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Navigating Singapore’s Freelance Visa Process: A Comprehensive Guide

Navigating Singapore's Freelance Visa Process: A Comprehensive Guide

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Many self-employed people worldwide have turned to the Internet to promote and sell their work. Presently, securing a freelance visa in Singapore opens doors to countless opportunities, with the increasing demand for skilled freelancers. After the pandemic, many came to realise that freelancing has become a lucrative source of additional income in Singapore’s thriving economy. Are you ready to explore how to get a freelance visa in Singapore and establish your operations in this dynamic city-state?

Singapore – The Gateway to Success in Asia

There are many advantages to working as a freelancer in Singapore instead of anywhere else. First and foremost, the country provides strong business and communication links with other countries. A solid international education system is also paired with excellent living and working conditions for expats. In addition, Singapore is an English-speaking city with good healthcare facilities and the safest country in Asia for 2022.

As one of the world’s leading cities for creativity and entrepreneurship, Singapore is an ideal place for freelance work. In addition, several Singapore freelance visas are available for those who wish to stay and work in the country long-term. Anyone planning on working as a freelancer in Singapore should have the necessary paperwork ready before attempting to do so. This guide will assist you in learning the work pass process and how you can start freelancing in the island nation.

Freelancing in Singapore

Freelancing in Singapore is considered a form of self-employment by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). It includes providing services for monetary compensation, commission-based agency work, or running an online business. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), freelancers are considered “own account workers” who own and operate a business without hiring paid employees and constitute over half of the self-employed population.

Navigating the world of freelancing in Singapore for foreigners can be both rewarding and challenging. As a self-employed individual, you have the flexibility to shape your own path, offering services, products, or expertise in a variety of fields. However, with this freedom comes the responsibility of managing your own taxes, finances, and business operations. In the later part of this guide, we will provide you with some tips for freelancing in Singapore.

What freelancing is in Singapore and the parameters to be one

To conduct freelance work in Singapore, they must fall within these parameters:

  • At least 17 years old.
  • A citizen or permanent resident of Singapore or hold an Employment Pass.
  • They are not prohibited from providing or receiving services under the law.  

Foreigners can only work in Singapore if they have an Employment Pass (EP), S-Pass, or Work Permit. Even those living in Singapore under a Dependant’s Pass (DP) or a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) may not work unless they have an Employment Pass, S-Pass, Work Permit, or Letter of Consent, which can be applied for through the MOM. Any of these takes on the function of a Singapore freelance visa. For more detailed information, you can read our article on the types of Singapore work passes and how to acquire one.

The Letter of Consent is specifically for DP and LTVP holders living in Singapore. The letter becomes necessary when their spouse’s or partner’s EP has expired and their own DP or LTVP is invalidated. Some expats have previously worked around this by registering a sole proprietorship company in Singapore and applying for a Letter of Consent under the new company. Still, there are rules to follow as a foreigner when registering a company.

You might also be interested in our blog article “Need a Singapore Work Visa? Here’s What You Need to Know

Singapore’s Freelance Visa

To work as a freelancer in Singapore, you must first understand the freelance visa process. Each type of Singapore freelance visa has its conditions, benefits, and validity that you must follow if you plan on staying in the country long-term. Understanding the different types of visas before applying is essential, so you can use them correctly and get your application approved quickly.

Work Visa Description
Personalized Employment Pass (PEP)

This pass is for highly skilled professionals with a minimum of 3 years of relevant work experience. To apply, the individual must have a job offer from a Singapore-registered company and meet the required salary set by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

You can contact an immigration expert like Lanturn to check if this is the right Singapore freelance visa for you.

Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) This work visa is for foreign entrepreneurs starting a new business in Singapore. Eligibility is based on meeting one of seven criteria, including intellectual property, a good business or investment track record, or backing from a venture capitalist or angel investor.
S Pass

With this pass, the dependents of Employment Pass (EP) or S Pass holders can live in Singapore while their spouse or parent is working. The pass holder must be able to support the dependent financially to apply for this. 

