Should You Go Freelance? 4 Things You Must Know Before Jumping InBy Poon Yi Lin • 6 min read
The job market certainly isn’t looking its best right now. With worries of unemployment looming overhead, more job seekers are considering taking on freelance jobs in Singapore.
This isn’t an easy decision to make, especially if you are new to freelancing. Whether you are a fresh graduate or have been working for some time, everyone has a (long) list of considerations.
We spoke to Vatanak, a freelance business data analyst who has been there, and done that. Here are his honest answers to the 4 most important questions:
- What are the pros and cons of going freelance that I should be aware of?
- Getting started: How do I look for clients?
- How much should you charge? Why would anyone pay you?
- For people considering a career switch: Should I jump straight into it?
First, meet Vatanak
Vatanak is a freelance business data analyst of 2 years. Prior to making his career switch, he worked in a small family business in Phnom Penh, as well as a large corporate company running one of Southeast Asia’s largest exhibition centres in Bangkok.
With a diverse range of experiences and a clear understanding of different working environments, Vatanak shares his candid thoughts and advice about a freelancing career.
I am thinking of going freelance because of the bad job economy. What are the pros and cons I should be aware of?
Career progression: What you give is what you get.
Vatanak was prompted to make the switch from his corporate career when he felt that his pay was not proportionate to the hard work he was putting in. Even though he was more productive and performed better than his colleagues, the fixed salary system meant that he was not rewarded more accordingly.
In contrast, freelancers are in direct control of how much they receive, as they decide the amount of effort they put in. Your output becomes directly proportional to your input. If you are a hard worker, this is great news for you!
“No bonus, No CPF…” It’s all about choosing the right bonus for yourself.
Yes, freelancers do not get to enjoy many full-time employment benefits in Singapore like CPF, insurance and annual leave, just to name a few. But it is all a matter of perspective, and it varies from person to person.
Ask yourself: how important and irreplaceable are these benefits to you? Vatanak shares that for him, the additional income he receives from freelancing is sufficient to outweigh these benefits.
While freelancers do not have yearly incentives and bonuses, they get to decide the amount of work they take on every month. Take it from Vatanak himself: when he pushed himself to work 7 days a week, he was able to make up to thrice his usual monthly income.
Of course, this does not come easy, and the price you pay may include sacrificing personal time and sleep. Again, it boils down to the question of what is important to you? How necessary are employment benefits to you and your preferred lifestyle?
Getting Started: How do I look for clients?
You can’t do it alone: Networking and coworking spaces
For fresh graduates or working adults who lack immediate connections, tap into your network of friends, family and acquaintances to seek out relevant openings. And attend networking events.
Vatanak started out networking with potential clients by frequenting coworking spaces, which are mostly rented by startups. The first client he got from the coworking space actually introduced him to other startups because the startup network was pretty tight. That was how he gradually gained exposure to more clients.
Put yourself out there
You can also join business associations, as meeting business owners increases the chances of securing referrals. There are commerce chambers and trade associations for different industries. You can check out the full list of Trade Associations and Chambers (TAC) in Singapore here.
Aside from these, you can also look to join business networking communities like BNI to gain exposure to different business owners. Other options include joining Facebook groups for freelancers, as well as exploring Eventbrite for different networking opportunities. If you constantly put yourself out there, things will move quickly!
Over time, your work speaks for itself
While networking is important, do not forget to deliver quality work! Vatanak got many of his clients through strong word of mouth, and it’s critical to maintain your work quality. “If you do a good job, then people will recommend you.”
How much should I be charging?
Be patient: You will not get to set the price right off the bat.
If you are a fresh graduate looking to go into freelancing, chances are that you’ll find yourself having less bargaining power. In order to make up for your lack of work experience compared to other candidates, fresh graduates are often left with little choice but to reduce their initial asking price.
However, you can eventually start increasing your rates after building a solid portfolio and work experience. Vatanak also raised an important point – if your client is not willing to increase your rates towards market standard after you have proven your worth, that’s an indicator of how the company treats its people and your future working relationship together. An employer who cares about you should take action if you are delivering quality work, but not being paid at the industry level.
Getting more eyes on you: Complimentary trial services and project portfolio
Aside from lowering your initial asking price, what else can you do to capture more clients? Vatanak recommends providing a free trial service to clients whenever possible. As his work is primarily in market research and consultancy work for startups, Vatanak typically provides complimentary first-time consultancy sessions.
Fresh graduates and people with little experience on their CV have to work harder to prove their ability to handle the job. The free trial helps to assure clients that you have the skills and ability to deliver desired results.
Should I jump straight into it?
Do not quit your job just yet.
Everyone has a different threshold for instability. For those who have additional commitments, your responsibilities can influence your decision significantly. For some, the weight of uncertainty is enough to deter them from pursuing freelancing.
Vatanak recommends a simple solution: until you find a freelancing job, do not quit your job. If you have made up your mind on freelancing, start applying for freelance jobs before quitting your current one. This will prevent a gap in your CV if you are unable to find a job after resigning. Remember, the longer it takes for you to find a job, the larger the gap gets on your CV!
It’s normal to be unsure about embarking on a freelancing career. Just remember to keep these tips in mind and ask yourself if freelancing is the right path for you, before you start looking for a freelance job online. All the best!
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