Everyone’s tired of being chained to their desks. If only you could work whenever you wanted to, without your boss breathing down your neck. Getting a freelance job in Singapore might seem like the obvious answer.
After all, more and more Singaporeans are now voluntarily working on a self-employed basis, and thanks to the internet, there are more and more opportunities to work remotely. And you don’t have to be a technical or creative genius with crazy programming or design skills, either.
It’s no walk in the park though. Freelancing often requires discipline, confidence, people skills and resourcefulness. If you’re the kind of person who has a mental breakdown the moment your MRT experiences a service disruption, then freelancing might not be the best option for you.
Still keen on setting your own schedule, no matter what? Here are 8 popular freelance jobs in Singapore to consider.
This is at the top of the list since so many of the full-time private tutors I know earn six figure annual incomes (at least). With kiasu parents forcing their kids to spend every waking hour in tuition, this is one recession-proof industry that has not been affected by the falling birth rate.
If you play your cards right, you can make a very decent living doing this, especially in the long run when you have loyal students who recommend their friends to you.
How much do you get paid? At least $20 an hour for primary students and $25 an hour for secondary students. However, it is not uncommon for upper secondary students to pay at least $40 an hour. And if you can teach JC students, you’re looking at $50 an hour or more.
Finally, if you’re an ex MOE teacher, you might be able to get away with pricing yourself at $75 an hour and above. The tutors who are really raking it in teach group classes.
2. Private hire driver
If you or someone in your household has a car, you can make a bit of spare cash as a Grab or Ryde driver.
Even if you don’t intend to drive for hours every day, you can still make a bit of cash on your way to and from home or in your spare time. You can use the Grab or Ryde app to check when there are passengers close to you, and pick up only those whom you think are worthwhile.
For more on how to get started, read our comparison of driving for Ryde vs Grab vs taxis.
How much do you get paid? Earnings vary greatly depending on how and when you drive and the extent of surge pricing. If you are a Grab or Ryde passenger yourself, you should be able to estimate your earnings pretty easily.
Just remember to subtract the company’s commission and your own petrol costs. If you don’t have your own car and want to rent, remember that the car rental costs will eat (significantly) into your profit as well.
3. Wedding photographer
Do you spend all your waking hours hanging out on ClubSnap or watching photo editing tutorials on YouTube? Then you want to consider becoming a freelance wedding photographer.
One thing about wedding photography is that there are clients who are willing to pay all kinds of prices. There are those who are willing to pay 5 figures for a lavish overseas shoot from an award-winning photographer, while there are others who just want someone who’s reasonably cheap.
How much do you get paid? A full day wedding shoot is typically priced at about $1,500 to $3,000 by the pros. Expect this to last at least 8 to 10 hours, often more, and don’t forget that you’ll have to edit your photos afterwards. Refer to this wedding photography price list for more rate estimates.
If you’re an amateur, be honest about your abilities and give a discount. It helps to have a good online presence, especially on social media where you can try to get more business through word-of-mouth.
Smirking to yourself and thinking about how you could write a better article than this one? Then you might want to try your hand at freelance writing.
You could find yourself writing anything from spammy SEO articles to investigative pieces for worldwide publications, depending on your luck, portfolio and determination. Just be warned — it can be backbreaking work, and the number of clients who grossly underpay is extremely high.
How much do you get paid? You can get paid anything from a few bucks for a random article on the internet to thousands of dollars for a long piece in a reputable publication.
5. Web designer
Freelance web designers are in demand in Singapore, since not that many companies have an in-house designer, but many will at some point realise that their website looks like it’s stuck in the 90s and needs a revamp.
The types of clients you serve will vary according to your skills, your portfolio and how hard you’re willing to try. If you’re self-taught, how much you can charge will depend not just on your design skills but also your technical mastery. For instance, if you can do UI and UX design, you can charge much more than someone who’s just doing basic websites.
How much do you get paid? You should be paid at least $2,000 to $3,000 for a basic five-page website.
6. Tourist guide
In Singapore, you need to get a licence from the Singapore Tourism Board in order to work as a freelance tourist guide.
While this will involve your burning many weeknights over the course of several months as you attend the tourist guide course, that’s actually a good thing as it limits the supply of guides and keeps fees relatively high.
How much do you get paid? Professional tourist guides in Singapore charge anywhere between $250 to $600 for a four-hour tour, depending on whether transportation is included.
7. Swimming instructor
Your parents might not have forked out the cash to groom you into a top tennis or golf star when you were a kid. But chances are, you can swim. And if you’re a proficient swimmer (there’s no need to be Joseph Schooling, you just need confidence and decent technique), you can work as a freelance swimming instructor.
To be safe, however, it’s a good idea to take a swimming instructor course, which is offered by the Swimming Teachers’ Association and Sport Singapore. Make sure you know how to save a drowning person before you attempt to teach.
If you live in a condo with a swimming pool, your chances of success are high, as you can simply stick up ads on the condo’s notice board and teach fellow residents.
How much do you get paid? You can charge an hourly rate of at least $15 to $20 per person for group classes, and more for individual classes.
8. Social media manager
Do you spend your days obsessively growing your Instagram following? Then you might want to do the same for others by freelancing as social media manager.
Basically, you’ll manage the social media accounts of businesses, grow their following, create posts and graphics and possibly also manage Facebook ads.
How much do you get paid? You’ll be paid either by the hour or by the month if it’s a recurring job. How much you make will really depend on many factors including how much work is involved. For managing a small business’s accounts, expect to charge anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand a month.
Bonus: Tips for aspiring freelancers in Singapore
You’ll soon find out that freelancing is every bit as hard as showing up for an office job. Here are some tips for finding work and staying sane.
Carve out a strategy for finding work: If you’re working online, that’s likely to include doing research on the internet portals (eg. Upwork, ZomWork, Freelancer.sg) where you can apply for freelance jobs. You might also want to set up a website, portfolio or blog and/or curate your social media accounts in the meantime.
Decide how to transition from your day job to freelancing: Do you intend to quit your job and then work intensely for months until your freelance business gets off the ground? Or will you moonlight after hours until you have enough clients to enable you to quit your job? This will depend on many factors such as how much free time you have and your financial situation.
Learn how to negotiate fees: Virtually every freelancer ends up charging too little at the start, especially when they’re desperate for clients. That is likely to happen to you too. But over time, make sure you learn how much you should really be paid, and learn how to negotiate fees without flinching.
Compartmentalise to stay sane: Work and life can bleed into one when you don’t have set office hours. Learn how to compartmentalise your work and really relax in your downtime. Some people use a timer so they are forced to complete their work efficiently, others turn off their phones and laptops when they’re done. Find what works for you.
Are you an aspiring or full-time freelancer? Share your story in the comments!