My name is Tansy Foor. I graduated from Indiana University in May 2014 and I currently work as a freelance Production Assistant on (primarily) Television Commercials in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. After a year of freelancing full-time, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way on how to survive being a full-time freelancer:
1. For me, one of the hardest parts of freelancing is time management. Just because I don’t work a regular 9-5 job every single day, doesn’t mean I get to binge-watch Netflix on my couch all day, everyday. Instead, on my off days, I dress in office clothes (because it gets me in the mindset of “let’s go to work”), I go to my office (my desk in my spare room) and I work. Everyday is different, whether it is clipping coupons for the weekly grocery trip, researching ways to make money, sending emails to my contacts and/or planning my budget for the next month based on my income from this month. Using your off time wisely makes the days you do work easier, considering a freelancer’s day on the job may be 10-16 hours.
2. Sometimes you need more to do in a day than just sit at a computer looking for future jobs. This is a great time to focus on a hobby or volunteer. I occasionally volunteer at the local animal shelter taking pictures for them to post on their website. My hobbies include playing flute, visiting zoos and museums to take pictures and baking.
3. Here are some things you can do to stay “above water” financially, especially when you are just starting out in the world of freelancing:
a. Part of being freelance means that you’re not paid right away. Know the amount of time it takes from end of job to check arrival. (i.e. You may work a job today, but you might not get paid for a month, therefore would have to plan accordingly.)
b. Get a roommate or someone to share rent with. Not only will this save you money, but it’s also an opportunity to build even more friendships.
c. COUPONS! When I grocery shop, I buy generic and use lots of coupons. I tend to save $20-30 a month!
d. Look into ways to make extra money— I sell some of my photographs, old textbooks/DVDs, and consigning clothes can make a little extra spending cash.
e. There are some times when in order to save money, your social life needs to get creative to save a few dimes… Have a “cheesy movie night” instead of going out, have friends over and learn how to make homemade pasta from a YouTube tutorial…The possibilities are endless AND CHEAP!!
f. Get a part-time job… the only problem with this would be the short notice of primary jobs. Normally I only get 1-2 day notice of a job and at some part-time job places, this isn’t enough time to call off and/or it could result in termination from your part-time job.
g. Freelance more than one job type. I freelance as a Production Assistant (primarily) but on the side I freelance as a Personal Assistant and at times a Freelance Photographer…Be flexible!
4. Taxes- this is one heck of a can of worms. Know the type of job you’re working on.
a. As a freelancer, most of the time I work on invoice jobs, which means after I’m done with the job I email the client an invoice with my rate plus any other expenses (such as on-the-job mileage.) Then about a month later, I get a check. It is a really smart idea to set aside 33% of this check for taxes later. You DO NOT want to get to the end of tax season and find you have to pay $3000. You may not have $3000 lying around then.
b. Sometimes I work on time-card jobs. This is when you’re paid on an hourly rate and they take out a portion of your gross profit for taxes. Then, about a month later, you get a check. You don’t need to set anymore aside for taxes; however, I do set around 5% aside just in case I need it.
c. Know what to deduct. (If you’ve never done taxes before, you can always talk to an accountant—there are some that offer free consultations). You can deduct certain things from your taxes, such as:
i. Food/drinks bought on the job.
ii. Shoes, clothes, goods of service (anything you buy to do your job better).
iii. Equipment used for your job/profession. (My DSLR was deductible.)
iv. Car things (Oil Change, Tires) and Gas/mileage (to/from and on the job)
v. Medicines- Tums, Aspirin, Imodium, etc. can all be deductible. A first aid kit is also great to have on hand for whatever needs may arise.
vi. Office Supplies (binders, paper, white-out, etc.)
Being a Freelancer takes a certain mindset to get used to. For some, it takes a week of two and for others, it takes months. Just know that if this is something you want to do, commit to it, and most importantly, love it, regardless of the ups and the downs.