Freelance workers are common in Cambodia, whether established professionals or transient backpackers looking to make a few dollars on the side. The usual reason to hire a freelancer in Cambodia is to bring in expertise that you don’t have inhouse, and to save money over hiring full time staff that you might only need for an occasional project. Let’s help you find an expert.

Will I save money hiring a freelancer in Cambodia over a company?

Not necessarily. The best freelancers are well-established experts in their field that work at their freelance business full time. If you find these workers you will often get a very high quality product at a cost lower than hiring a larger company to do the same work. But the motivation for freelance workers varies.

Some freelancers take a more casual approach, take on work as a second income as well as a full-time job, or are just starting out and looking for experience. The rates that you’ll be quoted will vary wildly, and are often representative of their experience and quality of work. In certain fields you’ll likely find small companies that offer the same services, there isn’t much difference in a small web design agency compared to an experienced freelancer, often the latter has more expertise if they are doing the work themselves over passing it on to junior staff.

Hiring a reliable freelancer in Cambodia

Freelancers the world over sometimes have the reputation for being a bit flaky, but that doesn’t apply to everyone. Try to avoid this by looking for people with an established track record of working in Cambodia. Depending on your business you’d likely also benefit to find someone who understands the local Cambodian market and has experience with its nuances. In graphic design and website development there are technical complications using Khmer script that you only learn through experience, so it’s better for your business to hire someone who already knows this rather than pay someone to learn on the job. Look for people with a long term commitment to staying in the country so that they’ll still be around next year if you need help or further work done.

Freelance workers are not all hanging out in coffeeshops and working by the pool. Some freelancers in Cambodia are established professionals that will treat you and your business likewise.

What kind of work can I find freelancers in Cambodia?

Typically there are a lot of freelancers working in creative and marketing industries. You will find plenty of social media marketers, copywriters, graphic designers, website developers, photographers and videographers all plying their trade in Cambodia. Additionally it’s common to find freelance translators, there is a regular need for Khmer to English translation and vice versa.

Many established freelancers specialise in a few industries, like hospitality or real estate. You will find a concentration of hospitality specialists in Siem Reap as there is a bigger market for hotels and restaurants there. It should be easy to find someone to photograph your new hotel or to make you a website integrated with a booking engine.

Remote work - not always from the beach
Despite the common trope, few freelancers actually work from the pool or beach
Where can I find freelancers looking for work in Cambodia?

Your first stop should be a Google search. Many established freelancers and small businesses will have a website or portfolio advertising their services. You can also try Facebook groups – there are a few Cambodia Freelancer groups you can join and post. Lastly through word of mouth, ask your network as they may have hired someone for the same job recently that they can recommend. It’s also much easier to find people looking for freelance jobs in Phnom Penh rather than outside the capital.

Legalities of hiring a freelancer in Cambodia for your business

Foreign freelance workers should have both a work permit and E-class Cambodia visa, not a tourist visa. It is certainly possible for freelancers to obtain these documents legally through the Ministry of Immigration, so it’s something you should insist on as it shows they are more serious than someone just passing through.

When it comes to tax, if your business is registered for VAT in Cambodia you will have to handle freelancers slightly differently than working with another registered business. Instead of VAT you would pay 15% Withholding Tax on any invoices you receive, your accountant is probably already familiar with this and the calculations required. Just to complicate matters, it is not just a case of adding 15% to the invoice you receive, since you are actually withholding 15% from the total. So a typical calculation is net amount divided by 0.85 to find the new “total amount” before tax is deducted. So an invoice you receive and pay for $100 will have $17.65 withholding tax due. This may sound overcomplicated and it is – but you will get used to it so ask your accountant to advise you further.

Unlike VAT you can’t offset this or claim it back, but since a freelancer will usually charge lower rates than a registered company then you can treat it as a cost of doing business.

Hiring Cambodian workers as freelancers

You may have mixed success looking at the local market for freelancers. While there are certainly some very capable Cambodian creatives – particularly photographers and videographers – it’s still much more common for designers and web developers to work a full time job than to set up in business by themselves. Since salaries are relatively low, many businesses opt to hire a dedicated design, marketing or website person inhouse, but it is wise to ensure you still have someone with experience to consult where necessary.

It can be a great benefit to your business to hire freelancers to fill the gaps in your inhouse expertise. It can also be a lesson in frustration if you choose the wrong person. If you’re looking to start freelancing yourself then check out our guide to finding a freelance job in Cambodia, or our other business in Cambodia content.