australian freelancing

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Jadon Barnes via Unsplash

Australian freelancing isn’t a picnic. Yes, we command some of the highest rates in the world, but have you seen our cost of living lately? We’re facing increased pressure from many places. The casualisation of the workplace continues at a frightening rate. More and more of us are being pushed regional due to the housing crisis. Traditional employers still struggle with the idea of flexible workplaces. And the ownership is often on us to create our own working lifestyle as a result.

Between all this and having to manage the project from whoa to go, the business development involved, late payers and a bunch of other pitfalls, it’s a hard yakka freelancing in Australia.

Yet some Australian freelancers really want to make a rod for their own back by inviting even more trouble.

There are 4 ways you could be making Australian freelancing harder for yourself. Here’s how to identify the pitfalls and stop adding pressure to your plate

You don’t know what to charge

One common problem in freelancing in Australia appears to run on the motto of “price by guessing”. It’s something that dominates conversations in the Freelance Jungle events as well as the Facebook group.

Does this sound like you?

  • You vary your rates wildly from job to job
  • You often find yourself under the discount request limbo pole
  • The way you price is to look at everyone else and ask them what they charge
  • Asking for money makes you feel awkward
  • Clients don’t seem to understand the value in the work you do

The issue is not what you charge. It’s a failure to know what it costs you to do business. It’s the failure to sit down and have a long, number orientated discussion with yourself about what you can charge with profit in mind.

You must make yourself hungry, valuable and well-versed in what you should be paid to be able to command it.

Things that often get in the way of charging the right amount of money for your services are:

  • A reliance on partner income to get you through. Once you start seeing yourself as an individual contributor to the financial success of your family, you stop being quite so forgiving with pricing
  • Not knowing how much it costs you to sit in your chair. Look at how much you spend to keep your business going. Budget for equipment, software, stationery, internet, phone and other services. Then think about tax, super and savings. Realistically, two-thirds of what you earn will go to paying tax and keeping your business humming. Stop putting yourself on minimum wage as a result
  • Viewing the ability to work your own hours or ‘be creative’ as some reason to give money away. You might like your work and your lifestyle but that doesn’t mean you should charge $20 an hour as a thank you to some divine universal being for being able to like something you spend your lion share of time on
  • Thinking the guy next to you knows what to charge. 95% of people freelancing in Australia are pulling their pricing out of their bum, just like you. Be the 5% that actually thinks about this stuff instead

You’re not a hero for living on bread and water, quivering at the sound of the slightest expense. Pack up the starving artist crap and transform yourself from amateur to professional by understanding your worth.

You go to all the meetings all the time

Useful meetings are a part of business. Admiring Bob and his latte drinking style for the 4th time is not useful. It’s probably just giving Bob an excuse to get out of the office under the guise of business.

Some freelancers swear by meetings to broker their business deals and that’s great for them. Some of us don’t have the time, can’t travel for the meetings or want to do them online to save time and effort. This is OK as well.

What isn’t OK is when any client hasn’t committed to a project by the end of the second meeting. That’s the absolute limit of how many times you should meet with anyone where money isn’t involved. You also have to be wary of anyone that wants to pick up the phone and call you over the slightest thing, wants you to attend team meetings every Monday or thinks more than a check in a fortnight is reasonable.

Meeting addiction is rife in small business, agencies and is spilling into Australian freelancing circles like mono after a kissing booth party. Stop it dead in it’s tracks. You can’t afford the fat in your timetable that meeting addicts appear to have.

Any good freelancer caps and timeboxes meetings. We also ensure that the meeting creates actionable items that you can work on. For every hour you spend in a meeting, there should be a minimum of twice the amount of work to result.

Don’t play into someone else’s fantasies by granting them meeting after meeting and random reasons to touch base. Exercise boundaries to train them to work more efficiently. And if someone keeps asking you to meetings and nothing ever results, file them in fantasy land and focus on people that are actually getting shit done instead.

You forget to network with other freelancers

Freelancing in Australia is a lonely business. It’s a wide country and it’s a tough country economically. That means we work harder to get where we need to be.

The odd thing about this is that freelancers in Australia often forget that building relationships with their peers helps end the isolation and create a better catchment for jobs than any other form of business development out there.

Look, a lot of Australian freelancers swear by networking as a way to make scratch. They attend events, take on workshops and pitch panels, hang about in Facebook groups and more.

Yet when we attend networking events, it’s always the ones where the clients roam. Or are the opportunities where everyone is in sell mode and no one is too keen to buy.

Working the room with other freelancers always brings more opportunity than hanging out at random marketing events or schmoozing it at networking.

By making friends with other Australian freelancers, you can:

  • Pitch for jobs together and share clients
  • Pick up the overflow of work
  • Receive leads via recommendation if the original freelancer isn’t quite the right fit
  • Take on another freelancer’s work while they’re on holidays or in need
  • Widen your introduction to agencies through understanding who hires through the experience of others
  • Sell your services to your peers

90% of the time, these leads are also warm and qualified, leading to higher conversions. So if you’re finding you’ve attended yet another client networking event and found it boring and fruitless, why not replace that time and energy spent with spending time building relationships with freelancers instead?

You chase freelance job boards instead of business development opportunities 

Many of the off-shore and Australian freelancing job boards are a race to the bottom. We’ve all seen jobs that take a day that barely cover the half hour in pay. We’ve all bemoaned bidding on price as the only qualifier of quality work product.

Why then do we keep asking for the job boards to change their ways? Why not spend time building business development skills instead?

Business development sets you up to take control of your business instead of feeling like a salmon swimming up stream all the time.

Some of the ways you can develop freelance business on your own terms:

  • Create a strong showing of work through examples, testimonials, blogs, projects and more on your website
  • Introduce elements such as social media and SEO to widen the flow
  • Get comfortable with asking happy clients to refer you to friends and business acquaintances
  • Check in with clients on regular intervals to see if they need extra work done after the last project has closed
  • Position yourself as an authority in your field by taking the speaking gigs, writing the guest posts and maximising your brand and social media
  • Don’t shy away from the phone or emails. Make sure you know the ACMA guidelines and hit the pavement
  • Give away knowledge and assistance in Facebook groups
  • Look for ways to capture email address through offering downloadable freebies
  • Spend time networking with freelancers
  • Invent campaigns and side projects that demonstrate your abilities in inventive ways
  • Send your portfolio to agencies and get yourself on their radar
  • Consider having an agent
  • Run your own events, workshops and webinars

Look for the opportunities to demonstrate you are ready, willing and able to do the work. This can also be a source of creative release as you find new and interesting ways to pitch yourself.  It demonstrates confidence and that you’re adept as a self-starter. That puts you in a much stronger position than the person waiting to be spoon-fed a job.

Want to kick arse with your business? Check out the current courses to help your Australian freelancing fly in 2018. And get your butt to a Freelance Jungle networking event.