The gig economy is gaining ground in Vietnam as more professionals abandon full-time jobs and turn to freelance work
When Huu Duc first started working remotely over a year ago because of Covid, he found it to be a miserable experience. Now he finds working from home “heaven on earth.”
The 28-year-old, who works as a video editor, now wakes up at 8 a.m. every day, eats breakfast and drinks coffee before sitting down at his desk to start working at 10 a.m.
Before the pandemic he had “never dreamed” of living and working like this. Then he often had to wake up at 5 a.m. to cook and make lunch before commuting 15 km to get to work in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District before 7 am.
But everything changed when he found a freelance job after his company temporarily shut down because of the pandemic.
Since he had plenty of experiences and was good at negotiating, he kept getting new contracts and clients.
“Now I make VND30-40 million a month and even more,” he says to explain why he quit his job.
Hong Nhung takes advantage of the weekend to go to a cafe to work on November 19, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen
Hong Nhung, 32, of Thanh Hoa Province has been working as a freelance website content writer since 2017.
At first she only planned to work as a freelancer for a few months so that she could take care of her sick mother before deciding to make it permanent when she saw that she was making more money and having more control over her time.
For a salary of VND10–15 million a month, which is two or three times what she earned at her previous company, she needs to write three to five articles for customers every day.
“As long as I plan it right, I can have time to go to the market, cook rice, help my mom with physiotherapy, and pick up more gigs if I have free time,” she says.
People like Duc and Nhung, who work for themselves and do not have contracts, show how freelancing is becoming more popular in Vietnam. This trend started many years ago, but really took off when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Amid the pandemic, many companies switched to remote working, and workers realized all of a sudden that remote work and flexible hours were what they had been looking for for a long time.
A large survey done earlier this year by recruitment and human resources company Anphabe found that more and more people are switching from full-time jobs to freelance work.
It found that 14% work as full-time freelancers, 26% freelance part-time and 13% have both full- and part-time jobs.
This means that 53% of the workforce is in the gig economy.
On November 16 a survey of nearly 800 readers of VnExpress showed similar results.
When asked: “Do you want to work from home or in an office?” 85% of people said they prefer to work from home regardless of whether they have time management skills. Only 15% said they want to do office work for eight hours a day.
Tran Anh Tuan, chairman of the scientific council at the Institute for Human Resource Training and Development, says remote work is an inevitable trend, especially after the pandemic, when many people adapted to or found the value of working from home.
“This change is good for economic growth and does not change the structure of the labor market.”
Freelancing helps workers learn how to manage their time, take better care of themselves and their families and find new sources of income that is higher than their old salary, he says.
Duc can increase his income by working from home, and he can also save money on rent since he has moved back to the countryside to live with his family. Besides, he no longer has to worry about traffic jams and the high cost of living in the capital, and the job enables him to rest and travel without having to seek permission from anyone.
“I also don’t have to care about my boss’ attitude or try to get along with colleagues.”
Freelancing for the past five years has also helped Hong Nhung avoid the effects of the global economic downturn since she has not had to worry about losing her job or seeing her salary reduced.
She is also able to save more money by not spending on professional attire for work or makeup or going out to eat with coworkers.
“But the most important thing is that I have a lot of time to spend with my family.”
Dr Do Minh Cuong, deputy director of the Institute of Business Culture, says remote work will help the digital economy grow, and could account for as much as 30% of the country’s GDP by 2030.
Some professionals become freelancers because they are tired of working extra hours and having their supervisors give them arduous tasks.
In its market research report for the first half of this year, jobs portal Viec Lam Tot said the trend was toward work that could be done at different times and places.
Over 60% of the more than 1,300 workers polled said they wanted to change careers, find jobs online, work from home, and be salespeople, drivers or delivery people.
Tran Minh Ngoc, director of Viec Lam Tot, told VnExpress in June 2022 that employees now want flexible working hours and places just as much as they want a good salary and benefits.
However, experts advise workers to be careful when deciding to become freelancers.
“To avoid working for a few months and then going back to the office, people should carefully study the potential of their work and their strengths,” Cuong says.
After freelancing for three months in HCMC, Nhat Ha, 26, has been sending out resumes to job posters and going for interviews again.
She says while freelancing could fetch her four times the normal income, having to work 15-16 hours a day caused her sleeping disorders.
“I don’t always have a job. Some months, I only make VND2-3 million because my pay depends on finding customers, my qualifications, my soft skills, and my reputation.”
Since becoming a freelancer, she lost perks like birthday pay, 13th month’s pay and Tet bonus, and relationships with coworkers.
Sometimes she would sleep all day and start working late at night, which hurt her performance.
“I don’t want to feel like I’m stuck in limbo. This is why I plan to start looking for a job again.”
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