In many ways – it sucks.
Hong Kong is NOT a city that welcomes freelancing because for whatever reasons the “contracting culture” outside of IT doesn’t really exist.
However – in other ways – it’s absolutely the way forward and in summary, and I speak from experience and I’d say – yes do it! You’ll be in a minority (which is a fantastic thing) and clients love it too because they don’t have to commit to you being on their pay-roll whilst you deliver the results – and – no results = no commitment so from their point of view it is a “win-win”.
I’ve been freelancing for the last year full time (May [year] is my anniversary) but prior to that I’ve been “on and off” freelancing since 2002 – yep, that long!
Freelancing has allowed me to live pretty much anywhere I’ve wanted to live so since I left University I’ve lived in New York, Miami, Tokyo, Rome, and now Hong Kong, so for that it’s friggin’ awesome.
Altogether, I’d say that being a freelancer in Hong Kong is more positive than negative, you just have to make sure that you don’t waste your time with low-ballers.
Hong Kong Mentality
Hong Kong is still in many ways a provincial city. I’ve lived in much larger cities like New York, Tokyo, and London, and whilst it looks big from the outside, it’s actually a pretty small place.
The truth is that in Hong Kong, most parents frown at startups, or at least they did until the protests and coronavirus decimated opportunities for their kids.
I’d say that there is a much more gung-ho attitude to working as a freelancer or in a startup in London or New York when compared to Hong Kong – but that doesn’t make Hong Kong a bad or difficult place.
There’s A Lack Of Freelancers In Hong Kong.
The good news is that there are not that many westerners “being freelancers”; if you told me it was more than 50,000 I’d be very surprised.
The “bad news” is that you can expect to put in long hours and get frustrated with companies, especially the SME’s, that want it all for a very low cost, oh and they wanted it all yesterday.
Of course, you’ll get different mileage depending on your situation, skillset, and abilities, but in essence, I’d say that you’ll do pretty well in Hong Kong as a freelancer as long as you aim your sights high and don’t do what I did and low-ball yourself “just to get clients”.
The Importance Of Being Expensive
The funny thing that I learned freelancing in Hong Kong is that it’s more difficult to get low-shitty paying clients that are infinitely more work and hassle than finding wealthy clients! It’s weird how that is but it’s the truth, well at least from my experience.
The other tremendous benefit of pitching your services as “expensive” is that you’ll position yourself well, i.e. you are a quality freelancer with a ton of actionable highly-experienced skills.
So, in summary, when it comes to pitching yourself to clients here, be confident, bold, and expensive.
If the client says no, then no worries, keep it moving and find another.
What Are The Best Freelancer Gigs In Hong Kong
The most “popular” are clearly digital marketing followed by designers.
My gigs mostly have a tech orientation but where I see the greatest need is within martech, or “Growth Hacking” – which in my mind at least, is the marriage of tech and marketing.
I’m pretty tech-savvy in that I can code (mostly PHP) and understand certain web applications very well, especially CMS software such as WordPress.
Here’s The Bottom Line
There’s always a need for helping businesses generate and convert leads.
If you can do that then you’ll be just dandy in Hong Kong.
Go for it, the best of luck, and “add oil” when finding those wealthy clients!