Arts Resource Hub Digital Repository
Arts Resource Hub (ARH)'s digital repository comprises information on training opportunities and career development, financial planning and legal support, as well as other resources. Subscribers can also access and use the dedicated physical spaces at Goodman Arts Centre, Stamford Arts Centre and 42 Waterloo Street. Regular talks for the community are organised at these spaces to facilitate collaborations and networking between art-makers, programmers and those behind the scenes, to build a viable portfolio career in Singapore.
As Self-Employed Persons (SEPs) are essential to the vibrancy of our arts ecosystem with varied skills and capacity to contribute to a range of roles across the industry, the focus is to support individuals who earn and make a living from being a freelancer in the visual, literary and performing arts. This would include:
- Full-time freelancers in the arts (who may be sole proprietors)
- Part-time freelancers (i.e. employed in other capacities and who freelance in the arts on a part-time basis)
- People who go through phases in their careers as a freelancer and employee
- Arts students about to enter the arts workforce/industry
ARH aims to cater to the cross-cutting needs of SEPs across art forms which complement the genre-specific support available in the wider arts community. While these resources are non-exhaustive nor an endorsement of any websites or programmes listed, ARH hopes to help artists make informed choices, based on their priorities.
For any feedback on how to improve the resources and services provided, please write to us here.
NAC believes in supporting the development of arts professionals, to equip them with a diverse range of skills and advance their artistic practice. NAC’s capability development efforts cater to a wide range of artists and SEPs across art forms and areas of practice, from arts education and artmaking to community engagement and technical and specialist services. Find out more about the programmes and residencies offered by NAC and our partners here.
Beyond NAC’s efforts to support leadership, career and artistic development, other training, residencies and career development platforms that may be of interest to arts SEP and freelancers include:
- Republic Polytechnic’s School of Technology for the Arts (STA) has a series of Gig Economy courses to help arts and media freelancers remain competitive in the industry. The series includes financial management, risk evaluation, idea pitching and personal branding.
iii. Getting the Gig
- Esplanade Academy supports aspiring individuals and industry professionals to learn, develop and practise professional and technical skills for the performing arts in the areas of technical theatre, venue management, operations and community engagement.
- SkillsFuture Singapore provides Singaporeans with training opportunities to develop their fullest potential regardless of life stage or career, with dedicated training pathways for each life stage.
- The Backstage Affair Apprenticeship Programme (BAAP) provides aspiring production and stage managers a safe and structured space, equipping them with the technical competencies, life skills and professional network to start out on a career as a backstage management professional.
- The Asia Creative Writing Programme aims to expand development opportunities for writers and deepen intercultural understanding within Singapore and across the region. They provide workshops, courses, masterclasses and mentoring opportunities for writers.
- Fundraising for Impact: What’s the Plan is a course that will enable you to expand funding options and consider fundraising as an alternative source of revenue for your arts organisation.
Local and International Residencies
Note: In light of the global COVID-19 situation, please refer to the individual websites for the latest information.
- Centre 42 offers a number of residencies for the development of artistic practices and process-driven work, new writing development, and engagement with Singapore theatre history, as well as encouraging artists to engage with and respond to the archival and documentation of their process.
- Dance Nucleus’ Element is a curated artist residency programme and workshop series with an emphasis on project development and articulation of practice-based research.
- DECK’s Artist-in-Residence (A.i.R) is a year-round programme that aims to nurture new, experimental photographic endeavours in Singapore and Asia.
- Grey Projects has residencies for both local and international artists from a range of disciplines including design, photography, literature, film and performing arts.
- National Library Creative Residency invites creatives from different artistic disciplines to draw inspiration from and reinterpret the National Library Board's collections to make them more engaging to a wider community of users.
- NPE is a print solutions company that offers residencies to contemporary artists and in collaboration with its in-house fine art digital print and paper experts.
- The NTU CCA Singapore Residencies Programme supports artists, curators and researchers from Singapore and abroad, serving as a platform for cultural and artistic exchange in Southeast Asia.
- Objectifs’ residency is open to artists who incorporate photography and film into their work
- Singapore International Foundation (SIF) offers an Arts for Good Fellowship that comprises webinars and exchange programmes.
- [International] Microresidence Network brings together artists and hosts of artist-in-residence, artists to find support for self-directed activities as well as connect with like-minded artists.
- [International] On the Move provides information on cultural mobility with residency opportunities and opens calls for artists and arts workers.
- [International] Res Artis provides a vast worldwide network of artist residencies.
- [International] TransArtists shares various artist-in-residence programmes (AiR) for creative professionals.
