The Business

Freelancing in Singapore: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Learn the basics, hear from experts, avoid the pitfalls.

Woman using her laptop on a couch

Thinking of freelancing in Singapore? Look no further.

I’ve drawn from my own experience – and those of veteran freelancers – to bring you this comprehensive, 11-part guide to starting a freelance business in Singapore.

We’re discussing:

  1. Freelancer vs Self-Employed: What’s the Difference?
  2. When Should You Start Freelancing?
  3. What Skills Do You Have?
  4. Where are You Going to Get Work?
  5. How Much are You Going to Charge?
  6. Do You Have a (Written) Contract?
  7. How are You Going to Get Paid?
  8. How Much Savings Do You Have?
  9. Should You Register a Business?
  10. Where Will You Work From?
  11. Taking Care of the Other Business Things

You can read this guide from start to end, or click on the links above to jump to particular topics of interest.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of how to get started as a freelancer in Singapore, while avoiding the common pitfalls that may doom your freelance business to failure.

Let’s get started 👇

1. Freelancer vs Self-Employed: What’s the Difference?

With the rise of the gig economy, chances are you’ll have heard buzzwords like “freelancer”, “self-employed” and even “own account workers” being thrown around.

These terms are related concepts. If I had to represent them in a diagram, they would look like this:

Freelancers are self-employed persons, but not all self-employed persons are freelancers.

Here’s a quick crash course on the differences between these terms.

P.S.: Before we start on this, maybe you’re thinking: is it really important to know the differences between these terms?

Answer: No, actually it isn’t that important. Feel free to skip to the next section if you’d rather move on. BUT you should at least know that if you’re a freelancer, you’ll be considered self-employed. And this would have implications on your tax and CPF contribution obligations.

You can read on to learn what it means to be self-employed.

Self-employed

If you’re self-employed, you run your own business. You’re not an employee working for the interests of someone else’s business.

As a self-employed person, you could be selling goods or services to others, and have multiple clients or buyers.

You have full control of the business, and can – and must – decide things like:

  • How you want to work (e.g. what do you want to sell?)
  • Where you want to work (e.g. from home? Or rent an office space somewhere?)
  • How much you want to work (e.g. 20 hours a week?)

I’ve written a huge list of ideas for self-employed jobs in Singapore, but some examples from this list are:

  • Freelance writers
  • Property agents
  • Restaurant owners
  • Private-hire drivers

Self-employed persons are also known as “own account workers”. Or for something sexier, “entrepreneurs”.

Freelancer

Freelancers are considered self-employed persons, because they work for their own business.

But what makes them different from the umbrella term of “self-employed persons” is that freelancers generally provide services for a living. Such as:

  • Writing
  • Photography
  • Video editing
  • Music instruction
  • Cleaning

Freelancers are also known as “independent contractors”.

Note: It’s possible for a freelancer to be BOTH a self-employed person and an employee at the same time. This can happen if you’re employed in a part-time or full-time job, but you’re also freelancing on the side.

2. When Should You Start Freelancing?

If you’re thinking of becoming a freelancer, it may be because:

  1. You want to do so; OR
  2. You have no choice but to do so

Depending on which situation you fall under, I’ve got different recommendations for you on when you should start freelancing. Click on the relevant section below to check them out:

Many people think about going freelance because they hate their jobs. In other words, they want to freelance to escape from their current job.

So they imagine that they’ll start their freelance business this way:

  • March to their boss’ office, resignation letter in hand.
  • Throw the letter onto their boss’ table, triumphantly shouting “I QUIT”.
  • Kickstart their freelance business while sippin’ margaritas by the beach.
  • Live happily ever after.

DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT.
Man tossing cards with the word

This is more likely what’s going to happen after you quit your job to go freelance:

  1. You declare yourself open for business.
  2. On day one of your business, you sit at your computer, eagerly waiting for jobs to rain from the heavens and pile up in your inbox.
  3. Jobs do not rain from the heavens. The only email you get is your latest credit card bill.
  4. You panic and start applying for jobs.
  5. Over time you get some jobs, but you’re barely earning enough to survive. Much less enough to be sippin’ margaritas by the beach.
  6. Your savings start running out.
  7. You regret your decision to freelance.
  8. You bitterly declare “FREELANCING IS A SCAM!”
  9. You go back to being a full-time employee for someone else to pay your bills.

