According to the Economic Development Board, there are roughly 37,400 international companies operating out of Singapore, which includes 7,000 multinationals, attesting to the fact that Singapore has steadily made a name for itself in recent years as a hub for businesses big and small. Much of this growth can be attributed to the country’s innovation-led economy, generous tax regime, labour laws and a strong emphasis on supporting businesses of all sizes.
Despite this, many small businesses continue to struggle, in part because of a lack of talent with specialised skills. Whilst technology such as automated accounting software has helped overcome some of these skills gaps, there are many functions that still require a human touch – often relating to customer service, IT, data science, digital marketing and design.
But, without the capital or headcount to hire those specialists full-time, many local enterprises, and particularly SMEs, face challenges when trying to take their business to the next level.
The role of the gig economy
Fortunately, SMEs can lean on a robust freelance workforce, which represents 10% of the entire workforce in Singapore and that consists of professionals across different levels of knowledge, ranging from those who are young in their careers to those with years of experience. This workforce has been reinforced thanks to Singapore’s Tripartite Standard on Flexible Working Arrangements, a move that has helped shape the work-life integration in Singapore. Within this freelance workforce, is a thriving gig economy, wherein businesses hire freelancers for one-time projects or for contract work using online platforms.
In Singapore, many industries have started to adopt outsourcing operations model, but the ones that have been the most active thus far are the IT, marketing, and accounting industries. For businesses that embrace the gig economy ethos, there are several proven benefits. Chief amongst them is the access to a wide and highly talented network of workers that are helping businesses achieve targeted outcomes, leading to greater efficiency and profits.
By outsourcing functions and leveraging the gig economy, companies can engage specialised talent on a short-term or as-needed basis, whilst saving a significant amount in the long-term on employee benefits and other associated overheads. The agility afforded by short-term talent also allows companies to move faster and see results much earlier than they would if they needed to go through the often time-consuming hiring process.
Beyond this, the gig economy also provides opportunities to engage with more efficient, creative, innovative and focused specialists across various fields. So, if you’re a company looking to expand or strengthen your business in the region, you can now tap into a robust network of local talent that better understand the market, consumers, language and cultural nuances.
Exercise due diligence
With the right approach, a thriving gig economy can be a huge economic boon. But companies must ensure they do their due diligence by vetting specific skills sets of the talent they’re looking to hire, examining portfolios and any seeking reviews from past clients. One way to do this is by asking a particular individual’s personal and professional networks. Some online platforms also provide gig concierge services to help organisations better match with the right talent. Beyond this, it is critical to speak to whoever you pick to ensure the “chemistry” is right.
Once a company has found the right professional, it is important to ensure all parties have outlined a detailed scope of work. The biggest friction point between companies and talents is often disagreements regarding expectations and deliverables. For example, if you’re looking to engage a social media specialist, it would be better to say “XX number of posts” rather than “a month’s worth of content”. The scope of work should also include a detailed timeline and payment schedule to avoid any confusion that could lead to disputes.
How the gig economy can work for you
The future of the gig economy looks bright. Top talent is now choosing to enter the gig economy in order to exercise more autonomy and ownership over their work, as well as flexibility over their schedules.
To drive real business expansion, companies should consider leveraging talent in the gig economy not simply as service vendors, but as critical growth partners. This can include sharing more on your strategic direction with them and investing time in helping them better understand your business. By treating them as an integral part of your business, individuals can give deeper, more impactful counsel and will be more committed to helping you achieve your business objectives.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
Do you know more about this story? Contact us anonymously through this link.
Andrew Hu is the General Manager at ZomWork and aims to make it the ideal home for freelancers in Southeast Asia. Andrew has over 13 years of APAC leadership and strategy experience with his recent focus on deep tech including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR). He graduated from Oxford University with a MA in Jurisprudence.