I started freelancing in 2014. It happened by accident as a company reached out to me to write an article for them. I instantly said yes because I wanted the extra income, but I had no real goals in mind. I figured if I could make a few hundred dollars a year, that would be better than nothing.
How things can change quickly. In 2018, I became a full-time freelancer. This was something I never would have imagined but it has worked out great for me so far. Looking back, I wish I had set goals for myself since they would have kept me focused. Yes, I ended up in an ideal position, but I made a lot of mistakes along the way. It doesn’t matter if you want to quit your job to freelance or you just want a side hustle, these are the goals freelancers need.
Earning more money
Freelancers typically freelance because they want to earn more income. Instead of taking the, anything extra would be nice approach, you should try to set some kind of income goal. I’m not suggesting some ridiculous amount, but say $500 – $1,000 in the first year is a pretty reasonable goal. Interestingly enough, reaching this goal can be easy if you know what you’re worth. When I first started freelancing, I undervalued my services and charged too little. Do some research and see what the going rate is for someone with your experience.
Update your portfolio
Every freelancer needs some kind of portfolio. I personally think having a website is the best way to feature your portfolio regardless of what your freelance job is. As a writer, showing my writing online is an obvious thing to do, but let’s say you’re an artist, having a website is an easy way to show potential clients some of your work. I know a freelancer who rented giant games (Connect Four, Jenga, etc.) for weddings and didn’t have a website since he relied on word of mouth and Kijiji to advertise. As soon as he built a website showing people playing with his games at events, his business doubled almost overnight. Don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile with your side hustle!
Improve your skills
Generally speaking, you should never be content with your skills as a freelancer. Although I knew how to write, it still took me a little while to find my style and the niche I wanted to focus on. Search engine optimization was also starting to become a popular thing so I had to research that and incorporate it into all of my writing. Like a regular job, you always need to keep improving your skills so you can get “promoted.” Being promoted in the freelancer world means you can charge more.
Track your income and expenses
One thing freelancers need to figure out early is how they’re going to track their income and expenses. This is vital since you’ll need all of that information when it comes time to file your taxes. I personally like to track everything in Google Sheets or Excel, but I admit it’s time-consuming. If you want things to be a bit more streamlined, try out QuickBooks Self-Employed. Also, as your business grows, you may want to consider getting one of the best business credit cards in Canada as it’ll allow you to separate your business expenses from your personal ones.
Figure out your taxes
Okay, so this is a pretty sad goal, but it’s also really important. Freelance taxes for Canadians can be a bit tricky the first time you do them. It’s not like it’s hard, but it’s just new so many people get a bit intimidated. As long as you’re keeping detailed records of your income and expenses, there’s no reason to panic. Even if you hate doing taxes or you’re worried about screwing things up, you can always use TurboTax Assist & Review Self-Employed or Full Service which will give you access to a tax expert.
Build your team
As you freelance more, you’ll likely need a network of people to help you grow your business. I personally work with an accountant, financial advisor, life insurance broker and multiple writers. It’s not like I’m relying on these people to do everything for me, but I have them take care of things that I may not have time for. By freeing up my time, I’m able to focus on the things that require my expertise.
Find your work/life balance
I’ll be honest, as a full-time freelancer, it’s been very difficult for me to find the right balance between work and play. I used to always say yes to every assignment because I wanted the money or I was afraid to say no. I was miserable because I felt like I was working all the time and I had no downtime at all. This obviously wasn’t sustainable for me so I now set boundaries for myself which gives me time to do things I enjoy such as playing video games, going to the gym and hanging out with my daughter.
Save your money
If you’re freelancing to make more money just so you can spend it, you may want to rethink your priorities. There’s nothing wrong with using that money to pay off debt, save for a home down payment or to take a vacation, but don’t waste your hard-earned money on things such as eating out or going to the bar. Coming up with an allocation for your freelance income is the best thing to do in my opinion. For example, you could say 25% is for taxes, 50% is for your RRSP, 25% is for random spending. With a set percentage saved from every cheque, what you spend the rest on likely won’t matter very much.