Can a DP holder work in Singapore? Find out in the article on starting a business with a DP.

Dependent Pass

With this pass, the dependents of Employment Pass (EP) or S Pass holders can live in Singapore while their spouse or parent is working. The pass holder must be able to support the dependent financially to apply for this. 

Can a DP holder work in Singapore? Find out in the article on starting a business with a DP.

Work Permit This permit allows unskilled or semi-skilled foreign workers to work in a specific sector and job in Singapore. It’s recommended to consult with visa specialists to determine the best fit for your needs. It’s valid for two years or the validity of the worker’s passport, whichever is shorter. The worker can only work for the specific employer and occupation stated on the permit.

Last January 2023, Singapore launched the ONE Pass. This work pass aims to attract skilled foreign talents that can help the country to grow. To learn more detailed information on this, read Lanturn’s article on what is ONE Pass.

 

Where to Look for Freelance Work?

With your Singapore freelance visa in hand, you can now proceed with looking for a project. Online platforms are an excellent way for freelancers whose skills and business can work with international clients to find job opportunities. By posting your profile and portfolio on these platforms, clients can easily find you. Here are some platforms you can check out:

If you prefer to find a freelance job within Singapore, you can browse the small ads on public notice boards or popular Singaporean forums and marketplaces such as:

The registration process for most of these portals is easy and a one-time effort. Furthermore, many of these portals offer consultation on the best skills to learn for freelancing, contract work, and more. Companies are increasingly outsourcing work to independent contractors, so these online portals are essential for any freelance professional.

 

Co-working Spaces in Singapore

Singapore is a renowned hub for entrepreneurs and startups in Asia, known for its strong economy, business-friendly environment, and educated workforce. The city-state also offers a variety of co-working spaces for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and startups, providing an attractive and flexible alternative to working from home. These spaces offer high-speed internet, printing stations, scanners, copiers, and other business solutions.

Here are some of the top co-working spaces available in the Lion City:

As a Singapore freelance visa holder, you might prefer to do work from home. So these co-working spaces are also great for freelancers who want to meet up with clients physically to discuss essential details on projects or to collaborate with other freelancers on bigger projects.

Payment Methods for Freelancing in Singapore

Navigating Singapore's Freelance Visa Process: A Comprehensive Guide

In Singapore, freelancers typically have several options for payment arrangements. These are:

1. Invoicing: Freelancers can issue invoices to clients for the services they have provided. It is a common method for longer-term projects or ongoing work.

2. Online Payment Platforms: Freelancers can use online payment platforms such as PayPal or Wise to receive payments from clients. It is a convenient option for international clients or small transactions.

3. Bank Transfer: Freelancers can ask clients to transfer payment directly to their bank account. It is a common method for larger transactions or for clients who prefer to pay via bank transfer. If you need help choosing the right bank, we have listed the top four banks for Singaporean businesses, which you can check out.

4. Cheque: Freelancers can also accept payment via cheque. It is less common but is still an option for some clients — especially if it involves a more considerable amount.

About Taxes

As a holder of a Singapore freelance visa, keep in mind you might have to pay your taxes. Yes, income earned through freelancing is subject to taxation. The rate at which it is taxed depends on an individual’s tax residency status. Those who have stayed and worked in Singapore for 183 days or more in the previous year are considered tax residents and must pay taxes at a progressive rate, ranging from 2% to 22%, depending on income. Non-tax residents are subject to a flat withholding tax rate, which varies depending on the type of income. For freelancers working as professionals, the option to be taxed at either 15% of gross income or 22% of net income is available.

If you’re looking for more information, here are some articles that could be helpful:

Singapore’s Self-Employed Scheme

Got your Singapore freelance visa? Great but you also need to know that it is mandatory to contribute to your Medisave account. The Medisave account is a medical savings program for citizens and permanent residents administered by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board. It applies to earning over S$6,000 in net trade income per year. Contributions to CPF’s Ordinary and Special Accounts are optional.