In short, it’s not a good idea to start freelancing only after you’ve quit your job. Instead, I’d recommend that you start freelancing while holding a full-time job.

This is for a few reasons:

  • You have no idea whether you’re a good fit to be a freelancer. You may think you know, but you won’t know for sure until you try. And if you try out freelancing on the side but decide it isn’t for you, you’ll still have your full-time job to fall back on.
  • It’ll take time for you to start making serious money from freelancing, as building up your skills and client base takes time. But even if you have no freelance gigs, you still have to buy food and pay your bills. Hang on to your full-time job to pay for all these while you grow your freelance business.

Freelancing while having a full-time job is just less risky compared to only starting to freelance after quitting your job, or freelancing fresh out of school with zero experience or contacts.

So even if you hate your job, use it to support yourself while you work on your freelance business outside office hours.

Otherwise, if you quit immediately to start freelancing, you may end up in a situation that you’re not fully equipped for, and start to resent yourself for that.

While some people freelance because they want to do so, others freelance because they have no choice but to do so.

For example, you might be in between jobs and need to freelance to earn some income while you find another job.

Another scenario might be where your full-time job has been, or will be, converted to a contract basis.

As a result, you only get paid when your company has projects to give you, instead of receiving a fixed monthly salary. You might also lose employee perks such as CPF benefits.

According to a 2017 Ministry of Manpower survey, around 43,000 or 23% of the self-employed individuals surveyed were self-employed although this wasn’t their preferred choice. This is no small number!

While people in steady full-time jobs have more luxury of time to “figure out” freelancing, unfortunately this isn’t the case for you.

If you find yourself having no choice but to freelance, then you should start now.

The sooner the better. Your income depends on it.

Clock where every number position says 'NOW'

At the same time, you might want to continue looking for a full-time job for greater income stability.

Then if you manage to get the hang of freelancing, great! But if you don’t, you’ll have a full-time job to rely on.

And even if you’ve gotten a full-time job, there’s still a chance for you to go back to freelancing full-time if you feel up to it – see the previous section on “You’re thinking of freelancing because you want to do so”.

3. What Skills Do You Have?

As a freelancer, you’ll be providing services to clients. So what skills do you have that you can offer to them?

To start off, make a list of skills that you have. Then, decide which skills you want to offer as a service. Make sure that:

  1. You enjoy doing the skill that you want to offer. If you’re going to be doing something for a living, you should enjoy doing it!
  2. You’re sufficiently competent in that skill. You don’t need to be the best at it, but you need to be good enough to deliver what your clients expect of you.
  3. You can find people who are willing to pay for your skill.

Point 3 is especially important. is A lot of people make the mistake of going freelance solely to “do what you love” – i.e. point 1, and some of point 2. But freelancing is NOT a hobby – it’s something you do to earn a living for yourself. So you’ll need to be able to find people willing to pay for your skill.

Like freelance web designer Paul Jarvis says in a Creative Class podcast:

“[When deciding on our freelance niche], we really need to think about: is this a niche or a group of businesses that can sustain my business financially? Because it would be really cool if I did websites for indie bands, right? But indie bands don’t have any money! So that’s not sustainable!”

If you don’t think that you have any in-demand skills, you should pick some up and hone them before you quit your job.

4. Where are You Going to Get Work?

There are 3 main ways you can get clients:

  1. Inbound: Using methods like content marketing or search engine optimisation (SEO), you attract potential clients towards you.
  2. Outbound: You reach out to potential clients by sending cold emails, responding to job ads etc.
  3. Referrals: Clients get recommended to you by word-of-mouth.

3 ways to get freelance clients: inbound, outbound and referrals

Of these 3 ways, you might find method 3 (referrals) the most appealing, followed by methods 1 and 2 (inbound and outbound) respectively. After all, it’s a major ego boost if you had clients lining up to engage you without you actively searching for them!

But unfortunately for new freelancers, you probably won’t be getting much inbound or referral work anytime soon. Why?

Answer: it takes time for you to gain authority and build your reputation in your industry. If you sit by your inbox on your first day as a freelancer and expect jobs to rain from the heavens, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed.

So instead, if you’re just starting out as a freelancer, focus on getting outbound work in the short-term.

This could be through:

  • Hitting the job boards (Don’t know any? This list of freelance jobs websites will get you started)
  • Telling everyone you know that you’re available for freelance work
  • Sending cold emails to prospective clients for work

Then as you gain more experience and build your portfolio and network, you may start getting more inbound work.

