Career

5 Ways to Become Your Own Boss Without Starting an Actual Business

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Joanne Poh

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Complaints of having to “be someone else’s dog” or “help someone else earn money” are common amongst Singaporean employees. Many people lament that it’s “impossible to become rich by working for others”.

So a recent report claiming that “3 in 4 Singaporean millennials aim to become their own boss” wasn’t very surprising.

But many people have been quick to criticise the respondents of the report. If everyone is a business owner, who’s going to do their dirty work? 9 out of 10 startups fail, so what makes these people think they can all make it?

While it’s true most of these Singaporeans will never be the next Mark Zuckerberg, these critics miss the point—most locals really aren’t aiming that high. Many don’t even really have a dream business—they just want greater autonomy and better work-life balance.

Here are five types of jobs in which Singaporeans can “become their own bosses” without going the whole hog and starting businesses.

 

1. Insurance or real estate agent

Many Singaporeans who want to be their own boss don’t actually want to start a business per se. They just don’t want to have to report to somebody at 9am, deal with office politics and be assessed based on the amount of time they spend glued to their seats in their cubicles.

If that sounds like you, and you aren’t the sort who balks at the thought of sales, you might want to consider a career as an insurance or real estate agent.

While agents are attached to a company, they act more or less autonomously and have to find ways to get clients on their own. At the start, they might get some help from their team leaders—for instance, some insurance sales teams provide their agents with telemarketing services. However, agents are free to choose whether they wish to use these marketing tools, team up with other agents to advertise or go it alone. They also schedule their own client meetings and have complete control over their time outside of training sessions conducted by their company.

While non-performers obviously drop out after a while, those who do reasonably well have a good shot at earning a very decent wage. In fact, very garang, high performing real estate agents and insurance agents who rise to the top of the game and lead teams can earn an average of five figures a month.

 

2. Freelancer

More and more young Singaporeans are choosing to freelance. This enables them to continue working in a field they’re familiar with, but without being attached to a particular company or beholden to a particular boss.

In certain fields, freelancing can actually pay better than working as an employee, considering the number of hours worked.

For instance, web designers can charge over $2,000 for a single website which they can complete in a few days. Conversely, many web designers who are employees in companies often earn about $2,000 to $3,000 in an entire month.

There are also those who choose to take on freelance contracts despite the lack of stability. For instance, some videographers prefer to work freelance rather than be attached to a single company for the autonomy—they can come in at any time and have more control over their work. They are also paid more for their contracts then they would for doing a full-time stint for the same amount of time, which helps to take the sting out of the irregular income.

 

3. Taxi, Grab or Uber driver

Nobody’s saying you’ll ever get rich working as a taxi, Grab or Uber driver. Yet Grab and Uber, in particular, are becoming popular options for Singaporeans who are in between jobs and looking for something to tide them through this dry period, or who have a main business or job and want to drive on the side.

Heck, there are even increasing numbers of young Singaporeans giving up their jobs to become “taxi uncles” because they think it beats working for the man.

 

4. Small home-based business owner

Okay, so you don’t exactly want to create your own start-up, look for funding and conquer the world. You’re not alone. Some Singaporeans have been lucky enough to start home-based micro-businesses that, while they’ll never be worth billions, earn them a tidy enough sum to live on.

I have an acquaintance who used to go to Bangkok to source for fake branded t-shirts which she then sold on eBay. She managed to earn $5,000 a month doing that and soon started sourcing for other products in China to sell online on platforms like Qoo10. More than five years later, she is still doing this, and doing very well for herself too.

 

5. Private tutor

Those who have a university degree and decent A level and O level grades can rest easy in the knowledge that should they someday lose their job, they can always turn to giving private tuition.

Private tutors tend to fly under the radar, but make no mistake, the best ones are some of Singapore’s wealthiest freelancers. Some “super tutors” earn at least $1 million a year.

There are many more quietly operating out of their own homes who earn very, very decent sums of money. Of course, don’t expect to become a millionaire if you only have three students. But if you have the patience to collect a stable of kids and the foresight to raise your fees when you have enough clients, you could find yourself sitting on a goldmine… uh, I mean, moulding the future of the nation.

Do you want to be your own boss? Tell us why or why not in the comments!

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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.