- e2i is a tripartite initiative of the National Trades Union Congress that serves as a bridge between workers and employers, connecting with workers to offer job security through job-matching, career guidance and skills upgrading services.
- Workforce Singapore (WSG) runs career events and workshops for individuals of varying career development needs. They offer a host of useful resources including a structured job search guide, My Career Future portal, and free support from career advisors. Find out more about their upcoming events here.
NAC offers the Arts Scholarship for outstanding individuals who can play a leadership role in shaping the future arts and culture scene as well as funding support for artists and arts organisations to produce and present diverse and distinctive arts. Beyond these opportunities within the industry, arts SEPs and freelancers can explore other scholarships, funding support and open calls. The following is a non-exhaustive list of resources to consider:
- Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Singapore Foundation provides scholarships to undergraduates who have keen interest in Japanese culture to embark on a one-year general study trip to Waseda University and the International Christian University, both located in Japan.
- Jazz Association (Singapore)’s scholarship programme focuses on studies in either Jazz Composition or Performance.
- Ngee Ann Kongsi’s scholarships and bursaries are available for Teochew individuals who are pursuing studies locally.
- Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations offers sponsorship for undergraduate studies in Chinese language and translation at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), as well as scholarship for outstanding students pursuing studies in selected top-ranking Chinese Universities.
- Tan Kah Kee Foundation offers postgraduate scholarships for those pursuing their PhD or Master's degrees.
- National Heritage Board (NHB) - heritage related grants
- National Youth Council (NYC) - grants for or benefitting youth
- Singapore International Foundation (SIF) - grants that support arts-based social impact initiatives
- Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Foundation - SPH’s Arts Fund which enables the underprivileged to enjoy the arts
- Asia Europe Foundation - grants across Asia and Europe
- Lee Foundation - philanthropic work, including the arts. Proposals can be sent to the Lee Foundation (65 Chulia Street, #44-01, OCBC Centre, Singapore 049513)
Other useful related resources include a series of step-by-step videos on writing a successful grant application by Singapore Drama Educators Association (SDEA) and Jeffrey Tan.
- Arts Republic – platform for open calls in Singapore
- Arts Equator’s Lobang - list of available open calls, job postings and other opportunities open to people from Singapore and Southeast Asia
- ASEF culture360 - platform for international open calls, residencies and more
- Auditions Free – platform for casting calls and paid job opportunities
- CastCaller - platform for actors and modes and their job recruiters
- Official Singapore Casting Calls & Auditions and The Casting Call In Singapore – public Facebook groups for direct casting and audition calls
- Onlinecasting Singapore - platform to connect casters and talents for movie, tv, model, music and theatre industry in any form.
- 2023 Art + Tech Lab Call - accepting proposals for artist projects until Wed, 22 Feb 2023 (view past projects here)
Financial planning is a prudent consideration for SEPs and freelancers. While SEPs and freelancers may not receive a regular income or have Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions from employers, income declaration and MediSave contributions are still important. This is because such records of regular income declaration will be required for example, when taking a bank loan to buy a house or apply for credit cards.
Insurance is also a form of risk management that may help protect against income loss. Without subsidised or sponsored healthcare benefits, the responsibility of the business assets and liabilities may fall on the individual. Each one of us will have unique needs and an understanding of the value of insurance, so there is no one “optimal” amount of insurance to purchase.
Find out more about CPF contributions, filing of taxes and useful information about insurance for freelancers.
Disclaimer: The National Arts Council (“NAC”) makes available the content, information and materials (“Content”) on the NAC Arts Resource Hub website for general informational purposes only. Nothing on the Arts Resource Hub website should be taken, or be construed in any way, as legal advice, personal advice, or professional advice of any kind on any matter. The Content on the Arts Resource Hub website is entirely informational, offering readers general information and resources. NAC shall not assume any responsibility or legal liability whatsoever by any and all reliance which you may have on the Content on the Arts Resource Hub website. Any reference to any Content is not meant to imply NAC’s approval or endorsement to the Content.
The Arts Resource Hub website may contain hyperlinks to other resources maintained by third parties on the Internet. These links are provided solely as a convenience to you to help you identify related information. Any reference to any resources is not meant to imply an approval, endorsement, affiliation, sponsorship or other relationship to the linked site or its operator, contents or trade names, logos, symbols, service marks or other intellectual property rights associated with the hyperlinks, citations or URLs we provide. NAC accordingly disclaim all liability in respect to any decisions or actions, or lack thereof based on any or all of the contents of any third-party site.
