Misc

No, freelancing is not the future

...but it is not the past, either.

silhouette of road signage during golden hour

I’ve seen a few different organisations tout freelancing to be the future of work. I used to think the same way, too, when I started the lancerX blog about 5 to 6 years ago.

I was all hyped up, like “YES! FREELANCING IS THE BEST AND IT IS GONNA BE THE FUTURE!”

Which you can probably tell from my blog messaging. For example, here’s my sign-up form inviting you to get my guide to building an “EPIC” freelance business:

Email sign-up form that says "Build an EPIC freelance business!" with a moneybag emoji

I was probably influenced by Garyvee, lol. To be honest I sometimes cringe when I see my form now and will get around to changing it. Eventually.

But as I watched the space over the years, and got into freelancing myself, my views have mellowed.

Freelancing is not the future of work

Freelancing is not a new thing.

Do you know how the word “freelance” came about?

It’s been around since at least the 19th century and used to refer to medieval mercenaries. Meaning people—called lances—who haven’t sworn allegiance to a lord, but will fight for any lord who pays them to do so.

So, they’re free to fight for whichever lord they want. Hence, a “free lance”.

Or so says Wikipedia. In any case, I love it.

With the Internet, people can get into freelancing, and work for any client that pays them to do so, much more easily than before—no bloody battles needed. So maybe we can say that modern freelancing, the way it is now, is the future of work?

But:

Freelancing is not for everybody

What does it mean for something to be “the future of work”, exactly?

If it means that the majority of people will eventually work this way, then freelancing is not it.

Freelancing comes with business responsibilities not everyone will want to do. Like hustling for projects. Issuing invoices. Or following up on payment.

Some people will want to just do the work they’ve been assigned to do and reliably get their paycheck every month. Which is perfectly fine.

And organisations need employees, too! How are businesses going to hire the people they need to expand if everyone is trying to be their own boss?

If you want work flexibility, freelancing isn’t necessarily the answer

A big draw of freelancing is the flexibility that comes with it.

Want to take time off in the middle of the day to run errands, go to the gym, or just not work? As a freelancer, you can!

Or, as the cliché goes, if you want to work from the beach, you can!

But now—and especially thanks to Covid—some of these freelancing perks are available to employees working certain remote jobs.

You can work for anyone in the world.

You can work from anywhere in the world.

You can work any time you want as long as you get your work done.

Why subject yourself to the challenges of freelancing to get work freedom and flexibility, when getting a full-time remote job might be the easier solution?

So, freelancing is not the future

It is already here. It will continue to stay.

And it will be what it has been so far.

A niche endeavour. That will attract the people who want to make a business out of a craft they love.

And who have the courage to try and make it happen.

More freelancer news

What to do if a client won’t pay you

Freelance content creators who worked with creative agency GetCraft have been owed their pay—some for even as long as since 2021.

If you find yourself in a similar situation (hopefully not), a spokesperson from Vicpa (Visual, Audio, Creative Content Professionals Association) and some lawyers suggest solutions like:

  • Filing a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal if the client is based in Singapore
  • Seeking help with the International Institute of Mediators if the client is based overseas and you’re a Vicpa member

But even if you successfully sue the client, there’s no guarantee the client will pay you.

You may need to fork out even more money to get the client to pay up. And depending on how much you’re owed, doing so may unfortunately not be worth it.

More details in this news article.

Can freelancers earn enough to survive in Singapore?

There was a recent social media discussion on this where some freelancers mentioned things like:

  • The fact that young Singaporeans tend to live with their parents helps them save on rent and food costs, such that they are under less financial pressure while exploring freelancing
  • The possibility of taking on multiple projects—and earning more compared to working a full-time job
  • Having to be prepared to chase clients that owe you money
  • Needing to pay for their own health insurance and retirement funds because they don’t have job benefits

Read a summary of the discussion here. But just know that if you work hard at building your client base and delivering quality work, the answer to the question of “Can freelancers earn enough to survive in Singapore?” can be yes 😉

This post was first published in my email newsletter on 9 Nov 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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