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16th May 2017 / Freelance Resource / by Chia Sihan

Freelancing: Career Fad,
or the Future of Work?

Start the change, or play catch up later

There’s never a better time to evaluate career options when you’re reaching a turning point in life, such as graduating from school, or attempting a mid-career switch.

As a career option, freelancing brings up a slew of perceptions. In a slowing economy that sees employment taking a hit, one surprising thing that has stood out is how a growing number of workers don’t seem to be overly affected by the uncertainty. In fact, for this handful of workers, they continue to see a steady flow of jobs coming their way, thanks to the years of effort and industry

credibility they have painstakingly built up as they earn their stripes as professionals in their chosen fields.

We’re talking about freelance professionals. The nomadic tribe which makes up roughly 35% of the US workforce, or 55 million workers, according to Forbes. In the UK, the number stands at 1.91 million, a 36% increase since 2008, a cultural shift brought on by economic fluctuations, as stated in a 2015 report by The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed in the UK (ipse). In a recent news report on freelancers in

Singapore, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say puts the estimated figure at 180,000 as of June 2016.

It is hardly a surprising development – the human race has proven to be a resilient one in times of change, with many choosing to create jobs instead of waiting for their fates to be determined by a larger entity. While full-time employment has its perks in the form of the traditional social safety net, such as unemployment insurance or highly subsidised health care, in an economic downturn, no position is truly recession or retrenchment-proof.

In a nutshell: taking initiative to chart your career’s future has not only become crucial to career longevity, it is also an essential tool for professionals to remain relevant at an ever-evolving workplace.  

While there are no mandated rights for freelancers in Singapore, this could change in the years to come. The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has been taking steps to ensure this growing group of workers are met with fair employment terms. Starting with the Freelancers and Self Employed Unit , and running the inaugural Fair for Freelancers on 7 Sept 2016, the Labour Movement is actively taking steps to ensure freelancers get sufficient support for choosing alternative career options.

All things being equal and putting aside the assurance of a monthly pay check, in the long run, the perks of freelancing may be worth considering pulling the plug from a full-time position.

At the beginning of your career, it may be worthwhile to gain experience working in an organisation to understand how businesses operate. 

As you gather sufficient experience and contacts, taking the next step into freelancing could free up a 9-6 schedule into flexible blocks of time for you to explore projects, or significantly build skills in areas that you are interested in, such as turning a serious hobby into a side gig.

Freelancing boils down to how you would run your own business. Be it as a a makeup artist, hairstylist, or designer, your hire-ability is largely pegged to your creative output and professionalism, values that are equally valuable in a larger corporate setting. In a Huffington Post article, author (and fellow freelancer) David Hochman shares his experience on making freelancing work for him, including building and maintaining a solid network, and making sure you have a pool of “advisors” that you could tap on to cast a second eye on your work, or simply a sounding board to bounce off ideas. 

What a freelancing career could look like

As you gather sufficient experience and contacts, taking the next step into freelancing could free up a 9-6 schedule into flexible blocks of time for you to explore projects, or significantly build skills in areas that you are interested in, such as turning a serious hobby into a side gig.

Freelancing boils down to how you would run your own business. Be it as a a makeup artist, hairstylist, or designer, your hire-ability is largely pegged to your creative output and professionalism, values that are equally valuable in a larger corporate setting.

In a Huffington Post article, author (and fellow freelancer) David Hochman shares his experience on making freelancing work for him, including building and maintaining a solid network, and making sure you have a pool of “advisors” that you could tap on to cast a second eye on your work, or simply a sounding board to bounce off ideas. 

Many freelancers take on editorial work as it’s the perfect showcase for their skills and staying relevant to the industry. For some, the journey as a freelancer could start when you’re still in school, especially in creative industries such as graphic design and copywriting, where building a portfolio is instrumental in getting hired as a freelancer or for a full-time role. The classroom offers the perfect setting for you to experiment and explore your limits as a creative person. In other industries such as hairstyling and makeup, a common head-start is to follow an industry practitioner to learn the ropes as an assistant before venturing further.

When it comes to getting the word out about creative work, there are industry platforms to showcase the fruits of your labour, such as TFCS. The added advantage is that you have the opportunity to work with seasoned industry mavens who are passionate about their craft, and excited to share their expertise with those who are keen to learn.

Getting started on freelancing early

TFCS Mentors Ginger Lynette Leong, Candy Lim, and Eddie Teo shared their foray into freelancing in an interview with Yahoo Singapore

Click here to find out more about TFCS Mentorship Programme

Not too sure if you have what it takes to start freelancing? You wouldn’t know unless you try, but take it from renowned author and graphic artist Neil Gaiman, who distills freelance success down to three essential qualities.

“You get work however you get work, but people keep working in a freelance world (and more and more of today’s world is freelance), because their work is good, because they are easy to get along with and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three! Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it is good and they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”

Looking for more ideas on getting started? You could also check out The Smart Local’s tongue-in-cheek (yet relevant) recommendations for freelancing in Singapore, and find out why TFCS could be the starting point of a new passion.

Share with us your experience as a freelancer, or what you think you would like to see in Singapore’s freelance workforce.

Credits:

Images: 123RF, TFCS

About the Writer

Chia Sihan

A story junkie by nature, this TFCS scribe thrives on uncovering the backstories of her interview subjects, whether they are heads of corporations or a working Mum caring for a child with a developmental disorder. She finds it a privilege to be privy to these personal experiences. Some of the publications she has written for include the Singapore Women’s Weekly, L’Officiel Singapore, and Harper’s Bazaar Junior. It is this genuine love for storytelling and collaboration that led her to kickstart her journey as a co-founder of The Fashion Collective Singapore. Now the chief storyteller at TFCS, she is particularly inspired by the personal journeys of TFCS Mentors, not to mention their dedication towards the refinement of their craft.

Head over to The Editor’s Journal to read articles contributed by Sihan.

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