Singapore firm empowers freelancers in Asia to transform passions into profitable ventures

Professional Services  |  07 Jul 2023

(This is a multi-part business profile series by IndSights Research, featuring inspiring business leaders from different industries in Singapore.) 

CreativesAtWork was founded in 2012 by a pair of sisters – Jayce and Fanny Tham – who were driven by their aspirations to give creative talents a platform to showcase their work and to provide every freelancer in Asia the opportunity to gain greater control of their career paths.

“We started CreativesAtWork with the intention of helping our friends find jobs. Since then, our vision has grown. We want to help talented individuals find their rightful position in the world and assist them in scaling their businesses to reach the global stage. It is time for Asian talents to shine!”

 

An Unwavering Belief in Freelancing as a Way of Life

At the beginning, Jayce and Fanny faced numerous uncertainties. The 2010s were a time of disruption, where emerging ideas and technologies had the potential to disrupt or transform how people work, live, and engage in leisure activities. The pragmatic Singaporeans in them were prepared to return to corporate life if their endeavour did not prevail.

However, anecdotes of freelancers, who gave up their passions in exchange for unfulfilling jobs to make ends meet, constantly weighed on Jayce’s mind. This gave her the impetus to persevere through challenges and redefine CreativesAtWork to help freelancers transform their passions into profitable ventures.

Jayce and Fanny’s unwavering belief in freelancing as a way of life, alongside the accomplishments of their network of dedicated freelancers, propelled CreativesAtWork to success. Since then, they have never looked back.

 

The Power of Collaboration

Trainers and graduates of Freelancing 101 Bootcamp organised by CreativesAtWork (Image credit: CreativesAtWork)
Trainers and graduates of Freelancing 101 Bootcamp organised by CreativesAtWork (Image credit: CreativesAtWork)

In the first decade of business, Jayce and Fanny dedicated their efforts to securing employment opportunities for freelancers. However, their focus has since shifted towards empowering freelancers to establish and expand their own businesses instead.

“One plus one need not always equal to two. When freelancers combine their expertise, knowledge, and experience, they can create three, four, or even 10 times the impact.”

With the conviction that freelancers can achieve greater outcomes when they combine their expertise, CreativesAtWork launched Freelancer Nation in 2023 to provide a physical space for freelancers to collaborate and stay updated on trends, mentorship opportunities, and production facilities. Additionally, the company shifted its Freelancing Bootcamp to an e-Learning portal to enhance access to resources for freelancers from other industries. Through these initiatives, Jayce and Fanny aimed to foster a strong community of freelancers, and to establish networks that maximise business potential for them.

 

Training and Development

At Digital Skills for Own-Account Workers Workshop, participants are taught skills to keep up with digital trends (Image credit: CreativesAtWork)
At Digital Skills for Own-Account Workers Workshop, participants are taught skills to keep up with digital trends (Image credit: CreativesAtWork)

Deepening Jayce and Fanny’s belief in supporting the freelance community to reach their full potential, CreativesAtWork collaborated with government agencies to shape the future of the workforce by participating in workgroups and citizen panel discussions. It also helped to professionalise the industry through training opportunities, especially at a time when there was not much support for freelancers.

In May 2023, CreativesAtWork partnered with Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy to organise a five-day training session, named Digital Skills for Own-Account Workers Workshop, to empower participants with the essential digital skills needed to keep up with technology trends.

To provide funding support for freelancers, the company introduced BRIDGE to bring creative storytelling to life through collaboration with local businesses. Over 200 freelancers participated in the initiative and gained additional skillsets to advance their career. A total of 30 local companies also benefitted from the services provided by these freelancers.

 

Embracing the Future of the Workforce

“In today’s competitive hiring landscape, it is crucial to recognise the value of freelancers. Gone are the days of chasing academic qualifications and seeking lifelong employment because traditional norms have shifted. Talented individuals are no longer limited to traditional employment opportunities but are exploring alternative paths like freelancing.”

In Jayce’s view, the traditional norms for work have shifted, and many individuals are increasingly looking for alternative career paths, such as freelancing. This will have a significant impact on businesses across other industries because hiring policies and practices will be affected by the shift. Hence, it will be beneficial for companies to consider freelancers as part of their hiring strategy.

In the next five years, Jayce also anticipates the following developments in the creative industry:

1. Increase in demand for digital and virtual experiences:

  • The pandemic propelled the adoption of digital and virtual experiences. Freelancers will increasingly be expected to create immersive and engaging digital experiences for clients.

 

2. Integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning:

  • AI and machine learning are progressively integrated into content creation and marketing, shaping the creative process. As such, freelancers must stay informed about technology trends to keep pace with the dynamic business environment. Similarly, businesses in other industries can apply the same principle to adapt to the evolving business landscape. By keeping up with relevant advancements, companies can improve efficiency to meet customers’ needs.

 

3. Greater emphasis on sustainability:

  • As consumers grow more environmentally conscious, there is a rising pressure on businesses to adopt sustainable practices. Hence, freelancers may need to assist clients to develop environmentally responsible messaging and campaigns to contribute positively to the environment.

 

4. Continued growth of remote work

  • The global health crisis accelerated the growth of remote work, and this trend is expected to continue. Although remote working is not new to freelancers, embracing remote work and investing in the right tools – to support a remote workforce – are values that freelancers can help their clients with.

READ MORE: Is digital innovation the future for businesses?


