Chances are, you either know a freelancer or you're a freelancer yourself! Making up almost 9% of our local workforce, the presence of freelancers is ever-growing in Singapore.
Yet, we don't know much about the nature of their work and often end up blurting something offensive or rude in conversation with them.
Not sure if you're guilty of this? Freelancers in Singapore share four things you may want to avoid saying to them:
1. "Shiok, you have so much free time!"
"EVERYONE thinks freelancers are sooo free," Tessa groans. The 32-year-old freelance graphic designer actively posts on Instagram. "I post all the things I do every day. I go swimming or go to the gym in the morning, and sometimes I have tea with a friend in the afternoon."
According to Tessa, this gives her acquaintances the impression that she has a lot of time on her hands.
"What they don't see is the many hours spend up at night doing work. Having a flexible schedule is NOT the same as having lots of free time," Tessa states emphatically.
Many people tend to forget that freelancers are usually a one-person show - on top of doing their actual work, they also need to handle business development, manage clients, prepare invoices, settle payments, training and all other housekeeping matters. This requires good multi-tasking and time management skills, something that freelancers don't get enough credit for!
2. "Can survive ah?"
"If I had a dollar for every time someone asks me this, I can confirm survive," Esther, 28, rolls her eyes.
Juggling two jobs - insurance agent by day, Grab driver by night - Esther often has to deal with blatant questions about her livelihood. She wryly observes that people generally practise more manners and restraint in discussing financial matters when talking to salaried workers, possibly due to a misconception that freelance work is merely a part-time or temporary measure.
But with over 80% of freelancers in Singapore doing freelance work as their primary job, it's important that we give them the same discretion and sensitivity. In fact, in some cases, freelancing can be the financially smarter decision, and the payoff may be greater in terms of the working hours spent.
Tessa is one great example of this. "I work late at night, but I work pretty fast. So previously, when I worked full-time, it didn't really matter how fast or efficient I was, in terms of compensation. But as a freelancer, working fast frees me up to take on more projects, and it feels good when what I earn increases accordingly."
3. "When are you going back to full-time?"
This question is a constant source of amusement for Rina, 38, make-up artist. "Actually, I feel like I'm a full-time freelancer lor!"
A common refrain from the relative you occasionally visit, it reveals the common assumption that all freelancers eventually wish to return to salaried work. This implies that freelancing is not the conventionally "correct" career path.
However, freelancers may simply have different priorities and perspectives on what matters in life - whether it's having more time with loved ones or valuing flexibility and autonomy over money and career progression. The truth is, many freelancers enjoy what they do and have no intention of returning to salaried work!"
4. "Wah, you better not fall sick!"
No doubt, this is usually said with good intentions. Still, James, a 25-year-old piano teacher, has no qualms expressing his annoyance.
"My friend basically humble bragged to me about being able to take MC (medical leave) anytime because he has medical benefits, and he said it must be so sian (dialect for "a drag") that I don't get to do that."
This usually also comes with comments about how freelancers "lose out" on CPF. But James is quick to point out that he sets aside money to transfer to his CPF account every month.
Freelancers get the chance to hone their independence and financial management habits, by cultivating the good habit of setting aside money frequently for rainy day expenses.
In reality, freelancers enjoy many perks that salaried workers may not: independence, freedom, flexibility and even opportunities to go on to becoming an entrepreneur. As you build up your skills experience and network, freelancing can lead to highly lucrative endeavours!
While they may not have the same tangible benefits as salaried workers, as pointed out by James' friend, this is where having sufficient insurance coverage comes in.
Freelancer CashPlus is a good stand-in for medical benefits, with daily hospitalisation and daily outpatient cash payouts of up to $120 per day up to 60 days. Plus, keep things flexible with your choice of whether to pay your premiums weekly, monthly or annually.
No medical check-up needed, no fuss - perfect for freelancers, when time is money. Find out more here.