in-house employee anymore. Not only are more independent clients and entrepreneurs realising the potential of freelancers and engaging their services, but even companies are doing so. According to a Future Workforce Report by Upwork, 53% of companies are now utilising more flexible workers such as freelancers as opposed to three years ago.
Given that one-third of employees are expected to work remotely in 10 years’ time, remote work will only become more commonplace worldwide and the demand for freelancers who are non-deskbound will continue to grow.
2. Opportunity to grow your skills
Every new project undertaken by a freelancer is a chance to improve their interpersonal skills and the versatility of their skillsets. While working in a full-time job often requires you to excel in one subject matter, freelancing is less straight-forward – you have to work with different companies, people and domains. Mukti Masih, one of the Top 10 Freelance Writers of India, revealed in an interview that she used to only write articles and features in her full-time job. When she started freelancing, however, she started blogging, writing website content, ad copies and even scripts for different clients.
Regardless of whether you are working with familiar clients or those from another state or country, no two assignments are the same. As a freelancer, you would always have to begin from scratch, gather new information and hone your skills in order to complete your next task. In addition, any freelancer would need to develop sales and marketing skills to showcase their portfolio and market themselves to potential clients. It is precisely the constant state of getting out of their comfort zone that freelancers grow the most.
3. Being valued for your contributions
One of the biggest advantages of freelancing is to receive due recognition for the excellent services you have performed. There are various ways of recognition and getting paid for what you are worth is one of them.
Freelancing allows the service provider to set their own price for the services offered. Freelancers on Gigworks even have the liberty to charge on an hourly or project basis.Glenn Tay, the CEO & Founder of Gigworks
On the other hand, working in the capacity of an employee may not pay as well because you will receive a steady paycheck, regardless of the quality of work, the time you have expensed or amount of profits you have generated for your bosses. While this is fair given the number of risks that your bosses undertake while running the business, you may want to consider freelancing wherever possible.
At the end of the day, you may earn more as a freelancer than an employee if you were to provide quality service and charge reasonably to cover your costs, time, effort and work. In addition, you would not only earn good reviews and testimonials from clients who are satisfied with your service, but also receive word-of-mouth referrals when they recommend your services to their family and friends.
Reasons why you may not want to quit your job just yet
There are incredible benefits from working as a freelancer but it is not perfect. Before giving up on your full-time job, you may want to take the following points into consideration:
1. Blurred lines between work and play
Working as a freelancer allows one to set their own working hours in large part, according to personal preference and the number of work assignments on hand. Nonetheless, it is recommended to remain contactable at most times, particularly for those with clients from overseas who do not share the same local time. With that said, if your client can only speak to you on Friday evenings, you may have to forgo your Friday party plans to communicate with him or her. One way around the situation would be to clarify the availability of your clients before proceeding to accept the freelance assignment.
2. Work assignments may not be routinely available
Unlike working in an office where the workload is generally consistent, freelancers, particularly those offering one-time services, may find him or herself having nothing to do after finishing a project. In those situations, they would have to look out and secure a new work assignment as soon as possible. To mitigate such risks, freelancers should manage their schedule and reach out to new clients whenever possible, to have a consistent supply of work assignments. Furthermore, it is crucial to maintain a good relationship with existing clients so that they may become regular customers.
3. Lack of employee benefits
Freelancers do not share the same relationship with their service buyers as that between an employee and employer. As opposed to conventional employees who have paid medical and annual leave, freelancers do not have those benefits. Additionally, they bear full responsibility for their workplace protection, medical and retirement coverage. In Singapore, freelancers also do not enjoy the statutory rights of employees under the Employment Act, which means that they are not entitled to overtime pay not do they receive Central Provident Fund contributions from the companies they offer services to. As the number of freelancers multiplies, more emphasis is placed on the welfare of freelancers but nothing conclusive has been introduced just yet.
Getting started as a part-time freelancer
Now that you have had a better understanding of freelancing, you may be drawn to the learning opportunities from working with different clients and yet cannot bear to say goodbye to your steady paychecks and paid vacation. Without compromising one for the other we thought it may be a good idea for you to start out as a part-time freelancer and here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Share your intentions with your superiors
Not all companies are in favour of their employees engaging in outside activities but some do encourage employees to pursue their interest or a second job. Hence, it is best to inform your superiors on your plans to freelance on a part-time basis during non-working hours and find out whether they are receptive to the idea. For those who are seeking new full-time employment opportunities, it would be good to check if your prospective employers are supportive of your plans.
2. Manage your schedule well
As you would have promised to be fully committed to your full-time work during working hours, do not engage in any freelance work while working from 9-to-5. In order to have sufficient time to work on your freelance assignments, accept freelance assignments only after you have realistically measured the free time you have to set aside for freelancing. You should also inform your client of your full-time work commitment and seek their understanding to contact you either during lunch hours or after work.
3. Do not break the law
Be clear of the tax legislation in your respective countries and find out whether you would have to pay income tax for your part-time freelance income. Do keep a clear record of all your part-time freelance assignments and income because you never know when they may come in handy. If you are still confused, you may want to contact the relevant authorities or engage the service of a reliable accountant.
Overall, freelancing is a good opportunity for skilled workers to use and expand on their skills while earning extra income. As long as you have the permission of your employer to freelance on a part-time, basis you could give it a try before evaluating whether you would like to continue to doing so, stop or take it further.