Key Takeaways from Her Entrepreneurship Journey 

Recording a video (Image credit: CreativesAtWork)
Recording a video (Image credit: CreativesAtWork)

“Running a business is a challenging endeavour, and there is not a single set of parameters that can guarantee success. It is a combination of various qualities, skills, and life experiences that contribute to becoming a successful leader.”

Jayce believes there are many factors that contribute to the success of a business leader. The following are some leadership principles that she holds dear:

 

Building the right teams

Hiring passionate individuals in suitable roles is paramount for business success. Hence, it is crucial to assemble the right team of talents who align with a company’s vision and values.

In the early days of CreativesAtWork, being relatively new to the industry, Jayce and Fanny placed their trust on freelancers to complete a video project for a prominent client. They were unaware of the freelancers’ unprofessionalism, and unbeknownst to them, the freelancers took shortcuts, resulting in a failure to deliver satisfactory work. Consequently, Jayce and Fanny had to salvage the project on their own and faced the challenge of managing a dissatisfied client. Thus, they decided to bring in a new team of freelancers and worked hard to turn the situation around.

This incident prompted Jayce and Fanny to adopt a more rigorous approach to future onboarding and selection of freelancers. They recognised that regardless of how impressive a freelancer’s portfolio was, their attitude and professionalism should be given equal consideration in determining whether they should be engaged for collaboration.

 

Developing strong interpersonal skills and personal branding

While Jayce’s team members manage the day-to-day operations of CreativesAtWork, she is focused on cultivating trust and nurturing long-term partnerships with clients. To achieve this, she emphasised the importance on possessing strong interpersonal skills and maintaining a personal brand founded on integrity and reliability.

Jayce vividly recalled an incident when a client had to contact her because a previous agency failed to deliver satisfactory work. Consequently, the client reached out to CreativesAtWork for assistance. Patchwork projects can be challenging and risky, but this incident showed the trust that clients have in CreativesAtWork. This trust ensures that clients will turn to the team at CreativesAtWork whenever assistance is required.

 

Staying resilient

When things go awry, it is important for business leaders to stay true to themselves, have faith in their abilities, and trust the process. Jayce reminds herself that there is a purpose behind everything and advises aspiring entrepreneurs to be grateful for these experiences, whether they occur sooner or later.

She is also of the view that business leaders should actively encourage resilience among their team members and view failures as learning opportunities to foster a culture of growth mindset in the company. “By prioritising these principles, a business leader can create a positive work environment that attracts top talent, fosters productivity, and drives long-term success,” she explained.

 

Maintaining an open mind about technology adoption

Jayce advises aspiring entrepreneurs to adopt digital tools to streamline workflow and enhance productivity in business. She added that technology has improved accuracy, communication, and data analysis at CreativesAtWork, freeing up time for her to focus on strategic initiatives to grow the company.

Stakeholders of CreativesAtWork are also encouraged to participate in its innovation journey. For instance, the company organised Thriving Singapore, an immersive virtual exhibition and a series of online workshops which gathered local artists to display their work and brought the freelancer community together to explore Singapore’s culture. It also launched STOREYS, a storytelling movement which harnessed the power of video and social media to shed light on issues that matter to Singaporeans. Presently, CreativesAtWork is building its first AI-powered application platform, EXECUTE, which can provide clients with round-the-clock access to a talented pool of freelancers.

READ ALSO: Navigating the next normal – What Singapore companies can do to thrive in a post-pandemic world

 

Enhancing Capabilities by Tapping on Government Support

While running a business can be challenging, there are funding and support programmes by various government agencies which are available to a wide range of companies in Singapore. Entrepreneurs are resourceful, and Jayce is no different. She knew of some support programmes and utilised those that were relevant to CreativesAtWork.

 

Enterprise Development Grant

Jayce encourages aspiring business leaders to explore and tap on government resources, such as the Enterprise Development Grant, which supports projects that help companies upgrade, innovate, grow, and transform.

 

Market Readiness Assistant Grant

CreativesAtWork is in the midst of expansion with its first global office in the United States. Jayce applied for the Market Readiness Assistance Grant which helped CreativesAtWork in its international expansion by defraying the costs of overseas market promotion, business development, and set-up.

The United States is CreativesAtWork’s first overseas office as the country is home to the world’s largest economy with an abundance of market opportunities. By establishing a presence in United States, CreativesAtWork can gain access to a wide customer base, opening new streams of revenue. In addition, freelancers at CreativesAtWork will get the chance to gain hands-on experience by working on international projects, enhancing their skills and broadening their professional horizons on the global stage.

READ MORE: Government grants and initiatives

 

About this article 

This is a multi-part business profile series by IndSights Research, featuring inspiring business leaders from different industries in Singapore. Each article offers insights into the strategies, obstacles, and achievements faced by various business leaders, offering practical takeaways for executives and entrepreneurs to draw from. Through this initiative, we hope to encourage business leaders to implement best practices in their companies to promote growth and development. 

About IndSights Research 

Established in 2018, IndSights Research is a not-for-profit industry research entity under RySense Limited, set up by the Ministry of Communications and Information. We are dedicated to better understand Singapore’s business landscape and challenges faced by companies across all industries. 

Using robust approaches, we seek to provide reliable insights to shape government policies and initiatives for the benefit of the industry. We work closely with key stakeholders and business leaders to conduct surveys, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, and engagement sessions. In addition to research insights, we also provide local businesses with valuable information and support through curated industry perspectives and other business resources. 

This article is written by Cheng Ee Shan, Assistant Manager (Engagement), IndSights Research.



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