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A Freelancer's Guide To Surviving COVID-19 In S'pore: Grants, Gigs And Groups

Covid-19 has brought on a ripple of far-reaching economic impacts, posing a serious challenge for all people. But for the self-employed, it’s especially tough to navigate through these times.

Many self-employed persons or freelancers have their livelihoods disrupted as activities are cut throughout the country.

And as government measures to curb the spread of the virus are tightened, more jobs will inevitably come to a standstill.

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s figures from 2019, there are about 196,000 self-employed workers in Singapore.

If you’re a part of the gig economy and concerned about how to get through this period, here are a few resources to help you:

Government Payouts

COVID-19 Government payouts Singapore
Image Credit: Sam Kang, Bloomberg

In the two supplementary Resilience and Solidarity budgets, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat set aside support for self-employed workers.

1. Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS)

Through the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS), you can receive three direct cash payments of $3,000 in May, July and October — a total of $9,000.

Eligibility criteria has been widened so that the scheme will automatically benefit about 100,000 people, up from 88,000.

You are eligible if:

  • You started working as a self-employed person on or before 25 March 2020.
  • You currently earn a Net Trade Income of not more than $100,000.
  • You don’t earn more than $2,300/month as an employee, for those who have employment work besides self-employment.
  • You live in a property with an annual value of not more than $21,000.
  • You do not own two or more properties.
  • You and your spouse together do not own two or more properties, if you are married.
  • Your spouse’s assessable income does not exceed $70,000, if you are married.

If you are 37 or older in 2020, and have declared positive self-employed income to IRAS or the CPF Board for Work Year 2018, you do not need to apply.

You will be automatically informed through letter and SMS, and will receive your first payout in end-May.

However, those who meet eligibility but don’t automatically qualify can apply through NTUC. Details on how to apply will be released by 20 April.

2. Temporary Relief Fund (TRF)

The Temporary Relief Fund supports lower- and middle-income Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who have lost their income and need immediate financial help with basic living expenses.

It provides a one-off cash payout of $500 in April 2020.

You are eligible if:

  • You are aged 16 and above.
  • You were retrenched or have lost at least 30 per cent of personal income after 23 January 2020, due to COVID-19.
  • You had a gross monthly household income of $10,000 or less, or a gross monthly per capita income of $3,100 or less prior to the loss of income.
  • You are not currently a beneficiary of ComCare assistance.

Application is open until 30 April 2020, and you can apply online here or at Social Service Offices and Community Centres.

3. Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme

Learning a new skill during this lull period can equip you well to seize new opportunities when the economy bounces back.

Self-employed persons can tap on an increased allowance of $10/hour (up from $7.50/hour) to attend SkillsFuture Series courses and specific sector-specific training courses.

This increased training allowance will be provided from 1 May 2020, on top of existing subsidies which cover up to 90 per cent of course fees.

Before registering for a training course, you will need to get a Letter of Eligibility from NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), which you can apply for here.

For other Government grants not mentioned above, check the full list of support packages here.

Industry Specific Grants

media production freelancer singapore
Image Credit: TallyPress.com

Some groups of freelancers, such as those in sports, arts and media, can also benefit from added support within their industries.

1. Sports – SportSG GetActive!@Home Grant

While gyms and group sports activities have ceased for now, Sport Singapore (SportSG) is calling for proposals to create home-based programmes to help people stay active.

The GetActive!@Home Grant will award a total of $2 million to successful applicants, and help them launch their projects in April and May.

Proposals can cover physical exercise videos, games and challenges, talk shows, health and wellness workshops and more.

The grant is open to both enterprises and self-employed sport professionals like coaches and fitness instructors, with applications open between 14 April and 8 May.

Find out more here.

2. Arts and Culture – NAC Digital Presentation Grant

Likewise in the arts scene, the National Arts Council (NAC) is ramping up digitalisation for arts and culture content.

Arts and culture groups and professionals including freelancers can tap on grants of up to $20,000 per project if their ideas are chosen.