Arts SEPs and freelancers are independent contractors providing a service to the hirer at your own risk and will not be protected by the Employment Act nor enjoy benefits like employer CPF contribution, work injury compensation, medical and dental subsidies or paid annual leave. Furthermore, SEPs and freelancers are not protected from liabilities which may arise and may have to pay the hirer for damages caused. Thus, having a written contract is especially important to be legally protected at the very least against unpaid fees.
As creators of original work, arts SEPs and freelancers also have the right to protect the integrity of their work and how it is used. In some cases, registering the intellectual property early with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) can save the hassle of dispute.
Find out more about written contracts and boilerplate legal clauses, Intellectual Property (IP) and copyright as well as the practicalities on setting up an arts business entity. If further individualised support might be needed, IPOS and the Law Society Pro Bono Services (LSPBS) host complimentary legal clinics to advise on IP and other legal issues
Read candid reflections from fellow arts SEPs and freelancers as they share their journeys to date, and some strategies that have helped them.
Life as an Arts Freelancer by Sharda Maxine Harrison
In Singapore, being a freelancer is one of the more viable options and ways to pursue an artistic career. Unlike Europe, Australia and America, Singapore does not have many agencies that manage performing artists, such as myself. Initially, the task of having to manage schedules on my own was a disaster. I often double-booked appointments and rehearsals and caused much frustration for my employers. It was only a year into my freelance career that I slowly begun to fully acknowledge that I had become a self-employed artist, and that the roles I accept and the way I organise my schedule and lifestyle would be a reflection of the actor and brand, that is, ‘Sharda Harrison’.
Being a freelancer is akin to being an incorporated company without the official documents. It is daunting because there is no protection of an employer and no employee benefits to enjoy. Five years into my career, I realised that I had to shift my mindset from ‘freelancer’ to an ‘artist entrepreneur’. That meant looking at my skill-set and analysing what might be my niche skill-set. I knew that movement work had been something that I enjoyed and thus I decided to pursue it fervently by attending all types of movement workshops and trainings. While gaining an insight into various ways of moving, I decided to link all the new-found physical vocabulary that I was learning as a performer to my acting training. Slowly over time, I had gained a practice, which in itself, turned into my own methodology of actor training, which in turn, became a valuable source of income. This niche skill-set of being a movement-based performer allowed me to engage in an arts-based pedagogy practice. Over time, my personal branding shifted from just a theatre-actor to movement artist, actor, host and teacher. The more skills I acquired, and the more I linked these new skills to my actor training, the more confident I grew with managing my income, my own monetary benefits and my long-term health and wealth insurance. I cannot stress enough the value of creating a “rice bowl” and being able to sleep at night knowing that one has a roof over one’s head and food in one’s stomach.
It is harrowing to note how certain artists still believe in the notion of the “struggling artist”. Personally, I think that perhaps the word ‘struggle’ has been misconstrued for generations. It is a given that every artist struggles – we struggle to understand humanity, struggle to put a piece of art together, struggle to form community and outreach with the messages that we want to convey to the public. However, to financially struggle in order to make art, in my opinion, should be reserved as a myth. The biggest lesson that I have learnt as a freelance artist is how to make art that is authentic, honest, and still able to make an income from it. This does mean that we have to build on our skill-sets and focus on a myriad of ways and approaches to art-making. Perhaps we too, as artists, must become more demanding and savvy in how we handle our contracts and negotiations, because no matter how old or young we may be, an artist deserves to be able to live a rich, wealthy and abundant life.
I look forward to the day when we artists begin to speak more on how art and a decent income come hand in hand, and the myth of the struggling artist remains just that, a myth.
Freelance Sustainability – Myth or Reality? by Jeremiah Choy
It is a dream to be able to earn a living from a hobby or a passion. And to do so as a freelancer is an even bigger dream. So is it a myth or a reality?
After being a freelancer, on and off for about 20 years (since 1997), I can proudly say it is a reality. However, it does take a mindset change.
First of all, that hobby or passion has turned into a means for your living – you have to earn enough to sustain your day-to-day expenses, cater to your needs and wants and plan for your future. It is no longer doing it “just for fun”.
Secondly, you need to have a strategy – a business and marketing plan. What will set you apart from the rest of the market? Who are your target consumers or buyers? How do you expand your market?
Thirdly, what are your long-term plans? How do you keep up with market demands, be ahead of the curve and be in constant demand? How are you relevant to the market? What are your skill sets? How do you sell them?
You need to realise that your freelance choice is now your Career!
Since the start of my freelance career, I am mindful of the 4 Cs: Concept, Copyright, Cash and Contract.
