My advice on how you can become a freelancer and start working for yourself in 2021.
Being a freelancer has its ups and downs. From quiet weeks to busy days, from stressing if any work will come in to get paid, to the days, where there is so much work coming in, you just don’t know how you can cope. The fluctuation of the job working for yourself, is both exciting and scary at the same time.
So here’s the thing. I set myself some goals last year, which I began to develop with the idea that I would focus heavily on these goals for there new year, working towards a more solid foundation for my freelance gig for 2021. It’s been a slow start, when I began this journey in late 2018, but since then, I have grown and I get the feeling I will be growing even more into the future.
My goals were to work smarter. And this is something I have been working on each year since I started being freelance. In 2018 when I first started freelance work, I didn’t really set any boundaries and was working crazy hours, with no game plan and was literally all over the place. Mostly, as I was driving to develop a good reputation as a freelancer, I was accepting every bit of type of work imaginable. From doing resumes for people, to setting up LinkedIn profiles, to managing a variety of websites for others, which generally involved mostly clean ups, there was nothing I wasn’t saying no to.
I was even doing work for a variety of sites in the USA, and Russia – can you believe it? Working remotely certainly opens you up to some amazing prospects around the world. With the plus being, most of those overseas jobs all pay in US dollar – winning. Cause lets face it, we all want to get paid in US dollar. Or in British Pound HAHA. Though those jobs are little more challenging to obtain. Work in the USA is crazy, with people sourcing freelancers from across the world.
Of course, I don’t manage any work now with people overseas, this was just something I played with when I first started out, as I was looking to develop my brand (if you can call it a brand). Now, all of my clients are here in Sydney with me, which makes things a lot easier when it comes to communication. Especially should they require an in person meeting from time to time. And yes, I do offer that as part of my package at times.
As I rolled into 2019, I began to really focus on what was needed for the whole freelance thing. Ensuring that I did make time for myself when I could. Working Monday to Friday only, with weekends free. And of course, making sure I didn’t make myself too available (unless it was urgent) after hours. Which is something I didn’t do back in 2018.
2019, was a real eye opener, a chance for me to really develop myself into the type of freelancer I wanted to be, working with some great clients, to develop long lasting working relationships with people, whilst also figuring out what I was confident in doing, and what I was good at. And yes, there was a lot of trial and error along the way, Meaning, there were some jobs where I found myself way over my head HAHA. But we have all been there, am I right?
This taught me to really work on my own skills, what I am good at, what needs work and what I can offer clients and how to also say no to people, if I knew what they needed to get done was out of my realm of knowledge. Something I definitely didn’t do in 2018, and it was super stressful.
By 2020, I literally had it down pat, and then COVID happened. I was so worries that I would not cope with anything in 2020. But funny enough, I also learned that so many businesses learning from the whole lockdown issues, required even more support to be online and develop new online services to help them manage throughout such a tough year.
This meant, I could continue to provide service to clients, and new ones too, helping them stay afloat, which also helped me stay afloat. To bring about an okay year of craziness, to get through the year. I also learned in 2020, that working within certain house of the day only, is key to not burning out. This is something I have been working on since 2018, learning how to manage the clients better (and myself), where I would not be working crazy hours and have time for myself as well.
So, with all that being said. I thought I would provide you with a little checklist. To help you start (or if you have started, then to be better) at being a freelance. Things I have learned along the way to help me be a better freelancer.
- Check with your government on what supports they have for freelancers. I didn’t realise that The Australian government does support sole traders and start ups. Now, this doesn’t mean they pay for your start up, you need to pay for that. However, until you are working a solid 30 hours a week with work for clients, they will provide financial support to you on a fortnightly basis. So you will will be able to pay the bills until you start making some money. Check what your government is offering and speak to someone about what support you can get.
- Set up a plan on what services you can provide to a client. Don’t overdue it here. That was my mistake. Be incredibly detailed on what your talents are and what you know you can’t do. I took work on, where I had no idea what I was doing and had to then say for tutorials from people to help teach me to do things. Sure, it helped me later on, as I then knew what to do. But the process was very stressful, when I had client’s waiting for work, and I spent hours learning how to do it first before I could do the work.
- Get an ABN. Don’t stress about registering for GST. Unless of course this is mandatory. In Australia, we have a threshold of around $75K a year income before you are required to register for GST with a sole trading business. The ABN however is a necessity for your clients. As they are registered for GST, and they will need your ABN for tax. This makes sure that you can legally do your freelance work, without causing issues later on, if the tax man comes calling for you or your client.
- When you register for an ABN, if you are like me and are skilled in a variety of things, such as administrative assistance, website designer, social media coordinator, writer, blogger etc, make sure you register your business under your name as sole trader. This then allows you to have unlimited business names under that ABN. For example, I am registered as a sole trader with my full name. But then I also registered business names (3 in total) and linked them to this ABN. So everything is under the one umbrella – my name.
- Don’t stress about a website for yourself just yet. Unless you already have one, and have the budget for one. As my work is all digital, I used the content created for other brands as my resume. So when potential clients asked for examples of my work, I would email them links to the work I had done. This was my portfolio. And it was a lot more manageable then created a website and spending all that money, when I didn’t need to at first.
- Set yourself some perimeters before you chat to clients. What is your fee, do you do bespoke packages. Meaning, do your fees all change depending on the client and the work. I have a flat rate for standard work across the board, which includes blogging, time writing, website creating and for admin work. Then for additional work, such as social media and then some, I have a different rate. Especially as content creation for social media takes up a lot more time, and often you have to source the images. I have an account for freestock images, and I also have an account with canvas so I can have access to all their services to create interesting and unique content. So, you need to have a rate which will support that, so you’re not out of pocket.
- Set up your hours, when do you work. I never did this at the start, but I do know. This means, I only work between 9am to 5pm from Monday to Thursday. I don’t work Fridays. Unless urgent work comes in from someone. And if a client calls with work after 5pm, I will always answer, determine if the work is urgent or not. If urgent, I will do the work ASAP. If it isn’t, I will explain to the client I have clocked off and will do it first thing the next day. I often get emails and messages from clients on the weekend, but they know I don’t do work on the weekend. So they will always say, please don’t do anything, it can wait until next week. They simply want to inform me of work they need done for the week, in the event they get tied with their own work on the Monday and forget to talk to me about stuff they need done.
I hope you take something from this information, so you can be a better freelancer and work towards designing and creating the type of life you have always dreamed of. Working for yourself and being as independent as possible.