Five tips for starting your own freelancing business

At the end of November 2022, I will have been running my own business for six years.

When I started at the beginning of December in 2016, I had some idea of what I was doing – I had been a freelancer years before. So I made my plans and set forth.

One of the first things I did was to join the Southern African Freelancers’ Association, and I’m still a member. A couple of years after I joined, I gave a presentation for Safrea to a group of interns about starting out on a freelancing or small business journey. Years later, the list I gave them is still valid – this is a slightly updated version of a post I wrote in 2018.

You are a business, not a freelancer
  • So do some planning – what do you offer, who do your offer it to, how will you find those people, how will you market yourself? What can only you offer? What is the name of your business? Decide what name you are going to use across all your branding at the very beginning.
  • Have business-like documentation – invoices, letterheads, an email signature, business cards.
  • Get a proper email address – so, not
  • Figure out a way to keep track of the money – even it is just a notebook where you write what you have spent and what you have earned.
  • Set yourself some goals – start with a 90-day-plan rather than a whole year.
  • Work out what you need to get things started – make a list of all expenses you think you might have.
The Internet and social media
  • Get yourself a domain either in your personal name, or that of your business, or both if you can afford it (buy it now even if you only use it later) ( has a good domain search).
  • Get a website. If that seems daunting then start a Facebook page or beef up your LinkedIn profile.
  • If you can write, start a blog.
  • Clean up your social media accounts from the past – or hide your private ones, and start ones for your business. Pick one or two platforms that seem relevant to your business: Instagram if you are a photographer, for instance.
  • Write a two-page CV and a one-page brochure.
  • Join a network relevant to your business (MeetUp is a good place to look for like-minded groups).
  • Network with other colleagues in your industry.
  • Join an association like Safrea.
  • You might need to stay in your current job, or find one, and then save, save, save until you have enough to start your business.
  • What to charge? Figure out what you need to live on every month (say, R10 000), how many hours you are prepared to work every month (40 hours a week times four weeks = 160 hours) and then do the maths: on the example figures I’ve given, you’d need to make R62,50 an hour. Once you know that, keep a scrupulous record of how long all the work you do takes. Over time, you’ll start to get a sense of what your going rate is.
Get help
  • If you are a bad writer, pay someone to edit your work (perhaps offer trade exchanges).
  • If you are a bad speaker, get some lessons in how to improve.
  • Ask other people for advice – Safrea or other industry associations.
  • Tap into resources for small businesses – the city council, the department of labour, local universities, banks

Main picture: StockSnap, Pixabay

The stuff that’s always at the bottom of blog posts…

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