Almost anything is possible when you’re young. That means it’s the right time to think more concretely about what you want for your future. Among the many options available to you, being self-employed may be an enticing aspiration. There are many benefits to being your own boss, either as a freelancer or an entrepreneur. You might appreciate having ability to set your own schedules and take time off whenever you need. No wonder, then, that up to 10% of the Singaporean workforce are self-employed. But being self-employed is not an easy route to take. Unlike working in an office, you will have no pre-existing career ladder to leverage. You will have to build your own professional network. Nobody will market your services for you unless you pay them. You’ll also discover there’s a lack of security that comes with being self-employed. Being a freelancer or entrepreneur can be a challenging path indeed. That is why it is important to know what you are getting into if you are to thrive. To succeed on this path, there are a few key considerations you must take into account.
Source: Unsplash Getting started Before you start, the very first thing you need to consider is whether you have the skills and experience necessary for freelance work. It’s always a good idea to seek experience beforehand. This will sharpen your skills, and give you the necessary professional network for your career. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first way is to focus on building up your portfolio, for example, by doing passion projects related to your preferred career path. The downside is that doing this will give you little to no money, so you better have a safety net ready. Another way is to spend a couple of years working in an office job. While this may delay your entrepreneurial aspirations, it is a much safer route to take. Plus, you will be able to build your savings for when things take a downward turn. Another thing you need to know is where you plan on getting work. Will you be pitching to your existing network, or look for jobs online? While every channel can be tried, having a solid idea of where you will get your clients is a big plus point. You will also have to expect a lack of support from friends and family. You will face a lot of rejections and go through a make-or-break period in the first few months. To go through all of that, you need to have a safety net, either in savings or the resources of other people to fall back on. Four considerations in an entrepreneurial career Once you’ve taken all of the above into consideration, you can begin to think deeper about how to really succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavour. Here are four key aspects you will need to take into account throughout your career. 1. Choosing your area of focus While you may have an idea of what kind of work you will be doing in your freelance job or enterprise, it’s also important to be aware of the industry you are working in. Is the industry growing or stagnant? Is the market too niche or already oversaturated? You will want to always keep an eye out for industry trends and statistics. For instance, web and graphic design, programming, and social media remain among the highest-paying freelance work in Singapore. But there are also emerging industries, especially during times of the pandemic. These include freelance accounting, HR, and even therapy. Whether you are a freelancer or entrepreneur, doing business in a growing industry will give you much more opportunities than one that is either too niche or oversaturated. Learn about the various industries in which your skill set may fit, and choose wisely. But remember: your decision will impact your career, but it is also never final. Be ready to change and adapt along the way. Be ready to learn new skills, either to differentiate yourself further or sometimes to change industries.
Source: Unsplash 2. Building connections Self-employment relies on building networks and connections. You will not have the benefit of a large corporation to connect you with various clients and resources. Whether you like it or not, you will have to develop the skills to network and connect with others. You will also need to learn how to market yourself. Even if you are the best at doing your job, it won’t mean much if nobody knows about you. Learn where to pitch your business and services, and how to pitch them. The industry will keep evolving, so it’s important to avoid complacency even when you think you always have a steady stream of clients. Marketing yourself is something you will have to do on a regular basis throughout your career. The way to do this will differ depending on where you are. Singapore, for instance, has a unique professional landscape. This can hinder or boost your career depending on how you approach it. It’s best to familiarise yourself with it and get in the habit of building connections as soon as possible, as regularly as possible. 3. Avoiding legal and financial troubles When you are self-employed, you cannot simply wait around for your boss to pay you. In fact, since you are the boss, the opposite may be true. There may be times where you have staff that rely on you to get paid, and you need to make sure the clients pay you on time. In other words, it is very important that you know the ins and outs of writing a proper contract and sending a proper invoice. How and when you will be getting paid can make or break your business. If you’re not careful, they can come very late and you will already run out of cash to pay your expenses. Aside from financial matters, contracts can involve many other things. Being clear on the terms of your revision work, extra charges, and timelines can save you a lot of time and energy. Knowing who owns the work and what rights the client has can help you avoid conflicts in the future. Make sure you know all your rights and obligations before proceeding and delivering your services. And lastly, remember that freelancers are not covered in Singapore’s Employment Act. This means that you will need to be very careful about the contracts you sign. Those papers may be the only thing that will guarantee your security in the various projects you do. 4. Building a safety net However carefully you pursue things, there will be rainy days where things take a downturn. Jobs may dry up. Projects may get cancelled in the middle. Clients may cut you off at terrible times. Or perhaps you may face an unexpected emergency that takes up plenty of your resources without warning. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to have an emergency fund. While everyone benefits from having an emergency fund, this is especially true for freelancers. Due to the precarious nature of self-employment, your emergency fund may be much more volatile than if you were to go the traditional office job route in your career. To properly build and maintain your emergency fund, you have to be familiar with your living expenses in Singapore. Ideally, you should have enough savings to get you through six months of little to no business.
Source: Unsplash Paving the way to an entrepreneurial career Being self-employed in Singapore can have many benefits. But to really succeed, you need to be familiar with the ins and outs of freelancing and entrepreneurship. To pursue this path, you will need to do a lot of preparation beforehand, as well as have a keen eye on four crucial points throughout your career. You will have to position and market yourself properly in the right industry. You will have to network and build lots of connections. For safety and resilience, you must familiarise yourself with the legal and financial landscape in Singapore. This includes knowing your rights and obligations as a freelancer, as well as building an emergency fund for those rainy days. All of these will have to be a habit that you reflect upon and commit to on a regular basis. At NTUC, we dedicate ourselves to providing the best knowledge and preparation for youth as they prepare to pursue their career aspirations, whatever it may be. Subscribe to Young NTUC's Digi-Fam e-newsletter to find out more. Follow our Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to get the latest updates on career resources, events and more!