Whether by chance or choice, more and more Singaporeans are flocking to the gig economy. Here’s what you need to know about being a gig worker in a city where corporate careers have long been the conventional option.
Singapore’s gig economy is expanding.
In 2020, the proportion of self-employed individuals who are not employers reached 9.7% (or nearly 230,000 people)—the highest in 10 years.
This was following a clear increase from 2016 to 2018 in the level of non-permanent employment such as fixed-term contract and casual/on-call jobs, as observed by the Ministry of Manpower.
And according to increasing accounts gathered from the ground, this trend bears out. More and more Singaporeans are leaving the sheltered-but-confined corporate sector in the name of striking out on their own.
Clearly, the gig economy is here to stay. Well actually, it has been around for more than a while now, but is presently enjoying a surge in popularity, which can be attributed to two main factors.
The first is the rise of technology.
With everyone walking around with a miniaturised supercomputer in their hands, it is now easier than ever to organise workers and meet customer needs with breathtaking precision.
Or how you can set up your own website in an afternoon to advertise your freelance accountancy services. Or sell your preloved goods over live streaming.
The second is the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands lost their jobs as forced closures caused entire industries—from tourism and aviation to dining, entertainment, retail and more—to grind to a halt.
At the same time, people were forced to stay home, creating a surge in demand for delivery services, which were now the crucial lifeline connecting customers and businesses.
Sensing an opportunity, service providers such as Foodpanda, Deliveroo and Grab embarked on a fight for market share, throwing their doors open to recently displaced workers seeking a way to continue earning an income.
Surely, the increase in visibility of delivery riders, private-hire drivers and other gig workers helped to normalise what were previously shunned working arrangements.
After all, if people you know are making a decent living delivering meals around the neighbourhood, how bad can switching over to the gig economy be?
Not bad at all, judging by the willingness of some to give up hefty paychecks and stable jobs in exchange for lower earnings but higher freedom.
After reading all these, you may be wondering if you should take the plunge too. Well, here’s what you need to know about Singapore’s gig economy, and how likely it will suit you.
What kind of jobs can I find in the gig economy, and how much can I earn?
|Gig economy job||Average income|
|Private-hire driver||S$3,000 – S$5,000 per month|
|Food delivery rider||S$3,000 per month|
|Amazon Flex delivery driver||S$21 – S$26 per hour|
|Tutoring||S$20 – S$70 per hour|
|Babysitting or nannying||S$13 – S$15 per hour|
|Swimming coach/Fitness instructor||S$25 to S$50 per hour|
|Freelance service provider||Varies|
Private-hire driver – S$3,000 to S$5,000 per month
Private-hire drivers in Singapore usually work for Grab or GoJek, and can earn around S$3,000 to S$5,000 per month.
To qualify, you’ll need to have a valid driving licence and proper driver’s insurance. You’ll also need to undergo a training or orientation phase, as well as have a working smartphone from which you can operate the app used to accept and record your trips.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to have your own car to be a private-hire driver. Instead, you can choose to rent a car from your company. However, you’ll need to account for the daily rental (along with other costs such as petrol and maintenance fees) when tallying up your income.
Food delivery rider – S$3,000 per month
Food delivery is another popular job in the gig economy, and food delivery riders for Foodpanda, GrabFood or Deliveroo can earn around S$3,000 per month.
This is hard, painstaking work, as you’ll typically earn a few dollars for every order you manage to deliver. It is also mind numbing and repetitive, as you’ll need to go back and forth between eateries and residences all day long. And then, there’s always the danger of running into entitled customers who can spoil your day. (So be kind to your riders!)
But to put a positive spin on it, being a food delivery rider is an excellent way to lose weight and get fit, due to the sheer amount of physical labour required. The barrier to entry is also low, as all you’ll require is a working smartphone and a means of personal transport such as a bicycle.
Amazon Flex delivery driver – S$21 to S$26 per hour
Look, there’s no stopping Amazon by this point in time, so you might as well join them. The e-commerce behemoth has its own flexi-delivery programme that you can join to earn some extra income, to the tune of around S$25 per hour.
The job is simple—pick up and deliver Amazon parcels to customers using your own vehicle. You can book the delivery hours convenient to you, and the areas you want to work in, so it’s easy to fit this gig into your schedule.
Also, Amazon Flex pays weekly, so you can sign up for some quick cash if you need it.
Tutoring – S$20 to S$70 per hour
Long before working in the gig economy was hot, tutoring was already widely popular.
Tutors today are still widely sought-after in Singapore (not surprising, given how parents just become more competitive and kiasu generation after generation!). Part-time rates range from S$20 to S$70 per hour, with full-time tutoring paying even more. Certain subjects also attract a higher pay, as do teaching at higher levels.
