Freelance finance




+$"You must think of your new business like a startup: savings are a 'runway' to transition you from the stability of a monthly salary," suggests strategist克里斯托弗墨菲

+$It's therefore a good idea to build up at least three (preferably six) months of living expenses prior to going freelance. Also, have a plan to step back if things don't work out. "I told my wife we needed at least six months to discover whether my freelancing would work," recalls creative director, designer and developer谢恩米尔克...“如果我不成功的话,我会立即向任何代理机构申请,这样我们就不会把我们的积蓄花得太大。”

+$While that might sound negative, Mielke argues freelancing is anything but – as long as you're organised and know how to network. "I made a single tweet, received my first project, and haven't looked back since," he says. "Although people sometimes think freelancers sacrifice money for freedom, that's not necessarily the case – it can be very profitable and I've consistently made more money than when I worked as a salaried employee."


米尔克关于组织的观点至关重要。如Clearleft创始人安迪·巴德(Andy Budd)指出,自由职业者面临的一个主要挑战是收入的不均衡性:“即使你足够幸运,能够立即签下一份长期合同,你可能会在开具发票前工作一个月。许多公司的付款周期为60天或90天:错过付款窗口,你将不得不等到下一个时间段。”


+$Income is at least broadly understood among most people considering freelancing. Outgoings… less so. When you've worked in a salaried environment, it's easy to forget what you're spending and then fritter money away. "You must track exactly what you need to be using in your business," recommends brand designer雷切尔希尔科克...“我使用了很多在线工具,更新费用也迅速增加。因此,我每季度都要做一次审计,以确保取消任何我不使用的东西。”



Freelance finance: tax

不要被意料之外的税收要求弄得措手不及(图像信用:Pexels/Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush)

+$Dealing with 'the man' may also be a shock to the system. "There's that fear of the unknown," says Mielke. "If you've never dealt with taxes, health insurance or forming an LLC, you can worry yourself to death and never make the move." He initially paid an accountant to navigate the process; on understanding about using a separate credit card to isolate expenses and setting aside money for tax and insurance, worries soon faded.

+$Health insurance in particular is a cost to be mindful of in the US. Mielke notes it initially "feels like a huge additional burden," until you realise it was previously "automatically deducted by your employer". Since it's part of running a business, you may be able to write it off. Also, be aware in regions with a national health service rather than mandated private insurance that you may still be liable for some costs (such as national insurance contributions in the UK). Again, consult an accountant if unsure.

+$One thing you can be sure about is tax. "It's almost always more than you'd expect, so don't get to the end of the year with a bill you can't pay," urges Budd. A smart idea, thinks Murphy, is to routinely set aside a percentage of income into a savings account. Budd advises this can also work in 'reverse': "Rather than seeing your income as a pool of money to dip into whenever you like, treat your bank account like a business and pay yourself a set monthly fee." This ensures you're covered for payments – and any troughs that come along.





+$Even having a shared office space can be helpful. "They're good value, sociable and a place to pick up work just by being there," says McCarthy. But direct action tends to be more fruitful. "You really need a proactive sales and marketing strategy," says digital strategy and user experience design expert保罗博格...“太多的人依赖于推荐信,在电话停止响的时候没有计划。”

+$For Mielke, "fear is a great motivator" and this drives his marketing strategy to get ahead and stay ahead. He does small things throughout the year to stay in clients' minds, rather than waiting until things get slow. "I do this by continually striving to create high-level work that gets me noticed, submitting personal projects for awards, keeping my portfolio updated and maintaining real friendships with people I've worked with," he explains.


+$Shillcock admits this is something she's struggled with – not doing enough marketing during busy periods. "But you have to remind yourself during such times that you don't want to end up with a quiet season once it's all done," she says. Again, maintaining a financial reserve can help but she adds that it's often easier to retain clients than find new ones and so you should also consider introducing retainers. "This allows you to continue working on a long-term basis with clients once an initial project is finished," she says.