Importantly though, you should never stop prospecting.

This means that you always look for new clients, even if you currently don’t have the capacity for more work.

I’ve borrowed this line from content marketer Nathan Collier, who explains why you should do it in a Content Marketing Lounge Facebook group post:

Never stop prospecting, even if you're full

In case you can’t read the screenshot, it says:

[WANT MORE CLIENTS? THIS IS MY ABSOLUTE BEST TIP… ]

“Never stop prospecting.”

I follow this rule religiously.

And I share it with every freelancer and every consultant I can.

I don’t care how you do it. Inbound. Outbound. Cold calls. Whatever you do to land clients, never stop.

Even if you’re “full.”

Especially when you’re “full,” in fact.

The mistake most people make is that they only prospect when they need new clients.

When they get a full calendar, they quit prospecting.

That’s a mistake.

By prospecting when you’re “full,” you protect your income and your business.

If a project blows up or a client starts treating you in a way you don’t care for, you can fire them.

Because you’re prospecting. And that means you always have new people you can work with – if you need to.

If you fail to prospect when you’re full, you put yourself at risk.

Churn and turnover are realities. Projects get stuck in the pipeline. Clients go on a two-week vacation without telling you.

If you don’t have anything lined up when those things happen, your business will suffer.

Also, if a new prospect wants to work with you when you’re full, quote 150% of your base price.

You never know, they might just say yes. If they do, refer away your lowest paying client and replace them with the new, higher-paying client.

For all those reasons, I live by this rule:

Never stop prospecting. Ever.

So in short, if you’re a new freelancer, start with outbound work. Apply for freelance jobs and tell everyone you know that you’re available for work.

If you do great work for these jobs, your reputation will start to grow. And over time people will start coming to you for work.

But regardless of how you’re getting your work, don’t ever stop looking for more clients.

This will keep you busy if an existing client drops you, let you drop clients from hell, and help you raise your rates over time.

5. How Much are You Going to Charge?

Ah, the money question.

When I just started freelancing, I made the mistake of not deciding on my rates before talking to a potential client. So when I was asked for my rates, I could only smile sheepishly and say I’d get back to them about it.

Ugh.

So even if you decide not to make your rates publicly available on your website (although maybe you should), you should DEFINITELY decide on them beforehand. How?

Here are 3 methods:

1. Quote the market rates

The idea behind this method is simple: learn what others are typically charging for the same work, then follow what they charge.

By doing so, there’s a lower risk of you charging too little for your services, or overpricing yourself out of the market.

But the immediate problem is: do you know what the market rates are?

If you already have some experience in the industry (e.g. from your full-time job), you might already have a rough idea.

But if you’re completely new, you may have no clue. So you’ll have to find out. Here’s how:

Some people post their rates publicly. Like freelancer Clemens Chua:

Freelancer Clemens Chua's rates

In this case, it’s just a matter of tracking down these publicly-available rates.

But many people don’t make their rates public, so you may need to ask for them.

You can try to ask on a public forum like a Facebook group, but be mentally prepared to have your message ignored. Like this guy:

Question on freelance video editor rates, no replies

*crickets chirp*

If people don’t like to publicise their rates, the chances they’ll share them on public forums aren’t very high.

Instead, try asking people for their rates privately. Especially if you have friends in the industry – they may be more willing to help you out.

Also, after finding out the market rates, don’t just blindly follow them!

The numbers you’ve gotten may be the market rate, but they don’t take into account your personal situation.

Say for example, you’re an avid wakeboarder on weekends.

Wakeboarder

Wakeboarding is a very expensive hobby, so consider whether the market rate is able to pay for your hobby (+ food + daily living expenses in general).

If it can’t, you’ll probably need to charge a higher rate if you want to keep up with your hobby.

On that note, this brings us to the second method of deciding how much to charge:

2. Calculate your expenses and add a margin for your profit

This method focuses on how much you’ll need to make in order to first cover your expenses, and then turn a profit.

Unlike the first method of following the market rate, this second method will be more tailored to your situation.