Unlike other gigs, tutoring will require you to have the proper educational qualifications. You’ll also need to have the proper temperament in order to effectively produce results, which will ensure a steady stream of clients.
Babysitting or nannying – S$13 to S$15 per hour
If you’re good with children, babysitting or nannying can also be a convenient way to earn some extra cash.
Babysitters in Singapore can earn around S$13 to S$15 per hour. These aren’t the most stellar rates, but it’s a relatively easy job (unless you happen to land a finicky baby!). If you establish good rapport and trust with the parents, they are likely to stick with you, ensuring steady earnings.
Nannies who’ve established a good track record and long list of satisfied clients can enjoy high demand for their services.
If you’re a newcomer though, it may be better to start off by signing up with an agency.
Swimming coach/Fitness instructor – S$25 to S$50 per hour
Sports and recreation is another area where you can find part-time or on-demand working gigs.
Part-time swimming coaches in Singapore can earn around S$25 an hour, whereas full-time coaches can earn monthly salaries of up to S$4,000. You’ll need to have the proper qualifications, as well as the right temperament for teaching. However, you can choose whether to coach adults or children.
Fitness instructors, personal trainers, yoga teachers and the like are another category of sports and fitness-related gig economy workers in Singapore. These jobs can be performed part-time or full-time, depending on the number of clients you manage to get.
Personal trainers in Singapore can earn around S$50 per hour, but this rate could vary according to the actual sport or activity you teach, as well as your personal achievements (winning a competition or two can vastly raise your fees).
You can decide your own hours, choose the products you want to sell, and who you want to sell them to. You can also run your webstore on a seasonal basis, ramping up business activity during festive seasons, school holidays and other periods of high demand.
How much you can earn from e-commerce is highly variable, as there are many factors you’ll have to consider. As such, finding success in e-commerce may require a longer time period and/or higher investment in resources.
Freelance service provider
The beautiful thing about the gig economy is that as long as you can meet a demand, you can make a living. This has been evident for a long time now, with a great many individuals doing perfectly well for themselves as freelance service providers.
The options here are as varied as they are eclectic.
You could offer business-related services such as photography, graphic design, consultancy, copywriting, public relations bookkeeping and IT support.
Or you could venture into personal services like massage, bridal makeup and hairdressing, private catering, counselling, veterinary services, pet grooming or being a tour guide.
In terms of income, how much you can earn as a freelance service provider is often determined by the going rate for the sector you work in. However, top performers can often reap outsized rewards—just like in conventional employment.
Is the gig economy right for you?
|Greater flexibility in work hours||Your income may vary because of factors beyond your control|
|Greater freedom to choose projects/type of work||You may have less benefits|
|Can provide extra income||No opportunities for career advancement|
Pros of being a gig economy worker
The biggest advantage of switching over to the gig economy is the freedom and flexibility you’ll inherit.
Essentially, you are free to choose your own working hours, which allows you leeway to attend to family needs, or pursue other goals such as furthering your education or working on personal projects.
You will also have the freedom to choose which projects you want to work on, or the clients you wish to serve. Private hire drivers and delivery riders can also choose the locations they want to work, allowing them to be closer to, say, the school their kids are attending.
The gig economy is also a good way to get some extra income on short notice, due to the relatively informal nature of the industry.
Also, it is more acceptable to dip in and out in response to changing financial needs, whereas you won’t quite have the same freedom in a conventional position.
Cons of being a gig economy worker
As a gig economy worker, you’ll need to be willing to cope with income levels that may not be fixed.
Projects may get altered or cancelled, while orders, rides and deliveries may be affected by seasonality. These factors are largely beyond your control, but will impact how much work you get, and in turn, your income.
Another disadvantage is gig workers may not enjoy as many benefits and rights as full-time employees. These range from things like paid time off and sick leave, to dental and health insurance, and even lifestyle benefits like reimbursement for gym memberships, vacations and personal electronics.
Finally, being a gig economy worker also means you won’t have a career path for you to pursue. And, beyond the basics of your chosen gig, you aren’t likely to learn anything new either.
As such, you’ll need to plan and plot your own professional development, and make the effort to learn new skills, especially if you plan to become a full-time employee later on.
If you intend to make the full switch to a freelancer, be sure to shore up your savings. Check out the best savings account where you can build your emergency funds.
Read these next:
I Am An Artist/e — Here’s How I Make Money From The Arts: Chen Yixi
I’m A Freelancer And I Save $800 A Month
Are You Self-Employed? This Is How You Can Save Your Way To Success
Freelancer Insurance: A Guide For Gig Economy Workers In Singapore
School Didn’t Teach Me: How To Effectively Set Rates As A Freelancer To Succeed
By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.