10 tips to start out as a freelancer

And look (kind of) professional while doing it.

Freelancing can be amazing. You get to wear trackies to work most days, your commute is approximately 10 seconds and the closest thing to experiencing work drama is your dog getting annoyed that you can’t type AND throw the ball simultaneously.

There are also downsides – mainly in the form of mountains of tax receipts that may or may not kill you via suffocation (or boredom, whichever comes first).

So if you’re starting out as a freelancer, learn from my mistakes and hit the ground running with these tips.

1. Get an ABN 

The first step in boring accounting information that you need to know (yes, there are more of these coming) is that an ABN will make you look totes #legit. Plus, most companies require an ABN for invoicing all that freelance work you’re about to do. And something, something the tax department. It’s pretty easy to get, just apply for a sole trader ABN via abr.gov.au.

2. Create a logo 

This is probably the most fun part… until you realise it looks like an MS Paint experiment from 1996. Everyone has a graphic designer friend so beg for their help and offer them wine. And make sure it represents what you’re doing. Like, would you hire a digital strategist with a logo that reminds you of an Etsy store selling knitted dog jumpers? Just sayin’.

3. Create a website and professional email address 

Buy a cheap URL, add a bespoke email address, install WordPress for free and grab one of those free WordPress templates. It takes time and a little money, but it’s worth it.

4. Create professional social media accounts 

This should be a given, but under no circumstances should you promote your business on your personal social media accounts. Think about all the stupid stuff you share on there on the reg – not to mention all those dog videos. That way, when you post a drunken selfie on Saturday night, you won’t regret your new client seeing it the next day.

5. Create a letterhead/invoice template

Now that you have a logo and all that other fancy jazz, create a standard document in Word for your invoices. Include information such as your ABN, email, newly-acquired professional social handles and business address. Hiring a PO box is always a good thing to do if you work from home, for privacy.

6. Pimp your LinkedIn profile 

Sure, it’s the most boring of the social media accounts, but it can legitimately pull in business if you give it the same love and attention as your Instagram selfies. OK, maybe 50 per cent of that love and attention. Ensure you create a new ‘position’ as a freelancer with your business website and contact details. Also, add new clients and results as they come in, to prove you’re pulling in work. And for god’s sake, please use a professional photo.

7. Print business cards 

I know it seems lame to print business cards when it’s just you. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at an event and someone has asked for my contact details for an upcoming job. Writing your email address on someone’s hand ain’t cute, kids.

8. Get recommendations and testimonials 

It’s a drag, but it’s totally essential to ensure new clients feel like they can put their trust in you. When a job goes well, make sure you follow up and ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn and a testimonial to add to your website.

9. Pitch, and never stop pitching 

Think it’s easy to keep the work (and sweet, sweet cash) flowing? Think again. You have to hustle every day if you’re planning to make this your new work life. I email pitches while I’m on the tram, submit draft proposals while I’m waiting for a coffee, and make content on weekends. Just like Monday coffee pictures on Instagram, it never stops. Ever.

10. Go above and beyond to create repeat business

Last but not least, do a great job. I can’t emphasise enough that actually just doing a great job is 99 per cent of being a successful freelancer. If you go above and beyond, they’ll come back again and again. Which means pretty much one thing: mama’s upgrading from 2 Minute Noodles to a steak dinner this week. Ooooooh yeahhhhh.

Image by Twylamae.

This feature was originally published in Fashion Journal 168. You can read it here.

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