I go through the math for this method in detail in my post on calculating freelance photography rates in Singapore. But in summary, here’s how to use this method to calculate your hourly rate, regardless of what trade you’re in:

  1. Decide on your target annual salary. Decide how much you want to pay yourself every month, then multiply that number by 12.
  2. Estimate your annual business expenses. Think about what expenses your freelance business will incur and how much they will cost you over a year. Add your target annual salary to this amount too. (Salary is a business expense, not profit!)
  3. Add your target profit margin. This profit goes towards growing and/or improving your business operations.
  4. Estimate your annual number of billable hours. How many hours do you think you’ll be able to bill for in a year? Exclude vacation days and hours spent replying emails or having lunch, for example.
  5. Calculate your hourly rate. From steps 1 to 3, you’ll have calculated how much your business needs to earn in a year. So divide this figure by your annual number of billable hours (from step 4) to get your hourly rate. Tadah!

From your hourly rate, you can go on to calculate your project rates (e.g. hourly rate x estimated number of hours to finish a project), urgent rates (e.g. hourly rate x 1.5), and so on and so forth.

This method involves a lot of estimation and calculations, so it can get quite tedious. But if you want to be scientific in deciding how much to charge, this method should work very well for you.

And if you do it properly the first time, you probably won’t have to touch your calculator again to recalculate your rates for some time.

But if you happen to hate math:

Woman shrugging as she says "I don't do math"

Then maybe you’ll just want to wing it (yes, really). Which is method 3:

3. Just pick a number to get started and work your way up from there

On this method, content marketer Nathan Collier says:

Charge something first, then increase your rates from there

Here’s what the screenshot says:

[10 Concrete Steps to Earn “What You’re Worth” as a Freelancer or Consultant]

You’ve no doubt seen plenty of gurus throw around numbers about what you could or should make doing whatever it is you do.

I admit I’ve done it.

My usual phrase is “$10k/month for freelancers or consultants.”

The challenge – of course – is… how?

How do you get from where you are now to where you want to be?

I don’t know if there’s a “best” way, but here’s what works best for me…

(1) Forget about what you “could” or “should” charge.

(2) Whatever you charge today is fine. $10/hour. $50/hour. $100+/hour. $50/blog post. $500/blog post. Whatever. Don’t stress over it or let anyone shame you or feel inadequate for it.

(3) Your current price is just your current state. You’re not going to stay there.

(4) The framework you use to charge is fine. Hourly. By word. By project. Retainer. Whatever. Do what feels right to you.

(5) Your current clients do not have to be your future clients. In fact, most of your current clients shouldn’t be your future clients.

(6) The method you use to prospect for clients is fine. Inbound. Outbound. Referrals. Ads. Whatever.

(7) Focus on the prospecting method that works best for you. Whatever it is, do that – and forget the other things.

(8) NEVER stop prospecting. Not even when your calendar is “full.” Aim for at least 2-3 prospects per week at first. And at least 1 per week even when you’re “full.”

(9) Once you’re getting sales leads, raise your rates for new prospects. As a rule of thumb, quote new prospects at least 10% higher than the highest rate you’ve successfully closed to date.

(10) It doesn’t matter if new prospects say “no.” You’re full anyway right? You haven’t lost anything. But if they say “yes,” refer away a lower-paying client from your existing client list.

Boom. Now you have the same number of clients.

But you’re making more for the same amount of work.

You just gave yourself a raise.

Repeat.

That’s it.

I’ve been through this cycle hundreds of times now.

For just one example… in 2013, I charged $65/blog post for long-form articles.

Today I charge $1,000+.

And I’m not done repeating the cycle.

There is no limit to how much you can charge for your services if you:

(1) Never stop prospecting.

(2) Consistently raise your prices.

Stop feeling shame or embarrassment about wherever you are today.

Wherever you are today is fine.

What matters is where you’re heading.

There concept of “what you’re worth” is a myth anyway.

No one owes you a certain rate.

There is only the process of finding and closing clients.

Your work is top shelf work, right?

Freelancing and consulting is no different than cars or houses or alcohol.

In every market, there are those willing to pay a premium rate for a premium service.

As you do this, you’ll get better at finding them.

If you keep at it, there’s no limit to the rate you can charge.

The only question is…

Are you stubborn enough to stick with it?

As you can see, this method leverages on the “never stop prospecting” approach discussed above to raise your rates over time.

In my view, using this method would make more financial sense if you currently have a full-time job, and aren’t so dependent on your freelance work for income (yet).

So you can quote lower in the beginning to quickly get more work, and build your experience and portfolio, without worrying about making ends meet.

