5 Factors You Need To Consider Before Deciding on a Side Job to Supplement Your Income With

Joanne Poh



Do you hate the idea of being entirely reliant on your job to survive, or break out into a cold sweat whenever your boss gives you the stink eye, making you convinced you’ll soon be fired and on the road to financial ruin?

Well, you’re not alone.

Fears about job security plague Singaporeans, especially when they reach middle age and are in danger of never recovering from retrenchment.

Then there are those of us who just can’t seem to save any money on our current salaries and fear that our jobs alone can’t feed us.

If any of the above resonates with you, you might want to consider joining the ranks of Singaporeans with a side job.

While it’s not that common for Singaporeans to moonlight as waiters or barmen due to the low pay in the service industry, you might be surprised to learn that many of your own colleagues are secretly giving tuition or freelancing on their weekends and during their free time.

Heck, I know many well-paid PMETs working in the banking and finance industry who still have a tuition kid or two under their wing.

While getting a side job sounds like a great idea in theory, it could end in collapse from exhaustion or a lot of wasted time and effort for minimal financial benefit if you don’t plan for and choose your side job with care. Here are some things to consider.


1. Ease of entry

One of the most important factors to consider is how committed you are to your side gig, and how long you intend to do it.

If you’re just trying to scrape together enough cash to buy an Oculus Rift, it would not make sense to go through the months of training and exam-taking it would take to become a real estate agent—a few weekends selling stuff at roadshows should suffice.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at slowly transitioning into part-time or freelance work, the amount of time and effort you would have to put in to search for clients and build your portfolio would totally be worth it.

How easy it is to find work and work your way up to a steady side income are things you should consider before you jump in. Many of the side gigs that will yield fairly high returns, such as becoming a freelance photographer, writer or musician, take time and require an initial investment (buying equipment, building your website and so on), and it could be months before you start seeing a decent profit.

As for potentially high return jobs like selling insurance or real estate, it could be months before you find your first customer.

The side jobs with the lowest barriers to entry are probably weekend assignments like road shows, running around town as a mascot or giving out flyers.

If you’re planning to stick with the job for at least a couple of months, tuition is a good option due to the relatively high hourly rate, with F&B and retail coming in second thanks to their flexibility, although you should not expect to become a millionaire.


2. Your skillset

Please, don’t be like that wedding photographer whose photos have gone viral for being, well… see for yourself. You need to be realistic about your own skills and abilities before you can expect someone to pay you for them.

As many parents here will tell you, there are way too many students trying to pass off as private tutors when they themselves are totally helpless without the answer key of their students’ assessment books.

There are certain side jobs which pay more mainly because taking them on requires you to have skills that it takes years to acquire—skills like teaching people how to play the guitar, coaching kids on the finer points of the binomial theorem, professional-level photography and coding are not something you can master after attending a 3 day WDA workshop.

If these are not skills you have, either commit to spending years to obtain them, or do something else.

Don’t have any marketable skills or hobbies you can monetise? Look to skills you’ve picked up in your career and see if you can use them to make some extra cash on the side.

Many MOE teachers also give tuition on the side, while a ton of writers, editors, designers and web developers supplement their income by doing the same work on a freelance basis.


3. Set-up costs

How broke you are is going to have an impact on the kind of side gigs you can pick up. That’s because certain side hustles require considerable investment, especially if you lack the tools needed to do them.

For instance, if you’re going to become a guitar teacher but don’t have your own guitar, you’re going to have to cough up a few hundred bucks to buy a decent one. If you’re planning to do freelance graphic design work, you’ll need to first have a decent computer with the necessary design software like Photoshop and InDesign.

In addition, while certain jobs like being a real estate agent can be done on a part-time basis, the fact that you need to pay to take the REA course and exam has no doubt deterred many people who’ve thought of dabbling in it.


4. Time commitment

You already have a day job that sucks up most of your time, and as such you’ll need to be realistic about the kind of time you can afford to spend on your side gig.

Certain jobs require a big time investment in terms of sourcing for customers or clients. Many independent sales jobs like insurance or creative freelancing require a considerable outlay of time before you can make your first dollar. That doesn’t include the actual time spent completing projects or going for client appointments.

If you’re already spending 12 hours at the office and 2 hours on the MRT each day, that doesn’t leave you with a lot of time.

If you only have three hours between knocking off from your day job and collapsing in bed in an exhausted heap, you’re better off looking for a side gig with a low time commitment.

Tuition is so popular with Singaporeans partly because you can spend as little as 1.5 to 2 hours per week with each student, which no matter how busy you are isn’t that taxing. Another draw is the fact that you don’t have to waste time applying for jobs. Just call up an agent and they’ll do the work for you (more info here if you’re thinking of taking this route.).

On the other hand, if your current job isn’t too taxing, the sky’s the limit. You could even set up an online shop or start a successful freelance business if you can wait out the months needed to make it worth your while.


5. Your personality

Humans are not all created equal, unfortunately, and a side gig that works for one person may be a living hell for another.

As tempting as it might be to just chase after the highest paying side job available, for the sake of your own sanity do try to pick something that suits your personality, or at least something you don’t hate, especially if you intend to do it long term.

If the sight of anyone under the age of 18 makes your skin crawl and reaffirms your decision to never have kids, Baby Bonus be damned, then tuition or babysitting are probably not the best options for you.

If the thought of approaching and talking to strangers makes you come close to passing out, you probably wouldn’t be the highest performing insurance agent out there.

On the other hand, if you’ve always aced those boardroom Powerpoint presentations, you might have a future as a presenter at roadshows or company D&Ds. If you’re a great web designer and are motivated enough to do it at home, you’ve got a great shot at establishing a successful freelance side gig.

You already work hard enough, so don’t go and pick something that is so unpleasant or so difficult for you that you dread doing it even more than your day job.

Do you have a side job? Tell us what it is in the comments!

Keep updated with all the news!


Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.