EVENT RECAP & VIDEO: Best Tips for Freelancing in Shanghai

Last week, IPWS kicked off the new year by hosting a sold out event: The Power of the Side Hustle – How to Freelance in Shanghai’s ‘Gig Economy’.

The concept of ‘Gig Economy’ has become increasingly more popular lately, especially in Shanghai. Whether being  a ‘freelancer,’ ‘working remotely’ or being a ‘digital nomad,’ it seems like so many people are shifting the way they work.

For our first event of the year, we gathered 6 experienced freelancers to share their best tips and tricks on how to get started, how to keep it going and how to actually make a living and become successful in this challenging market.


The best tips for Freelancing in Shanghai:

Jill Tang, Co-founder at Ladies Who Tech and TheBrewGirl:
Don’t be afraid to say “No” and no free work, always ask for down payment!

Rita Malvone, Strategic Consulting – Operations Excellence:
You never know where clients, ideas, or opportunities will come from, so treat every interaction as an important piece of your puzzle – from the time you walk out of your apartment until the time you kick off your shoes at the end of the night you have to be “on” to build your brand and carve your niche. 

Daisy Tang, Brand Consultant:
1. Price your value not your time. 2. Diagnose as long as you can before you begin execution. We are hired to achieve business goals. Make sure you understand fully what those goals are and what challenges your clients face to achieve them. 3. Empathy.

Maria Pastorelli, Intercultural Consultant and Facilitator:
My advice : know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. Once you figure that out, know your worth (as in time or money or values or anything else).

Chris Giles, Freelance Photographer and Graphic Designer:
Lots of people when they start out (in my opinion) seem to focus a lot of time and energy on building their brand or marketing their services, and I think at least at the beginning it’s more important just to focus on doing your work as well as you can and ensuring that your first clients are happy ones. In the long run, this will probably result in more work anyway because if you have happy clients then they’ll end up doing a lot of the marketing for you.

Secondly, and this is coming from someone to whom organisation and timekeeping definitely does not come naturally, you have to plan to be more organised than you ever have been at your previous jobs. You won’t have other team members to fall back on if you’re getting swamped so it’s up to you to realistically set out how much work you can actually do in a given amount of time. It gets easier as you figure out how to work most efficiently by yourself and also how to work with and communicate with your clients, but it’s definitely a learning curve and it extends beyond just your work life as well — at the beginning your income will most likely be quite unpredictable so you have to be prepared to manage your money at least at the start.

George Lobo, Freelance Art Director:
My freelance wolf advice: after a few years doing this I’d recommend that 1) professionals brand themselves, or see themselves more like an independent company/studio rather than just a freelancer. 2) Having a savings buffer is important, but not as much a portfolio of skills, projects and constant evolving/adaptation to the market/scenario one is in. 3) Get sorted your legal payment pipeline: wofe, fapiao partner, freelancer broker. 4) Have an aim where do you want to be as a professional in the long term. 5) Diversify your network/projects source constantly.

We were delighted to see so many familiar faces attending the event, as well as new members joining our brilliant Shanghai community of international professional women. In addition to hearing the expert panel discussing bigger questions around the topic of freelancing in Shanghai, attendees also had the opportunity to sit down with panelists in more intimate round tables, giving them the opportunity to ask tailored questions and receive specific expert advice.

Attendee testimonials:

Natalie Chan, Associate Partner at SJP:
“Great event with well-thought format! Panel discussion with experts shared a lot of insights with their experiences. The breakdown of group discussion after added a lot of value too, as individuals get to have a 1-on-1 with the guest speakers. The opportunity to dive in with some tailored questions were valuable. Looking forward to another great event by IPWS!”

Ann Charmaine:
“My top most concern in freelancing is the legality of it. Whether you’re doing it part time or full time, it is a business. So it’s good to know what options I have such as setting up a WOFE to ensure any products or service will be done under good transaction and documentation for your own protection.”

Giuliana Moroni
“First time participating in an IPWS event and won’t be last! Great insight into how to get started and succeed as a freelancer in Shanghai. We had the chance to have 1-to-1 conversations with the panel speakers; truly inspiring people! I got to meet women of all ages and professional backgrounds. A big shout out to IPWS Team for organizing an amazing event!”

A big thank you to the panelists for sharing their valuable expertise, as well as to WeWork for providing us with a beautiful venue at their WeWork Weihai Lu co-working space. And of course, thank you to all attendees!

See you at our next event Biohacking: Think Clear by Feeding the Second Brain – Your Gut! on Tuesday, January 30th. Sign up here!

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