That said, try not to spoil the market and start out with too low a rate.

Sure, you’re not going to stay at those rates forever. But your peers might just hate you if they find out you’re severely undercutting them. And when you’re in the freelance business (or in any other business actually), having a strong network of contacts you can tap on is super important.

6. Do You Have a (Written) Contract?

You’ve found someone interested to work with you at your offered rate. The next step is to give them a contract.

Many people think that a contract is a piece of paper with the word “CONTRACT” on top, followed by sentences of legal mumbo jumbo.

Long contract being signed

As someone who has gone through law school, let me tell you that that is not what a contract is.

A contract is an agreement between you and the other party that creates rights and obligations between both parties.

So the piece of paper isn’t the contract – the contract is the agreement itself!

So if your client agrees to hire you for a project, a contract will likely have formed between both of you. And it doesn’t matter whether the agreement was made verbally – contracts don’t need to be in writing to be enforceable.

P.S.: Certain conditions must be met in order for a contract to be validly formed. But in commercial situations, these conditions are usually met. So your client can’t really try to wiggle out of things by saying “there is no contract”.

That said, it’s definitely wise to record the terms of the agreement in writing.

Because some clients might try to rip you off by saying that the project was for $800 when you’d verbally agreed it’d be $1,000.

Or maybe you have the nicest client on Earth, but the project has gone on for a loooong time and both of you start to forget the details of the agreement.

In short, you need to be able to prove the terms of the contract. And there’s no better way to do so than getting them down in writing.

On paper, in an email, even on a WhatsApp message – it doesn’t matter. As long as you’ve gotten the terms down in writing.

No fancy legal mumbo jumbo needed either. Writing in plain English will be good enough!

What terms should your contract have?

As for what terms your contract should have, you should at the very least include these basic ones:

  • Names of parties
  • Project details – dates, times, scope of project
  • Payment amount and mode
  • Payment deadline

Depending on the nature of the project, your contract might also have terms such as:

  • Intellectual property (who will own the created materials after the end of the project)?
  • Confidentiality
  • How disputes should be resolved

To take things one step further, you should also make sure that the terms of your contract are written in a watertight manner, without leaving room for interpretation – again, in case your client tries to pull a fast one on you. Consider hiring a lawyer to help you with this.

Need a freelance contract? Check out these resources:

7. How are You Going to Get Paid?

Bugs Bunny counting money

Depending on whether your clients are based locally or overseas, you’ll probably need to accept a few different payment modes in order to get paid.

For local clients, you can usually get paid via bank transfer or cheque. Or if you really prefer (and your client is willing), in cold hard cash.

For overseas clients, PayPal is a popular option. You can also try receiving payment via Western Union, or a bank wire transfer.

Even if you prefer certain modes of payment, you’ll have to see whether your client can make payment via them. If they can’t, you may have to accommodate their preferred payment mode(s).

This can be annoying but at the end of the day, you want to get paid, right? So just grin and bear with it.

8. How Much Savings Do You Have?

Graph showing freelance revenue plunging in July

In case you haven’t heard, your freelance revenue will likely fluctuate from month to month.

For example, say you scored a huge project in June that netted you $8,000 in revenue. But then in July, your clients desert you. As a result, your July revenue is only $1,200.

Then, if you aim to pay yourself a salary of $3,000 a month, this won’t be a problem for June. But when it comes to July, you’ll be in a bit of trouble.

Apart from this, don’t forget that you may not receive payment immediately after completing a job. Your invoice payment terms may be 14, 30 or even – gasp – 60 days!

(And let’s not even talk about clients who pay late.)

If you don’t have much savings, such that you have to count down the days before your invoice gets paid, you’re going to be in a very painful situation.

Which is why before you start freelancing, you should have accumulated enough savings to rely on in your drier months.

How much is “enough” savings?

As a general rule of thumb, you should have enough funds to cover at least 6 months of living expenses.

No, not just 1 or 2 months, in case you take more time to get your freelance business off the ground.

6 months.

And also, as Jayce Tham, Chief Businesswoman at media agency CreativesAtWork, has quipped:

“Usually by the end of 6 months [into your freelancing career], you’ll know whether freelancing is for you anyway.”

Don’t have this much money in your bank account? Then don’t quit your day job just yet! Save up first, then we’ll resume this conversation.