NAC is also welcoming proposals for future projects that can be executed after circuit breaker measures are relaxed or lifted.

Applications will open from 14 April to 30 June, and projects should be completed by 30 September 2020.

Find out more here.

3. Performing Arts – Pasar Glamour Art Aid

Not-for-profit social enterprise Pasar Glamour has started a campaign to raise $100,000 for performing arts freelancers.

Their fund focuses on helping those who work in live theatre, dance and music, who have suffered a loss of income due to shows being cancelled or postponed.

Freelancers such as dancers, musicians, actors, playwrights, directors and technical crew can apply for a one-time $500 grant.

Applications will be open until 24 April, and applicants will be informed of the outcome by mid-May.

Apply here.

4. Film and TV – Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals Relief Fund

The Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals (SAMPP) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) have co-funded a $40,000 relief fund for film and tv freelancers.

It will give out grants of $300 to $500, targeted at helping “the most needy members” who are struggling with daily living or health and medical costs.

Beneficiaries must be SAMPP members, and the association is now offering free membership until the end of the year.

Find out more here.

5. Creative Writers – Singapore Unbound Relief Fund

In light of the pandemic, Singapore Unbound has postponed its Southeast Asia writing fellowships this year, and is using the funds to support creative writers.

This covers playwrights, screenwriters, songwriters, journalists, arts reviewers, and writers of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, who can apply to receive a grant of $280.

The fund is specifically intended to “help those in dire need of immediate help”.

Find out more here.

Platforms To Find Work

freelance part time jobs singapore

When it comes to finding jobs, you might be familiar with sites like Wantedly, Freelancer, FreelanceZone, Upwork, CultJobs and Glints.

However, if the well is dry during this time, you could widen your search by checking out different types of platforms, from government websites to more alternative sources.

1. MyCareersFuture / SGUnited Jobs

MyCareersFuture recently ran a virtual career fair, SGUnited Jobs, specifically to help place people in immediate short-term, temporary jobs.

While the main event is over, you can check back once in awhile as they still continue to organise smaller virtual career fairs for different industries.

Visit MyCareersFuture or SGUnited Jobs.

2. Facebook Groups

Facebook can also be a source of potential short-term jobs. Look up ‘freelance Singapore’ on Facebook and you will find many pages and groups where people advertise job postings.

There are also groups that are tailored to freelancers in specific roles, such as writers, personal trainers, makeup artists and more.

For starters, you can try joining groups like Singapore Freelance and Part-time Network or SG Full Time/Part Time/Freelance Jobs.

3. Telegram Channels

Similarly, Telegram is another useful platform where job ads are disseminated. You can often find postings for part-time and temporary contract positions, or even urgent jobs like safe distancing ambassadors.

When you subscribe to one of these Telegram channels, you’ll receive notifications whenever a new job is posted up.

Try channels like Singapore Part Time Jobs, SG Part Timers, sgQuickJobs or Singapore Event Jobs.

Stay Connected To Communities

freelancers singapore
Image Credit: katemangostar, Freepik

Lastly, dealing with so much uncertainty during this period is stressful, so don’t go through it alone.

Freelancers are part of a community in Singapore, and everyone is doing their best to survive until things get better.

1. Facebook Groups

Beyond tapping on grants and hunting for jobs, take this time to lean on one another and exchange tips, advice and resources too.

There are (once again) Facebook groups for that, such as this COVID-19 Support Group for creative and cultural professionals.

Members of the group share useful and relevant news updates, answer each other’s questions about experiences with applying for grants and programmes, and band together to start volunteer initiatives.

2. I Lost My Gig

A website called I Lost My Gig is collecting data about how COVID-19 has impacted the self-employed, which it will use to help vulnerable people.

Freelancers can contribute by sharing their own account of how they have lost work and income due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Along with that, the site also accepts write-ins from individuals and organisations that want to offer support, and compiles a list of resources from guilds and associations that freelancers can benefit from.

Visit I Lost My Gig here.

Featured Image Credit: The Hamilton Project

 

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