It is important to note that though Medisave and MediShield are both medical savings plans offered by the Singapore government, they serve different purposes. Medisave is a mandatory savings plan allowing citizens and permanent residents to set aside a portion of their income for medical expenses. While MediShield is a low-cost, basic health insurance plan that helps with hospitalisation and large medical bills. MediShield is optional, but citizens and permanent residents are strongly encouraged to have it. Medisave is primarily used for hospitalisation and day surgery expenses, while MediShield is used to pay hefty hospital bills that Medisave cannot cover.

The amount of contributions to Medisave is based on your age and annual earnings. You can use the Self-Employed Medisave Contribution Calculator to determine the amount. Contributions must be made within 30 days of receiving a notice from the IRAS or by May 31 of the following year if no notice is received.

5 Tips for Freelancing in Singapore

The freelance workforce plays a vital role in Singapore’s economy as companies increasingly prefer short-term contracts over permanent employees. With your Singapore freelance visa, be confident about joining the country’s vibrant business market. Freelancing offers unlimited income potential but also comes with the risk of inconsistent pay.

Here are five tips to help you succeed in Singapore’s freelance market:

1. Build a strong portfolio of work that showcases your skills and experience.

Your portfolio can also serve as a valuable reference for clients to consider when hiring you. A well-made portfolio can also help you stand out from the competition and increase your chances of being chosen for a project. Include a diverse range of work and highlight your most impressive and relevant projects when creating your portfolio. You can also customise your portfolio to showcase your best work that would fit in with the projects or clients you are applying for. Don’t forget to keep your portfolio up-to-date, as you create new work.

2. Continuously learn and improve your skills to stay competitive in the market.

Having a wide range of skills and knowledge can give you an edge over your competition. Sometimes, a client would prefer to work with you because you possess the knowledge and expertise to handle specific programs or software.

Investing the effort to evaluate your skill set is a crucial step. Pinpoint the specific areas where improvement is needed, and proactively address these gaps. Numerous online platforms and courses offer valuable resources to boost your abilities. In addition, consider engaging with industry blogs, forums, and YouTube channels to stay attuned to the ever-evolving trends and advancements. By adopting a proactive approach, you can continuously refine your skills and remain well-equipped in today’s dynamic freelance landscape.

3. Stay organised and manage your time effectively to meet deadlines and deliver high-quality work.

Time management and organisational skills are beneficial to any professional freelancer. Set clear and achievable goals, create and follow an organised schedule, and utilise tools and resources to help you stay on track.  You can take advantage of popular tools like project management software, time tracking software, and to-do list apps in organising your tasks. In this way, you can stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

By managing time effectively, individuals can increase productivity and efficiency, leading to greater success in their work.

4. Market yourself by building a strong online presence.

In a competitive market like Singapore, you must be able to market your skills and services. You can maintain a small website, be active on social media, and regularly update online profiles to showcase your skills and experience. A strong online presence can help increase visibility and credibility, leading to more project opportunities and clients.

5. Network and build relationships with other freelancers, entrepreneurs, and potential clients.

Freelancing can take considerable time to create a stable client base. Individuals can gain valuable insights, learn about new opportunities, and establish a support system by connecting with others in the industry. Networking with entrepreneurs and building relationships with potential clients can lead to increased business and long-term partnerships.

Next Step – Incorporation

Freelancing is also another way of testing out a business idea, if your business has flourished you can move to the next step — starting your own business. If you want to make sure that you are ready for this new venture, find out the 5 reasons why you should incorporate your business.

Lanturn is one of Singapore’s leading corporate service providers, aiming to assist businesses and entrepreneurs in growing towards success. We provide a wide range of business solutions from company incorporation, corporate secretarial services, payroll, accounting and tax solutions. Lanturn also has a proven track record of assisting clients with immigration needs from work passes to permanent residency.

Are you looking to start your career in Singapore? You can avail of our visa support services, starting from a full consultation to finding the right work pass for your needs, up to submitting the application and appeals.

Start your journey today, and schedule a call with our team.

 

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