Programme to help freelancers launch careers in the creative industry

June 30, 201610:06 am348 views
Programme to help freelancers launch careers in the creative industry
Freelance designer Justin Chan (left) and creative director of Black Design Jackson Tan are part of the Attach-and-Train Programme (ATP). Photo: WDA

SINGAPORE — For designer Justin Chan, starting his freelance career fresh out of school and army was a daunting task. Without any guidance or support system, simple things like how to go about finding projects, publicising his services and even preparing to be self-employed left him floundering.

“You’re really finding your ground, trying to know what to do and even if you know what to do, you’re not sure if you know you’re doing it right or professionally,” said the 23-year-old Temasek Polytechnic design graduate.

Likewise for freelance assistant producer Kenneth Ang, 25, the lack of structure or guidance left him feeling “misguided or lost”.

“The biggest challenge for freelancers, especially a fresh grad, is it’s very difficult to build our networks,” he added.

Since joining a pilot Attach-and-Train Programme (ATP) for freelancers, where they are mentored by industry professionals, both men have picked up constructive lessons to help advance their careers.

Mr Chan, who initially struggled with aligning his creative direction to his clients’ needs, found that his two months with creative agency Black Design have already taught him how to improve his designs and communication skills in dealing with clients.

Getting sent to workshops as part of the ATP also helped Mr Ang to become a better freelancer. “For example, one key takeaway I could think of was the workshop told us to treat ourselves as our own company, our own brand,” he said.

The ATP was part of a suite of initiatives unveiled yesterday during a Creative Freelancers Bootcamp organised by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) U Creative, and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).

Targeted at junior freelancers with less than two years of experience in creative industries such as animation, design, games and media, the ATP matches them with host companies for one to six months to work on projects to build their portfolio while undergoing on-the-job training.

For a start, the pilot aims to benefit 20 freelancers over the next two years.

The ATP also includes workshops that not only equip freelancers with business and industrial skills, but also educate employers on how to mentor and support their development.

A series of short but intensive industry-relevant courses for all freelancers in the areas of animation, design, film and television will also be offered from next month until early 2017.

The courses include infographics thinking, a junior camera crew course and freelancing in a digital world.

Mentors from host companies such as Mrs Zaihirat Banu Codelli, chief executive officer of Oak3 Films, said the whole industry benefits from having a pool of better trained freelancers.

“If there are 20 companies out there who are training new freelancers, I feel the value of this pool of freelancers (and) what they can offer back to the industry will be much higher,” she said.

Creative director of Black Design Jackson Tan, noting that the challenge facing creative industries is the inconsistency in quality and knowledge of freelancers, said freelancers learn how to be designers in school, but not how to be creative entrepreneurs.

“Sometimes they might not know how to manage themselves … They might put themselves in a disadvantaged position or might practise in a way that causes harm to the industry, for example in the rates that they charge or the way they conduct themselves,” he said.

Mr Tan added that the ATP also doubles as a working trial between the freelancer and company where full-time employment could become an option.

Sharing insights from a closed-door dialogue with about 220 freelancers at the bootcamp, NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing pointed out several areas of concern that the labour movement can work on with the freelancing community, namely in legal rights and protection of intellectual property, as well as accounting and financial management.

Stressing the importance of having employment contracts with clear and mutual understanding of expectations for both freelancers and employers, Mr Chan said the labour movement has made available a basic template for companies to follow.

As for financial matters, such as helping freelancers and employers better manage multiple contracts or issues relating to CPF and even taxes, Mr Chan added the labour movement can leverage on the NTUC U Associate network to provide such services.

“The freelancing community now may be one of the smaller communities but it’s definitely one of the fastest-growing communities … Through seminars like these, we are trying to equip them with the skills necessary for them to do well in their freelancing work, beyond the technical skills that they need to acquire on their own,” said Mr Chan.

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