As an art-maker, my Concept is my asset. There is a difference between a brief and a concept. A brief is skeletal information of what the client wants happen. The concept, on the other hand, is a detailed thought process that I will share with the client. I earn my money through the concepts I generate. My thought-process is my cash cow.
As a creative person, I own the Intellectual Property (IP) rights over the concepts I have created, especially Copyright. I lay claim to these rights and make sure that I make money through them. If any client wants to take over any or all of my IP rights, they can either pay me a lump sum to buy the right/s outright from me, pay a licensing fee or pay me royalty fees.
Cash is important. There is no point rushing or doing a project for a client if the client does not pay my fees on time, or in full or at all. I make sure I get paid by carefully planning milestones or periodic payments. Having a good cash flow plan is necessary for a freelancer as I do not know when my next project or pay cheque will come. I do suggest having 3 to 6 months cash in the bank to ensure there is no necessity to do underpaying jobs just to meet financial emergencies.
Finally, I always insist on a Contract. This is to save me time and effort should either party default on the agreement as a contract spells out the rights and obligations of both parties. If I do not get a written contract, I will put in writing to my client to confirm the details of our discussion, state my fees and deliverables. It will become evidence should there be any dispute later on.
As a freelancer, my reputation and integrity are important. And very often, it is these two virtues that bring clients back again and again.
As a freelancer, I set my rules. My resources are limited, so I have to make many difficult choices on how to use them strategically to generate income for myself.
And with this mindset change, sustainable freelancing can be a reality. I have been living my dream and am happy that my passion is my work and my work is my passion.
Five Things I Learnt About Communication by Michael Lee
(photo courtesy of Singapore Art Museum)
I am having breakfast when my phone receives an email notification. It is Tay Tong, who wants me to share about my life as an arts freelancer for this article. His email puts a smile on my face. Other than communicating a clear intention, the email also states the essay’s word count, deadline and honorarium amount. I am not left wondering if this is another pro bono request. I have all the information I need to consider the invitation. Just like managing expectations and creativity, good communication skills make a freelancer’s life more tolerable. I hope my list of tips here – gathered from some of my experiences – offers a guide, or at least, some consolation.
1. Take care of yourself.
Meeting people who could give you a museum show is an important opportunity. But when you get so stressed out and start to sound incoherent during the meeting, you become someone even you do not want to hear from again. The key is not to try so hard to be someone else. Know yourself towards and through self-care. Know when you are nervous and speaking too fast, and slow down. Know when you are rambling, and consciously pause or ask if your listener is following. Self-care is about protecting yourself and creating optimal conditions where you can shine.
2. Try and try again.
If you struggle with communicating in a certain way, try a different way. Try all ways. Try your own way. And if all of that does not work, there is one thing you should never forget…
3. We are imperfect, but a strong work ethic is still important.
We must recognise our own flaws, some of which could be hindering our development while others are actually blessings. A fellow artist shared with me that a collector bought his work because she found his anxiety during his artist talk to be a sign of authenticity. Yet, using the ‘imperfect’ card too often is not sustainable. If you know you won’t be able to meet a deadline, request for a slight extension of time before the deadline looms too close, not after. Alerting issues ahead of time spells maturity. Apologising for unpunctuality is bad excuse.
4. Don’t get too personal.
There is a running joke that the best way to start a meeting is to gossip or engage in small talk, and there is some truth to that; asking “How’s your day?” is a good way to gauge the other person’s current frame of mind. However, overdoing it can complicate matters. Saying negative things about someone who is not present to defend himself or herself is unfair and risky, and your listener may turn out to be a fan of the subject of your rant! Base your opinions on facts, and strike a balance between acknowledging strengths and weaknesses if asked to opine on works you did not create. Not getting too personal at work does not mean stopping your personality and unique visions from coming through. It simply means you need to prioritise the task at hand rather than allow personal issues like self-doubt and prejudices to overwhelm the work. You are hired to solve problems, not add to them.
5. Keep the communication channel open.
In a committee situation, there will be disagreements. You know some things are wrong, or you realise someone in the team is free-riding, not pulling his weight, or being malicious. You feel obliged to call this person out. Yet, as soon as you raise your concerns, you get screamed at for telling the expert how to do his job. And you thought you were saving the day! When the truth must be told, there are ways to do so, such as to agree first and then to disagree, for example, “I get where you’re coming from, but—” This way, you keep the communication channel open and avoid turning it into a battlefield. I half-suspect that the one reason I still get to do freelance gigs is that I am able to deliver them as competently and truthfully as I can without leaving a trail of burnt bridges.