Stepping into the world of freelancing is intimidating when you are not from a typical freelancing industry, and none of your friends are doing so. Especially in Singapore where according to the 2018 statistics, only 8.4% of Singapore’s resident workforce are primary freelancers who depended on self-employment as their livelihood.
I have always been attracted to the concept of freelancing because of the autonomy it provides. Being able to decide when and where to work, is even more important to me now that I am looking to start a family.
Having grown up with parents who work full time, our family spent most of the time apart from each other. Not wanting the same for my children, I see freelancing as an opportunity to continue working as well as have the ability to adjust my schedule accordingly to suit my family’s needs. This is a flexibility which a traditional 9 to 5 job is unable to provide.
However, being a freelancer would mean dealing with an unstable income and giving up other paid benefits like medical leave and vacation leave. Compared to the assurance of being paid a fixed salary monthly, freelancing is a daunting prospect with Singapore’s high cost of living.
Caught in a dilemma, I tried searching online for more information about freelancing in Singapore. The information available was not particularly helpful as most of the content are catered for western countries. Fortunately, one of the search results was the Freelance 101 Bootcamp organsied by CreativesAtWork. Thinking the boot camp would be a good way to start exploring the option of freelancing, I signed up for it with much anticipation.
Here are the 5 things I learnt about becoming a freelancer as a parent-to-be from the Freelancing 101 Bootcamp:
1) Have a right mindset
The media paints a sensational image of freelancing – it leads us to think that freelancing is all about hanging out at the beach with your laptop. In reality, being a freelancer means you have to work harder and work smarter than the rest of the pack. Having the tenacity and taking action despite fear are the two top qualities needed to achieve success.
2) Have a proper financial plan before starting
Realistically, it takes up to a year before things stabilise, so it is essential to have enough savings and insurance policies set in place to weather the storms. Furthermore, starting a family would require more cash flow, and it is paramount to ensure adequate inflow of money especially during the periods of waiting to be paid after the completion of projects.
3) Take time out to make friends
Networking although arduous is crucial to getting visibility and standing out in a competitive market place. It is also an opportunity to make new friends and collaborate on projects. I met a few mothers during the boot camp and between talks about parenthood, we shared our concerns about becoming a freelancer. It was reassuring to know that I was not the only one feeling this way.
Being a freelancer means not having colleagues and working on your own most of the time. It gets lonely, so by getting to know others who are working in the same environment, it widens one’s social support. Having social support keeps us motivated and helps us deal with stress better.
Fun fact! A poll during the boot camp revealed that freelancers do their work mostly in Starbucks. The next time I am at Starbucks, I definitely will check out who’s working next to me and say hi!
4) Price yourself right
Take into consideration all the factors when determining one’s rates. Even include things like expenses and how many days of holiday you want. Not shortchanging yourself is crucial. That means raising your fees too when required. As parents, because there will be more expenses which we will need to deal with, it is essential that we factor them in.
5) Create your value
Having a good portfolio will catch the eye of potential clients, but the key to clinching a deal is to highlight the value we bring to the table. It is the pre-requisite now to enter the freelance market with excellent skills, so communicating our value will give us an advantage in winning the client over.
At the end of the two days, I was more confident about my decision to become a freelancer. The Freelancing 101 Bootcamp gave me the foundation I needed to start my journey. I was inspired by my talented course mates and their passion for their craft. The interactive activities were great ice breakers and helped me to build friendships.
I am sure that freelancing would be an option not just for individuals who do not fancy working in an office, but also for parents who desire more flexibility in their work to customise the way they spend time with their family. Although the concept of freelancing is still developing in Singapore, there are growing communities such as CreativesAtWork who are making it happen and supporting each other. I am thrilled to be a part of this movement and look forward to being a freelancer mom!