Freelancing offers a lot of benefits, like freedom and flexibility, that a traditional desk job simply can’t. With a growing number of workers attempting to strike a better work-life balance, it is no wonder that an estimated 32 percent of Australia’s workforce had performed freelance work in 2015 and that an estimated 43 percent of the global workforce will be involved in the gig economy in 2020.
As with any job, freelancing often comes with its own set of failures and setbacks, many of which are made due to lack of experience and industry knowledge. Some of the top mistakes freelancers have reported include:
- Not trusting your gut (if a client or the work doesn’t feel like the right fit)
- Overwhelming yourself with information and tasks
- Not putting yourself out there enough (through advertising, trade shows, networking with others, etc.)
To help you avoid some of the most common freelancing hurdles, we’re put together this quick guide to smarter freelancing to set you on the right path:
1. Make it a real business
The greatest hurdle freelancers often face is taking their freelancing dream and turning it into a reality. Once you have a vision, have decided on your business advantage and have a company name picked out, take the plunge and register your business.
The majority of freelancers will choose to be a single proprietor (someone who works solo and without employees), which is a fairly straight forward process. You may want to consider registering as a limited liability corporation if you will be bidding on government contracts or if your business has significant liabilities at stake.
2. Make yourself known online
With the company name now officially being your own, it is time to get to work creating a professional online presence for yourself.
- Register the domain name you will use for your website
- Create a corporate email (using an old high school email address or one from a free email account hardly says “professional”)
- Make an online portfolio and spread it around (include a portfolio showcasing your talents on your website, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and other freelancing websites)
3. Be savvy with your finances
One of the benefits of freelancing is that you can keep your overhead relatively low. A large portion of freelancers, for example, can work from their living room or from a coffee shop down the street and do not need to splurge on office space.
Don’t take the low expenses for granted. Before business starts rolling in, take time to properly your prepare your finances by:
- Setting prices for hourly, weekly, and/or project work
- Create branded invoice templates
- Familiarise yourself with your chosen bookkeeping/accounting software
It may also be worth your while to schedule an appointment with a bookkeeper or an accountant who is familiar with freelancing to learn more about taxes, worker’s compensation requirements, and so on.
I use Xero cloud bookkeeping/accounting to keep track of all business expenses. The ease of invoicing and receipting appeals to me. When necessary my bookkeeper and tax accountant are able to access this data when reporting/tax return time comes around.
4. Secure a client-base but never stop your search
You don’t need to be completely set up to start getting your name out there and securing clients. Reach out to those in your existing network and ask friends, loved ones and colleagues for referrals. There are also a handful of well-established freelancing sites where you may be able to pick up some quick gigs to start building a reputation and a client-base.
Securing a client-base doesn’t happen over night. But there are things you can do to increase your chances of repeat business, like:
- Communicate with your clients quickly and honestly
- Deliver your work on or before a deadline
- Set realistic budgets for projects
After a while you may build up a comfortable number of clients, but never stop your search for more. Dedicate a portion of your work time to finding new clients actively (applying for jobs, attending trade shows, etc.) or passively (working on your blog, creating video tutorials, posting to social media, etc.).
5. Build a support network
There may be a time when you feel tired, stuck, overburdened, or like a fraudster freelancer. These are common feelings when you are a solopreneur in a gig economy with seemingly no one else to rely on except for yourself.
The key is to build a support network and to establish meaningful relationships with people who will keep you on track, support your goals, and who can act as a coach or mentor as your freelancing business continues to blossom and evolve. When you surround yourself with a solid support network, you’ll be reminded daily that you are capable of creating your own success and that nothing – fear, others, or yourself – can hold you back.