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PayPal Global Freelancer Survey
More than half of freelancers surveyed in four Southeast Asia markets have experienced not being paid: PayPal Global Freelancer Survey
  • New PayPal study reveals challenges faced by freelancers in four Southeast Asia markets, a key issue being a prevailing attitude against freelancers
  • Digital platforms enable ease and convenience for freelancers to receive payments and access new assignments and work opportunities
  • Growing popularity of freelancer platforms expected to continue in Southeast Asia
1 MARCH 2018, SINGAPORE – A new study by PayPal has found that digital platforms are making a positive impact on the freelancer community in four Southeast Asian markets.
Following an online survey of 11,324 freelancers and freelance considerers[1] across 22 markets worldwide in October 2017, of which 1,602 freelancers or freelance considerers were from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, PayPal’s “Global Freelancer Survey” revealed the extent to which digital platforms provide ease and convenience for freelancers to receive payments as well as to access new assignments and work opportunities.
Findings from the survey also discovered that at least half of the freelancers (58%) surveyed in these four Southeast Asian markets have had experiences of not being paid for their work and services. On average, nearly half of freelancers (48.5%) surveyed in these markets attributed payment issues to a prevailing attitude of not taking freelancers seriously.
 “Southeast Asia is a key market given the region’s growing population and increasingly vibrant entrepreneurial economy. We are seeing more young people choosing to freelance as being your own boss offers more autonomy and flexibility than a nine-to-five job. As they become integral to the global economy, it is critical for them to be accorded the same respect that other professionals receive. We should do more to elevate the standing of freelancers as a community and empower them in their autonomy,” said Mr. Rahul Shinghal, Managing Director of PayPal Southeast Asia and Head of Merchant Support for PayPal APAC.
Empowering freelancers with seamless payment processes across the region
Digital payments platforms play a transformative role for freelancers in Southeast Asia as they are able to help tackle this perception issue through more secure and seamless payment methods for the community. Through digital payment methods, freelancers across the region now enjoy a wide range of payment methods that offer both security and speed in billing customers and receiving payments.
PayPal and bank transfers were found to be popular payment methods for freelancers in these markets, with 85% accepting PayPal payments and 79% accepting bank transfers. PayPal was cited as the most widely accepted payment method in Singapore (76%), Indonesia (88%) and Philippines (92%), with the exception of Vietnam where more freelancers accepted a bank transfer (87%).
More significantly, digital payment platforms are also enabling a more seamless payment process, transcending fragmentations of the Southeast Asian market due to divisions in geography as well as within the financial services landscape of the region.
The study revealed a disparity in preferred payment methods amongst freelancers’ client base as international clients opt for PayPal as the preferred payment method, with an average of 76% of payments from international clients made via PayPal. This is compared to an average of 30% of payments from international clients made via bank transfer. Bank transfers were found to be the preferred payment method among domestic clients.
“At PayPal, we are committed to empowering communities and businesses to participate in the global economy through innovative financial payments solutions. We recognise the importance of equipping freelancers with confidence and the right tools to help sustain their business across Southeast Asia and more,” said Mr. Shinghal.
Not only do digital payment platforms facilitate payments across the region, they also ensure that freelancers receive payment with ease and convenience. Nearly half of freelancers surveyed use invoicing software to issue invoices and secure payment from both domestic and international customers. In addition, more than 85% of freelancers surveyed preferred to withdraw funds via PayPal, citing ease and speed as key advantages of the platform, outperforming bank transfer and other online payment platforms.
Ease of withdrawal (40%) and a speedy payment process (36%) are however only secondary factors to security, which was highlighted by many (48%) as the top-most consideration in deciding their preferred payment method.
Enhancing job security through freelancer platforms
Job security and business sustainability is a primary concern for many freelancers in the region as an average of more than 40% of freelancers surveyed highlighted irregular income as a key issue. Freelancer platforms are growing in popularity in Southeast Asia as many freelancers are now turning to these platforms to find new assignments and work opportunities.
More than 80% of freelancers in the four Southeast Asia markets have used a freelancer platform. The study found that freelancers with more international clients are more likely to use a freelancer platform than those with a domestic client focus. Freelancers with a domestic client focus rely on other means of gaining new assignments. These include word-of-mouth (48% in Singapore), online job boards (49% in Indonesia) and social media networks (58% in Vietnam). The Philippines is ahead of the pack with 58% of the freelancer community receive work through freelancer platforms.
Freelancers surveyed, including non-platform users, highlighted the flexibility of these platforms and their ease of use as key advantages. In Indonesia and Philippines, where the majority of the community use these platforms, the survey revealed that these platforms also enables freelancers to get their preferred type of work.
 “New generation freelance platforms can provide many businesses and freelancers with services such as refinement of work scopes, electronic payments options and dispute resolution. These platforms are helping to set the stage for skilled and highly experienced freelance talents to get high-quality work by providing them with exclusive access to a community of other extremely skilled talents and a roster of top clients. What freelancers have found helpful is when platforms also ensure that candidates go through a thorough screening process - assessing their specialist skillsets and domain knowledge as well as ‘soft’ qualities such as their ability to communicate and service clients.
“Such platform services help freelancers to gain the trust of top clients, and in turn provides them with preferred assignments. These services have also helped to remove the issues of previous generation of “notice-board marketplaces” and allowed freelancers to focus on putting their talent to work,” said Ms. Yiwen Chan, Co-Founder of, a platform that matches businesses to a curated network of top freelance talents in marketing, editorial and specialist fields.  
Despite limitations of existing platforms in completely meeting the needs of freelancers in the various Southeast Asian markets, more than 73% of freelancer platform users said that they will use these platforms more in the future.
"Using freelancer platforms, I have been able to acquire clients from the United States as a virtual assistance. Digital payment options like PayPal also ensures I get paid. In addition, I’ve been attending workshops organised by PayPal for freelancers to further equip myself so that clients will take me more seriously and being connected to a wider network of freelancers through these workshops makes me feel more supported,” said Filipino freelancer, Ms. Pinky Joy Janaban.
“Not only do freelancer platforms connect me with new assignments or clients, these platforms also provide freelancer protection where freelancers can appeal against clients who are causing issues such as payment for example. While more can be done to enhance our job security as a freelancer, I think these platforms are a great start. When it comes to receiving payment, it is important that this is done through a safe and reliable method such as PayPal. It has been the best way for me to receive international payments and it continues to fulfil all my needs as a freelancer,” shared Ms. Talita Putriyanti, an Indonesian freelance translator and copywriter.
To see more information from the Global Freelancer Insights Report, visit the page here
[1]Freelance considerers refer to individuals who are considering becoming a freelancer or are about to become a freelancer.