Note: This is also why I suggest starting freelancing while you’re still holding a full-time job and not after (if you can), as mentioned above.

9. Should You Register a Business?

Maybe you’re thinking: “Duh, of course I have to right?”

Actually…no.

If you are running your business under your full name in Singapore, you’re not legally required to register your business.

And as a freelancer, it’s totally possible to run your business under your own full name. So if you’re just starting out and want to keep your costs low (because registration costs $$), not registering your business is a possible option.

Note: this only works if you’re running your business under your full name, as reflected in your identity card, and nothing else. If your name is Iris Lim Ai Li, you can only use “Iris Lim Ai Li”. You will need to register your business if you want to run it under names such as:

  • Iris Lim
  • Lim Ai Li
  • Iris Lim Ai Li Photography Services

That said, you may want to register your business because it helps people who want to engage you to verify that you’re a legit business. Think of it like the legal version of getting the Verified badge✅ on social media for your business.

Registering your business also lets you take part in government tenders – which, depending on your trade, may be a potentially lucrative source of income for you.

Which type of business structure should you register?

If you’ve decided to register your business, the next question is which type of business structure you should register.

As a freelancer, you’re likely flying solo when you just start out. So we can skip all the business structures which are meant for multiple business owners (like partnerships and limited liability partnerships), and focus on these two:

  1. Sole proprietorship
  2. Private limited company

1. Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the most basic form of business structure – it’s meant for just one person doing business.

Apart from a one-time $15 fee for the business name, the registration fee is $100/year. (But if you register for 3 years at one shot, you can pay just $160 for those 3 years.)

Before you can start or renew your sole prop, you will need to top up your Medisave account. Business profits will also be taxed at your own personal income tax rates, which can be anywhere from 0 to 22% depending on how much you’re earning.

However, a big drawback of registering a sole prop is that you will be personally responsible for the liabilities of the business.

In other words, if your business happens to owe money, the party that is owed money can come after you for their money.

2. Private limited company

To avoid being personally responsible for business liabilities, you can choose to set up a private limited company instead.

This business structure has a separate legal identity from that of its owners. Any liabilities incurred by the company are its own and not the company owners’, so these owners can’t be held personally responsible for them.

And if the company is successfully sued for money, company owners only stand to lose their amount of investment in the company (which can be as low as $1).

(This is why you may have heard of some company owners simply closing their companies and reopening shop under a different company name if the original company owes a lot of money, but I trust you don’t have such unscrupulous intentions.)

The corporate tax rate is a flat 17% regardless of how much profit the company is making. Company registration fees include a $15 fee for the business name and another $300 for the registration itself.

If you engage a corporate services firm to help you open a company, they will charge a professional fee on top of these fees.

Sole proprietorship vs private limited company – which should you choose?

There are some clients who will only pay you if you’ve registered a company. (Because they can only make payments to companies instead of individuals, for example.)

If so, you’ll have no choice but to register a company to get paid. But otherwise, you’ll probably have a choice on whether to register a sole prop or a company.

Here’s a summary of your options:

Sole proprietorshipPrivate limited company
Legal liabilityOwner is personally liable for the debts of the businessOwner is not personally liable for the debts of the business. The owner will only stand to lose their amount of investment in the company if the company is successfully sued.
Tax rates0 to 22% depending on the owner’s personal income tax ratesFlat corporate tax rate of 17%
Registration fees$15 name fee

$100/year registration fee

$15 name fee

$300 registration fee (one-time)

As seen from above, registering a sole prop can be cheaper in the short-term compared to registering a company. Your business may also be taxed at a lower rate.

But a major drawback is the risk of you being 100% liable for all the liabilities of the business in case that your business is sued. This is something that you will be protected against if you registered a company instead.

However, it doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with one type of business structure forever once you’ve chosen it.

If you’re willing to risk being personally liable for all the debts of your business, one tip I’ve learnt from CreativesAtWork’s Chief Businesswoman Jayce Tham is to register a sole prop first to take advantage of the initially lower tax rates.

Then, if your business starts raking in so much money that your personal income tax rates exceed 17%, you can convert your sole prop into a private limited company.

Think about whether this will work for you!

How to register a business

Registration of businesses is done on the BizFile+ website.

If you’re setting up a sole proprietorship, then click on “File eServices” on the header menu. Then, choose “Business (Sole proprietor/partnership)” > “Start a new business”.

