SINGAPORE: Freelance work is shedding its image as an intermediate form of employment for those between jobs.
The trend of temporary work might be shifting to a more permanent role in today's employment landscape as more young people in Singapore are opting to freelance as their first choice of employment.
Ms Jolyn Wu, 27, works in a public relations firm on a freelance basis. The American university graduate shuttles between being a PR professional and working at a startup.
"For myself it's because I’ve had some opportunity to work in a full-time position and get some experience,” she explained. “But at the same time, I also want to able to have the opportunity to try different things, be in different positions and different industries before I have my heart set on a particular career and commit full-time to that and be able to follow that career path.”
Ms Wu said millennials like herself view the freelance industry as offering a diverse range of possibilities, and they are attracted by the opportunity to access various industries and sectors in a short span of time.
“They're a little more comfortable with it and it's not so much of ‘I graduate from school and I am going to into a nine-to-five job and that's it',” she said. “A lot more times we are also looking for other things - being excited about the job we're doing, being excited about the projects we are working in. And that also plays a big part and therefore people are more open to freelancing so that from their sense they are also looking from their perspective to find an opportunity that fits them.”
Several web portals specialising in connecting freelancers to short-term assignments and projects have said they are seeing more millennial freelancers. Freelancer.com said 74 per cent of its users are from that age group. The company added there have been several freelancers who have eventually moved on to being entrepreneurs.
"It allows young professionals to be more proactive in terms of their career unlike before when you had to wait for your boss or your supervisor to promote you or to look into your credentials, and provide you career growth. Now the youth can basically take matters into their own hands,” said Mr Evan Tan, regional director for Southeast Asia at Freelancer.com.
Mr Ivan Chua, 38, runs his own design studio, Ivan Chua Associates. He started freelancing while he was a student and continued for several years before becoming an entrepreneur. He said he sees the benefit of part time work both as a freelancer and as a business owner.
"Even when I was freelancing, I learned a lot by working with different people at different studios, so that was the part of the freelancing I like,” said Mr Chua. “Now that I am a business owner and I hire freelancers, they help us in our workflow especially when we have a sudden spike in our work and the freelancers can help us deliver what we need for the clients."
The freelance market is growing steadily in Singapore and the region. Recruitment consulting firm Hays said 50 per cent of their business in Asia-Pacific is from temporary contract-based employment.
Across Asia-Pacific last year, the company's fees were nearly S$366 million, of which S$210 million was from contract and temporary employment.
“Singapore, I would say, is certainly playing catch up a little bit in that market,” said Mr Mike Wilkshire, business director of Hays Singapore. “It is a growing market, but in comparison, probably much smaller than in other regions. But even here we have noticed that last year, 26 per cent of employers said they intend to use freelance or contract staff on a regular basis and that is a 2 per cent increase on the figure from the year before."
Experts point out that in today's ephemeral economy, freelancers stand to benefit by picking up new skill sets, as new industries sprout up.