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Freelance vs full-time jobs in Singapore: Pros and cons

What are the pros and cons of being a freelance vs holding a full-time job in Singapore?
Is joining the “gig economy” an option? (PHOTO: Getty Creative) (Koh Sze Kiat via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — With graduation season upon us, university graduates are set to find their first full-time jobs. Amidst the recovering backdrop from a global pandemic and the new hybrid arrangement for working, it seems like the spotlight has been thrown on one very important question: “Is there a difference working full-time and freelance?”

This is part of a series where Yahoo Finance Singapore will focus on different aspects of millennials and their finances. In this fifth part, we look at the financial benefits, as well as the pros and cons of being a gig worker versus being employed full-time.

Pros and cons of full-time employment

The financial advisors that Yahoo Finance Singapore spoke to all agreed that the biggest benefit of full-time employment is that it guarantees a stable flow of income every month. This means that young adults would have the capacity to save more and plan towards long-term wealth accumulation from an earlier age.

Other than the income, full-time employment also comes with a slew of health and other welfare benefits such as Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions that will serve well in the long-run. The CPF is a mandatory social security savings scheme for Singaporeans and permanent residents funded by contributions from employers and employees.

“From a strictly financial stability point of view, full-time employment will be able to provide more stability than gigs that may come and go, which lead to an inconsistent income and irregular working schedules,” advised Gregory Van, CEO of Endowus, a Singapore-based financial technology company.

Samantha Chong, 23, a fresh university graduate, has decided to start work on a full-time job as a graphic designer at a marketing firm instead of taking gig jobs.

“Full-time work allows me to have a steady flow of income and I don’t have to worry about not having enough money," said Chong, who graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in July 2022. "While the hours might be long on some days, I believe it is a give and take situation.”

More than that, financial experts have pointed out that full-time employment is also more beneficial for millennials like Chong who have always been certain on the career path they want to pursue post-graduation.

After all, getting a full time job in the industry will get you started on getting the foundation and learning about the industry, thus having an early start to building one’s savings.

“Every individual is unique, and their career aspirations or the types of experiences that they seek will definitely differ. I am just glad I know that design is something I have always wanted to do,” added Chong.

Pros and cons of freelancing

On the other hand, freelancing or gig jobs seem to be a popular option among young adults these days too. With flexible working arrangements on the rise, millennials may also enjoy the space to explore their creativity and time, which is one of the biggest benefits of freelancing and taking on gigs.

“Taking on gig jobs has given me the flexibility of time to do more leisure activities like running, reading and cycling. Since I am still young, I am not worried about not earning enough as compared to my peers,” said Bernard Lai, 26, another fresh graduate from NUS who has since taken on freelance photography jobs upon graduation.

Others may choose to be their own boss — whether its’ starting their own business or starting a freelance career. Either way, it is a great opportunity to hone one’s skills and discover a new passion that can be diversified into an alternative income stream in the future.

“Ultimately, don’t be afraid to explore and find something you enjoy doing and don’t be afraid to take risks or get out of your comfort zone, you’ll find it gets harder to do so as time goes on,” advised Salim Dhanani, CEO and co-founder BigPay, a financial mobile app.

Yet, the harsh reality is that freelancing isn’t all a bed of roses. Gig jobs might offer more flexibility in schedules and more time for relaxation, but the opportunities for building oneself up for lifelong employability may be limited.

Additionally, freelance workers may not receive CPF contributions, which can leave a big gap in their retirement nest egg, as CPF savings can grow with compound interest. This means that gig workers have to be more disciplined in saving up and setting aside contributions in their CPF accounts.

A personal choice

Whether full-time employment or freelancing upon graduation, there is no right answer. Given that there are pros and cons to each option, it is entirely a personal choice.

However, the final advice that financial experts agreed upon is that: “Whichever option you pursue, it is always good to start building a good capital base that you can fall back on if needed, or use to invest for additional income.”

“We often think of assets as being how much money or investments we have, but actually the most important financial asset a young person can have is themselves, or more specifically, one’s income-generation ability over an employment lifetime,” said Chuin Ting Weber, chief executive officer of MoneyOwl, a bionic financial advisor.

“I think that full-time employment would provide opportunities to build ourselves up, in terms of skills, mindset, attitudes and experience, which young people need as a foundation,” she added.

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