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Doing It All: Balancing The Work of Freelance

Summary

Before you begin:

  • Understand your context and any financial barriers that you might face before jumping into freelancing full-time.
  • Think about what you already have access to - do you have contacts that you can already use? Do you need a side job? Can you live at home to save some money?
  • Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep your mental health and well-being in mind.

Learning the ropes:

  • When you do your first invoice, don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you need to put on it. It’s okay to ask for help.
  • Look into late payment fees - you are entitled to add this to your invoice.
  • Talk to other freelancers - in person or on social media. People are often happy to share their own experiences.
  • Look for pitching guides online to get started.
  • Taxes - boring but essential. Be sure to make a separate bank account to put aside money for your taxes. A good rule of thumb is to save 25% of everything to cover this, depending on where you are based and what the tax laws are.

Admin - which can take up to 50% of your time freelancing:

  • Track the work that you have pitched for so that you can remind yourself of who to chase - it is always worth chasing people for responses.
  • Keep a contact database of people you’d like to pitch work to.
  • Have a good invoice template for yourself to use.
  • Keep an invoice schedule, so you can track how much pay you have coming up and which invoices you need to chase.
  • Use a tool that helps you track all your work - Trello comes recommended.

Advocating for yourself & others:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask other freelancers what their rates are so you know how to value your work.
  • When taking on work, ensure you know the remit of the job and what the expectations are. Ensure that your fee reflects this.
  • If a job you are given is put on hold or canceled, ensure you look into what exactly you can still charge. For example, in journalism, if an article you are writing no longer gets published, it is standard to be able to charge 50% of the fee you initially agreed.
  • Join a union if one is available for your sector - it is always worth checking if specific unions accept freelancers. You can also look into organisations that are centered on marginalised groups, like the Trans Journalists Association and Writers of Colour.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for expenses if you incur them as part of your work.

Work / Life Balance:

  • Try to set yourself working hours, and put these in your email signature. This can be especially helpful if you work with international clients.
  • Sometimes working a part-time job alongside freelancing can provide a sense of balance and break up the isolation of working by yourself.
  • If you have a particularly intense work week, plan some rest.

Networking:

  • Networking can also be framed as collaboration. Who aligns with your values? Who do you admire? Let them know, and it could lead to working together.
  • Networking might also mean building a consistent working relationship with a certain organisation that you admire.
  • Be sure not to burn yourself out of ‘networking’. Remember - advocating for yourself is key.
  • If you are working with or collaborating with marginalised communities, be sure to do your research, and understand your position and your privilege.

Staying motivated:

  • Co-working with likeminded people can provide great sounding boards for ideas and helps with loneliness.
  • Celebrate your achievements and treat yourself, even after the ‘smaller’ successes. Treats like baths or buying a new book for yourself can keep you motivated.
  • If you can afford it, work in cafes or split your day by working in different locations.
  • Think about the bigger picture. You will have rough months, but you will also have successful months. Be sure to try and put some money aside when bigger projects land.

Sustainability:

  • Diversify your income streams - trying to publish a book in your area can be a good option, as you will gain royalties for years to come.
  • Look into freelance pension schemes - they exsit, so use them!
  • Remember to save for your tax payments.
  • Build long-term relationships with organisations. If you are having a rough month, you can always try contacting these trusted sources for more work.

Top Tips:

  • Find a support network - in person or online - but also surround yourself with a mixture of people who do not freelance. This can help keep a better work-life balance. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Treat freelancing like a full-time job. Even if you don’t have deadlines, scour the internet for new ideas.
  • Figure out the perks of being freelance - this will keep you engaged and motivated.
  • Be realistic. If you are struggling, be honest with yourself. It is also always okay to take up a side-job to tide you over.
  • Remember - just because it feels tough now, doesn’t mean it will feel like that forever.