Work is no longer a set location. More employees and employers are opting to go the freelance route, and if you find yourself on the cusp of this decision, there are things you need to consider.
Being chained to a desk for 8 hours a day is a thing of the past for an increasing number of people in the South African workforce, and many recent graduates are coming to the realisation that they would much rather live life on their own terms, which means working from anywhere in the world. Although freelancing may often seem glamorous (those “I hate Mondays” Instagram posts from the beach, anyone?), it is a little more complicated than people realise. If you are looking to break free from the 9-5 life or are already a member of the ever-growing freelance pool, here are some things you need to know:
Invest in a good portfolio or website
As a freelancer, your online portfolio might be the first and last thing a potential client will ever see about you. It is important that it tells people exactly what you want them to know about your work because it could be the deciding factor when someone is considering making use of your product or service.
This means that an investment in the form of either time or money will need to take place from your side. Ensure that the links you provide to your portfolio are of the highest quality, or fork out that bit of extra money to create a professional and user-friendly website.
A well put together online presence exudes professionalism and hints at a commitment to providing a quality product or service. For beginners, sites like WordPress and Wix are a good place to start and they are free. If you merely want to create a portfolio of links to your work, Adobe Spark allows you to do just that.
Know your rights
The sad reality is that freelancers face a challenge of exploitation due to the often informal nature of their work. Before you begin a project, ensure that you have everything is in writing and that expectations, deadlines, and remuneration are bound by set dates.
Another problem faced by freelancers who are just starting out is being unsure of what to charge for their work, leaving them vulnerable to accepting rates that are way below the industry norm and prevents them from being remunerated fairly when working with the same client in the future.
If freelancers are at a loss for what to charge for their work, it is advisable that they create a rate card based on the outlines provided in the Southern African Freelancers’ Association Media Industry and Rates Report. These rates are merely a guideline, and it is up to you to negotiate your rate based on the specific project you are doing at any given time.
If you are thinking of entering the world of freelancing, do yourself a favour and get registered for tax. This means you’ll have to give yourself a pep talk to prepare for the SARS queues, but it is an unavoidable part of doing things the right way.
For freelancers who aren’t strangers to having 25% of their fee being withheld by clients, registering for tax means that you might just be able to claim some of that back. The upside of being registered for tax is that any additional concerns, as well as tax returns, can all be done online via the SARS eFiling service.
Create your own opportunities
The biggest obstacle for many freelancers is actually finding work. Sure, you could spend all day bidding for jobs on freelancer sites, but you could also create your own jobs.
For instance, if there is a brand, publication or company you feel your work would be a perfect fit for, find a point of contact and pitch your ideas to them. A good way to go about this is to identify a problem and explain how you plan on solving it for them.
For example: “I know that your brand targets young women and I noticed that there is content missing on the topic of birth control. Please see a link to some articles I’ve written on the topic and let me know if you would like me to create a tailored piece for your publication”.
In this way, you are presenting yourself as someone who can not only spot gaps in the market but can fill them with valuable content. This goes much further than a cold email asking if a company works with or is looking for freelancers.
Co-working spaces are a procrastinators best friend
Many freelancers cite the difficulty they have differentiating between work time and home time because they work from home. Due to the growing number of freelancers all over the world, co-working spaces offer an alternative to the normal office environment, but still provides a place for freelancers to get stuff done.
For people who struggle to work at home, co-working spaces provide an environment where they are motivated to complete projects and even collaborate with other freelancers. Co-working spaces provide a wide range of options from hot desks to monthly office spaces and meeting rooms to touch base with your clients.
Network to get work
The most frustrating part of being a freelancer is knowing you have the capabilities to do something, but not knowing the right people to help you get it done.
The importance of networking is an essential component of becoming a freelancer, as regular work is made more attainable through the building and maintaining of professional relationships. A key to networking is to frequent events within the industry you operate in and to build your contact list from there.
This includes linking with other freelancers on collaborative projects or putting someone else forward for a project you know would be perfect for them so that, hopefully, they return the favour. Remember that networking gets your foot in the door, but you need to have done the work to make sure you earn your place in the room.
Social media and your personal brand
As a freelancer, everything you put online is open to scrutiny from potential clients and this includes your social media. If you would prefer to create a complete separation, it is advisable to set your accounts to private, although this may close off an additional avenue people can use to reach you for work.
If you opt for public profiles, ensure that the content you post does not contradict what you aim to do through your work and even better, promote the work you are proudest of through your social media platforms, optimising it to create new business opportunities.
Maintaining a professional approach
The informal nature of freelancing could result in an equally In addition, try to be as strict as possible about deadlines, informal approach to interactions with potential clients providing feedback and submit professional-looking and this is a big no-no. If you can, create a separate email invoices to your clients. You need to take yourself seriously through which you communicate all work-related matters.
In addition, try to be as strict as possible about deadlines providing feedback and submit professional-looking invoices to your clients. You need to take yourself seriously to set the tone for all working relationships and to avoid exploitation.
In the end, freelancing allows you to design your own life and gives you the freedom to prioritise things that are important to you. Life as a freelancer in South Africa can provide you with the best of both worlds if you know your rights, deliver quality work and are uncompromising when it comes to executing the goals you have set for yourself and your business.