Are you new to the gig economy? Here are 5 ways to protect yourself

As a gig worker, you have the freedom to manage your time and prioritise other commitments in your life. While it is indeed appealing, there are certain risks that come with this line of work, such as unpredictable income, as well as the lack of corporate benefits and insurance, the latter of which will come in handy if you get hurt on the job.

Freelancer associations and unions are working hard to protect its members, championing their rights, developing and constantly raising industry standards.

For instance, the Visual, Audio, Creative Content Professionals Association champions the interests of Singapore’s growing pool of freelance creative professionals. NTUC’s Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit, or U FSE, looks after the interests of self-employed persons, including platform workers such as food delivery personnel and private hire drivers.

By 2024, gig workers younger than 30 will be required to contribute to their Central Provident Fund (CPF), as a way to safeguard their finances in their retirement years, according to a TODAY article.

A gig worker also bears the responsibility for protecting themselves and staying secure in the unpredictable world of freelancing.

Here are five tips for those considering freelancing.

  1. Understand your legal rights as a gig worker

Apart from the mandatory CPF contributions by 2024, platform companies, who are mainly ride-sharing and food delivery apps, will be required to compensate their workers for their injuries on the job. 

The compensation will be decided on the worker’s total earnings from the platform sector in which the injury was sustained. Currently, insurance payouts from these platform workers are often below what is mandated in the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) and are disadvantageous to injured workers who earn mainly modest incomes.

According to TODAY, platform companies’ coverage for death or permanent disability is largely in the S$10,000 to S$30,000 range, compared with employees’ entitlement under the Act of up to S$289,000.

Not getting paid is a major issue that freelancers in the creative field or service providers, such as freelance accountants, developers, coders and consultants, have to deal with.  Clients who are shady and unethical are dime a dozen in the freelance world – know that you can sue your client for payment via the Small Claims Tribunal.

  1. Keep track of your work hours 

If you are paid by the hour, it helps tremendously to create a timesheet. 

Logging your freelance work hours and maintaining an accurate record of your project hours are essential to ensure both that you are paid appropriately. Use a stopwatch to track the total number of hours worked as well. This will also provide a digital record of your freelance hours which you can refer back to both now and in the future.

  1. Always leave a paper trail and set boundaries with clients

Draft payment agreements for each client. Make sure every assignment begins with a brief or contract that stipulates the scope of work to be fulfilled, as well as deadlines and other important information. This ensures both parties are on the same page. It also minimises unnecessary changes and edits.

Never agree to a project without any documentation. Do not, in whatever circumstance, agree to a verbal contract. 

There have also been stories of freelancers getting their work samples stolen by a potential client. If you have written for reputable corporations or publications, use those in your portfolio instead. If you are a writer and your client requests unedited drafts of articles, get them to sign a clause that lets you retain the rights to your material, and that they are not to publish or share the material with third parties without your permission.

  1. Get insured and invest for the long-term

Without the corporate perks and benefits, it comes down to having the right amount of insurance for yourself and your loved ones. Set aside part of your earnings every month for insurance and a long-term savings or investment plan. 

  1. Stay healthy by taking breaks

Being a food delivery or private hire driver can be physically taxing. Long hours on the road and riding in bad weather can take a physical and mental toll. It is important to stay refreshed and healthy by taking frequent breaks, or you may risk getting into an accident while on the job.

It can be tempting for new freelance creatives and service providers to chase as many projects as they can to set up an impressive portfolio or to gain recommendations from clients. It’s also important to pace yourself regardless of where you are as a freelancer.

Remember the reason you became a freelancer is to have more control over time and your choice of clients. Pace yourself so you don’t get burned out early in your freelance journey.

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