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Freelance jobs are increasingly popular among youth in Singapore. Since 2015, temporary work arrangements have been attracting young people in the workforce. Let’s be honest, freelance jobs are great! They give freedom for us to work according to our own schedule, it pays fairly well and you’re not tied to the company in the long run.

However like all jobs, there are pitfalls when it comes to working freelance. Issues such as delayed payments, flaky clients, unfair (and unsafe) work arrangements and even facing family members or friends who just don’t understand why you’re taking the freelancing route are all problems faced by freelancers on a daily basis.

We decided to uncover the truth behind 4 popular freelancing jobs here in Singapore and find out the ‘real cost’ of working as a freelancer.

1. Private Hire Drivers


The Benefits: You have a license and your dad hates to drive. Might as well make some money right?! You’ll get to drive whenever and wherever you want and you’ll be meeting loads of new people (like good looking lads and ladies). You’ll also finally be able to tell your mum you were out late “because I was working!”

The Shady Side: Car trouble? That’s on you. You’ll be absorbing the costs of car expenses. You’re technically flying solo so any trials and tribunals you face on the road can only be shared with your friends who don’t truly understand (or even seem to care). Worst part? Your friends and family will be hitting you up for free rides (yes, you ARE their driver).

The Moolah: Expect to get paid from $20 – 49 an hour dependent on surges and how many trips you can make, Grab even has a schedule for guaranteed fare incentives!

Private-hire drivers are part of a growing gig economy. Gig economy sees temporary positions and short-term engagements increasing and more Singaporeans taking up freelancing as their primary source of income.

Here in Singapore, freelancers such as Grab and Uber driver do not have the statutory rights of employees under the Employment Act such as overtime pay. They also do not receive statutory benefits such as Central Provident Fund contributions from the companies they work for.

So who’s helping private-hire drivers?

Business Times

Established last year, the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) inked a partnership with Grab. Facilitating feedback between drivers and Grab, NPHVA seeks to foster stronger partner relationships. Grab also works in conjunction with e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) to provide mature workers with the opportunity to become drivers with Grab.

2. Food Couriers 

The Benefits: On the move for most of the day, you’ll look super cool wheezing your way through traffic. Work whenever you want and you’ll finally get that extra amount of cash for the new iPhone (there’s always a new one!).

The Shady Side: Seen Premium Rush? While you’re not going to be targeted by a crazed loan shark, you’ll be vulnerable to other vehicles and of the very tumultuous Singapore weather. Caring for your own transportation and your own safety might end up sucking up more money than it’s worth.

The Moolah: At $5 – 11 an hour and an additional $4 – 6 a trip, you’ll be making an average of $13 – 30 an hour!

3. Freelance Designers

The Benefits: You live and breath designs and you can’t imagine doing anything else after you graduate. Freelance designing is a win-win-win. Expand your portfolio, do what you love and get money (is this a dream or is it reality?!).

The Shady Side: Let’s face it, clients are difficult. You’ll meet the flaky, the rude and the uptight. And if you’re planning to do freelance designing as a full time job, you’ll spend A LOT of time worrying about when’s your next job (and if you’ll be able to afford rent next month).

The Moolah: While you may start out charging at $50 for one-off projects. Once you’ve built your portfolio, a large project (like a website) could fetch you a cool $1,000 (or more)!

4. Freelance Tutors

The Benefits: Since the dawn of time (more like for the past 20 years), Singaporeans students have needed tutors. Freedom to teach when you want, what you want and who you want. Doing it long-term? Even better, you’ll have a steady income on the side!

The Shady Side: Under the Employment Act, part-timers without contracts like tutors, aren’t covered by the Manpower Ministry. With online tuition agencies popping up, you might not even see the organization that has hired you!

The Moolah: Depending on the student’s educational level (primary, secondary, tertiary) and you own qualifications, you can expect to get paid from $15 to $120 an hour!

You could face being short-changed. Recently, several tuition agencies have come under the spotlight for not paying tutors. Tutors who aren’t paid often do not go to small claims court due to the hassle.

NTUC Strives To Protect Freelancers

There is an estimated 200,000 freelancers in Singapore. Unlike employed individuals, freelancers here in Singapore are not legally entitled to statutory protection and benefits such as CPF contributions, annual leave, medical leave and rights under labour legislation such as Employment Act and the Work Injury Compensation Act.

NTUC U Portal

In its recent Budget 2017 recommendations, NTUC called on the Government to review labour legislation that could potentially help ensure that the interests of freelancers and the self-employed are protected. NTUC is currently focusing on three ways to help protect the interests of freelancers:

  1. Expanding the role of Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM). Freelancers will have access to tripartite networks to resolve disputes.
  2. Urging the Governments to review how freelancers can currently make CPF contributions and also receive support from the Government in terms of CPF retirement adequacy.
  3. Urging service buyers to keep manpower costs at advisable rates enabling freelancers access to CPF contributions.

Last year, NTUC’s Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit (U FSE) in collaboration with e2i held a ‘Fair For Freelancers’. Freelancers were given the opportunity to come together and gain new business opportunities. U FSE introduced digital platforms to help connect freelancers with clients for project collaborations.

The Labour Movement continually works closely with the other Tripartite partners – Ministry of Manpower and employers, to create a better working environment for employees. Through Collective Bargaining, Dispute Resolution mechanism and Advocacy, NTUC is giving a voice to the working people of Singapore.

For more information on how the Labour Movement is speaking up for various worker segments, check out Labour Movement’s Budget 2017 Recommendations.