How to register a sole proprietorship on BizFile+

To register a company, click on “File eServices” also. But then, choose “Local Company” > “Start a new Local Company”.

How to register a company on BizFile+

For registering either type of business structure, you’ll need to apply for your business name first, before going on with the actual registration of your business.

Don’t want to deal with the hassle of registering your business? You can engage a corporate services firm to do it for you.

10. Where Will You Work From?

Possibly the dream scenario of being a freelancer is working at the beach while sippin’ a margarita. But honestly, you’ll probably have a hard time finding a power socket at the beach. And/or getting Internet access.

And I don’t know about you, but I hate being in the sun for too long.

If you’re looking for a low-cost option for a work space, try:

Working from home

Homer Simpson using a long stick to type on a computer keyboard far away from him as he watches TV

By working from home, you don’t need to shell out money to rent a space outside. You also save on travelling time, and can even work in your pyjamas if you feel like it! Just remember to apply for your Home Office Scheme licence before using your home as your office.

However, keep in mind that working from home does not mean working from your bed.

Your bed is for sleeping in, not working. You don’t want to condition yourself to start feeling sleepy whenever you need to get some work done! To minimise distractions, try setting up a home office.

Be warned though: it can get lonely sitting at home the whole day after a while. As freelance content writer Priscilla Tan of Content Kapow shares:

“If you’d asked me [for my thoughts on working from home] 7 years ago, I’d say it’s a total dream. Now? Not so much. There’s a lot of distractions at home. House chores, the TV, my books. I enjoy my solitude a lot, but I think it’s healthy to work outside once in a while. Mingling with the community and switching environments help with my writing.”

So to avoid turning into a hermit, here are some other places you can consider working from. And don’t feel restricted to one location either – you can bounce around these options, depending on where you feel like going for the day:

The library

I love the library. You get free air-con, Wi-Fi access, and sometimes even power outlets!

Just head down early (like, when the library opens for the day) to secure your table. Students love to study in the library too for the same reasons, so you may have to fight for seats during exam periods.

And watch out for people who go to the library to sleep.

(And snore. Loudly.)

Cafes

Need your shot of caffeine in the morning? Working from a cafe may just be your thing.

Many cafes offer free Wi-Fi, and some may even have power outlets tucked into the corners if you look hard enough.

But again, keep in mind that demand for tables can be high. You won’t be the only one using a cafe for purposes other than drinking coffee – there may also be students studying, insurance agents explaining policies to clients, etc.

Some cafes also reserve tables for people who aren’t there to open a laptop but to actually drink coffee. You’ve been warned.

Community club study rooms

Credits to freelance content writer Priscilla Tan for this completely underrated pro tip!

Maybe you know community clubs (CCs) as the go-to place for enrichment activities. But some of them have study rooms that are open to freelancers too.

Some of these study rooms are free, like the one at Sengkang CC, but you may need to register with your NRIC before you can use the space. Others, like the study room at Nee Soon South CC, may charge a membership fee.

The study rooms generally have free Wi-Fi but it might be “weak at times”, according to Priscilla.

During exam periods, the study rooms may offer free food and drinks. Whoo!

Not all CCs have study rooms. Use this list to check if the CCs nearest to you have study rooms. The list also includes residents’ committee and residents’ network centres that have study rooms.

Before heading down, you should also call up the CC to ask whether the study room is open to freelancers, whether it’s free, whether there’s free Wi-Fi etc.

Co-working spaces

Co-working spaces are all the rage now.

For a monthly fee, you get access to a shared office space with facilities like meeting rooms, printers and pantry snacks. It’s also a great way to meet and network with other freelancers.

Working out of a co-working space is generally cheaper than renting an entire office space. Prices for a hot desk (i.e. no dedicated seats; you sit anywhere you want) start from about $300/month, depending on the location of the co-working space.

11. Taking Care of the Other Business Things

Phew! This has been a very long guide. Is that all you need to know about freelancing?

I’m sorry to break it to you, but nooooooo.

Cat laughing evilly

There’s a whole bunch of other things that you’ll need to know. I’ll mention them briefly here and link out to other resources where you can read more:

I hope this guide to freelancing has been helpful for you. If you’re keen to take your freelance business to the next level, join my Facebook group where you can meet and mingle with other supportive and like-minded freelancers in Singapore.

Join the lancerX Facebook group here!

I look forward to seeing you there!

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. 💪

Leave a Response