Professional Development

Advice for new freelancers (part 1 of 3)

So, you want to be a freelancer...

making plans, charting goals

I reached my first anniversary of full-time freelancing recently. As part of that, I wanted to share the advice I’d give people who want to be (full-time) freelancers themselves.

But as I got down to writing it, I realised had a lot to say on this topic. So I’ll be splitting my advice into two parts, over three newsletter editions. (These numbers may change if I find I have even more things to say lol)

Broadly, the two parts are:

  1. Part 1: Laying the groundwork for giving your freelance business enough time to succeed. Honestly, you may find the advice here boring or lame. But keep an open mind and you might thank yourself for following it later!
  2. Part 2: The fun stuff that actually relates to freelancing!

So, let’s get into the first tip in Part 1…

Get a full-time job

(Or if you already have one, don’t quit it yet)

I’m serious. LOL.

Your freelance business isn’t going to explode with clients overnight. It’ll take time before you build up your work to the extent that you earn a sustainable income from it.

In the meantime, you’re gonna need money. Which is where your day job comes in.

If you continue to earn a steady income from your job while growing your freelance business, you’ll feel a lot less pressure to have it succeed ASAP.

As a result, you’ll give yourself more time to get your freelance business off the ground—increasing the chances of it doing so.

Holding a full-time job also has these benefits:

You can get paid to hone the freelance services you want to offer

This assumes your work uses the same skills, and you have an idea of what your service will be.

(More on deciding your service in Part 2 of this advice series.)

You’ll get the chance to network with potential freelance clients

Provided there’s a good fit between your skills and the needs of people you meet at work.

You can more easily apply for credit cards and loans (e.g. for housing)

This is seriously underrated and something employees take for granted. Because showing proof of income for such applications can be a major pain if you’re newly self-employed.

For example, you generally need to submit your Notice of Assessment income tax documents for the most recent two years if you’re applying for a credit card. In other words, you need to have been in business for AT LEAST TWO YEARS before you can get a credit card!*

Meanwhile, employees just need to submit their income payslips or CPF contribution history for the most recent 3 months to fulfil the same requirement.

So, if you can, get all the credit cards and loan applications you need settled while you still have your day job and before you become self-employed.

(* It’s possible to overcome this hurdle by paying yourself a fixed monthly salary and CPF contributions from your business as if you’re an employee. But this is more advanced, so I’ll leave this topic for another day.)

But of course, check your employment contract to see if you can have a side hustle while holding a full-time job.

Employers typically don’t approve of moonlighting, but maybe you can negotiate something out.

In the next newsletter edition, I’ll cover a tip you’ve probably heard before. But with a twist. 😉 And, some explanation on why it actually works.

Look out for it!

More freelancer news

Many platform workers don’t have enough insurance

A study commissioned by the Life Insurance Association found that platform workers in Singapore tend to be underinsured—and more so compared to “economically active” persons.

(The study defines “economically active” individuals as those who are employed and are contributing to the production and distribution of goods and services.

It also separates the people surveyed into “economically active” and “platform workers” populations. Which seems to imply platform workers are economically inactive? 🤨 For sure, platform workers aren’t “employed”, but I think the labelling could have been better here. Anyway.)

Some key stats from the study:

  • The critical illness protection gap for the surveyed platform workers is 91% compared to 74% for economically active respondents. (i.e., platform workers have only 9% of the resources they’ll need to pay for expenses incurred after suffering a critical illness, versus 26% for economically active respondents.)
  • The mortality protection gap for the surveyed platform workers is 59% compared to 21% for economically active respondents. (Mortality protection helps cover ongoing expenses after a person passes away, e.g. an outstanding mortgage loan.)

The study found that platform workers tend to be underprotected due to their lower savings (including in CPF) and insurance coverage than their economically active counterparts.

Learn more in this news article. Alternatively, check out the full study here.

From self-employed to employee: adjusting to the transition

The theme for this newsletter edition is making the leap to self-employment. But what if things don’t work out and you decide to get a full-time job again?

This news article shares some pointers.

It can be challenging being an employee after previously running your own show. Because you now have a boss to listen to and KPIs (not set by you) to meet.

You’ll also have to fit into your company’s culture and stick to its policies and procedures.

There’s nothing wrong with calling it quits and getting a job, but you may find the expectations that come with it stifling if you’re used to the freedom you enjoyed as a self-employed person.

Familiarising yourself with your employer’s policies and procedures when you start work can help smoothen the transition.

Also, use the skills you’ve gained from self-employment to excel at work!

For example, you can use your relationship-building skills to help your employer get new clients and serve them well.

Learn more tips in this article.

This post was first published in my email newsletter on 14 Sep 2023. If you liked it, you can sign up for my newsletter here:

Tan Siew Ann
I’m a freelance writer for some of the most amazing software businesses in the world. On this blog, I share tips on how you, too, can run a sustainable and meaningful freelance business. Let’s forge your freedom. 💪

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