+$It's rare the work is done once the last of the code is compiled: there's a whole host of ongoing maintenance work that needs to be carried out that can add up to a very meaningful revenue stream. "You can sell maintenance packages to agency customers, thereby generating a recurring revenue stream," Fabio Torlini, MD EMEA ofWP引擎...这通常包括托管组件,但也包括插件更新、报告、响应警报和其他与运行维护良好的网站有关的任务。“这听起来可能很忙。但是,尽管这些事情并不是完全被动的,但对于自由职业者来说,它们可以是一个双赢的高利润率,也可以减轻客户的思想负担,因为他们知道自己的网站会得到很好的照顾。


Freelance finance: take time off



+$"Taking time off isn't easy for freelancers but it is doable," says Boag. "Give clients as much notice as possible and remind them often. Also, realise you don't need to treat them all equally. When I go away, I disable email notifications and set an 'out of office' reply. But I tell my most important clients I've enabled notifications for their email addresses and will respond in a timely manner."


+$Another way to deal with troughs is to ensure you're not reliant on a single income stream. "Diversify your offering," says Boag. "I run a lot of training and offer consultancy alongside my UX design services. When one goes quiet, I push the others."

+$Effectively, focusing your energy in several different areas means it's easier to ensure you have some way of making hay while your other field lays fallow. "For years, I've told my students about the importance of developing a portfolio career," says Murphy. "I work half-time as a lecturer and half-time as a consultant. Those are two distinct income streams and they both help me to stay afloat."

+$Even taking work on piecemeal can help fill the gaps during quieter times. "Freelancing in-house for design studios has been a big win for me," says McCarthy. "I can help out when someone goes on leave and the pay is pretty good."

+$The key thing, says Mielke, is to challenge the notion that you should only be one thing. People within the industry have built up experience and skills in many areas and should use them. "Depending on the project, I work on UI design, front-end development, animation and even photography," he explains. "Sometimes I'm hired for one and other times for multiple skills and to handle an entire project. But my range of skills allows me to become involved in more projects, control my creative destiny, have more fun and ultimately make more money."


Freelance finance: develop your sidelines




+$"Being freelance isn't always about trading time for money," she says. "Since those days of overwork, I've released online courses and self-published books and I'm currently creating digital products to make my branding methods more accessible to people that can't afford to work with me on a one-to-one basis." She has found this a rewarding and fun way of making money, which is why she urges talented designers to think more widely: "Write books! Create worksheets, online courses, apps and guides!"


+$However, while it's tempting to want to wear every hat you can get your hands on, it's worth remembering that launching a whole new side hustle can often take as much effort as launching your original career. "Everyone dreams of launching an app or selling a course but in truth it's a fantasy because you must still market the product and provide customer support, let alone develop it in the first place," offers Boag as a useful dose of reality. He reckons that unless you have the time to fully invest in such ventures, you're better off trying to push up the market and increase rates as you go, in order to ride out peaks and troughs.



+$When setting an initial baseline, Boag warns you should be mindful of various factors. "Too often people undercharge because they think they can charge out all of their time," he says. In truth, it's more like half when you consider weekends, public holidays and admin. And whatever rate you decide on should also be more guideline than fixed position. "If you're swamped, increase your rate," he says. "If you don't like the job, increase your price to a number that makes you willing to do it."

+$Experience should also be a factor, as should where you're expected to work. "I charge more for stressful projects that might need speciality work like immersive WebGL development or unique UI design than I do for basic front end development or UX design," says Mielke. "If a project has an extreme deadline, needs me on-site or requires my exclusive attention, my prices increase."


+$It's also worth considering moving away from traditional rates. "Charge by the hour and clients will try to beat you down, arguing different tasks will take less time," says Murphy. "To avoid a slippery slope of being paid less than I should be, I use a value-driven pricing model based on the client's budget and what they hope to achieve."