ASK US WEDNESDAY: “How much does it cost to start freelancing?”

by Rachel Smith
19 June 2019

Quitting my job and starting freelancing for real has been my dream for years but I always chicken out because I’m terrified about running out of money. So, how much money DO I need to start freelancing? What are your initial expenses? I’d appreciate any advice. Carla

All good questions Carla. We’ve answered a few of them in this post, but we thought we’d also ask for some real life examples from our Gold members. We put the question to them in our Gold Facebook group: How much did it cost you to start freelancing? Here are their responses.

“I had $3K in the bank from my last monthly salary and a cheap Compaq laptop of poor pedigree that cost me $600. Then, it was off to freelance I went.”

“I’ve always had an Apple laptop, but each time I’ve decided to go freelance I’ve had no back-up plan. And for that read no back-up money. Have usually been escaping some heinous job though (or one that I’d completely outgrown), so spent the notice month chasing up work on my old employer’s dime.”

“I’d like to say that I had money set aside, but in reality, subediting has always been my backup. When I left my last full-time job, I sent out an email to various editors and lined up a month of subbing work from the first week to give me some breathing space. In that first year of freelancing, if things looked tough, I accepted subbing work and tried to write in the evenings or weekends. Even now, I don’t accept any freelance writing that pays less than $350 a day because that is what I would earn as a casual sub and I know I can earn that easily.”

“It wasn’t planned but I had some inheritance money that without I wouldn’t have felt secure enough to try out freelancing last year. We’ve now used it all to buy our first property, so there’s no backup plan anymore, but I have contacts and confidence now. Plus, I always know I can step into short term contracting comms work if the money situation became a problem.”

“I had no buffer, but I did have a partner working full-time and couldn’t have done it otherwise. Being a writer has lovely low overheads, so besides my laptop (which I already had), it didn’t really cost me anything except TERROR and DEVASTATING UNCERTAINTY.”

“My lovely husband bought me a laptop for my birthday/Christmas as incentive (read: a little push) to go freelance one November. I thought long and hard over the Christmas break then handed in my notice in January. I gave a lot of notice, so I had close to 5 months to save in preparation. Took a month off to reset and as soon as I started really hustling, I got asked to come back to my old job for a bit. This is a long way of saying I had help, good circumstances and a bit of luck to ease the financial stress.”

“I was in the UK, and had about £3k as my buffer (so about 5k AUD). Like others, I was lucky enough to get a lot of freelance work from my previous employer, so I had work straightaway, but because invoicing can be so slow, I needed every cent of that 3k to tide me over until the money started to come in.”

“I bought a MacBook, and ate into my savings for about 3 months which was scary.”

A full time employed husband, a laptop and a few hundred bucks setting up a DIY WordPress website…”

“It cost me very little to start freelancing. I had an ABN through other work while I was in uni, I paid to get the business name and I [already] had a laptop. And I just started working. Maybe $24 for DIY WordPress annual domain. I now pay $120 or something a year for it. Later I got some subscriptions to Hootsuite and things like that but for the first year, and initial setup, very low cost. I would always recommend working IN the business and not ON the business at the start.”

“It’s just me, so before jumping, I needed to make sure I could still feed my cat and pay rent having worked out what my absolute basic costs are to survive. I went from living by myself to a share house in my 40s, dear gods!
This is going to sound daggy but I also started following the Barefoot Investor before I completely jumped ship so had about 7K as my buffer. It is all the unexpected expenses that you don’t account for when freelancing that can throw you a little so that buffer has come in really handy. I was really fortunate that I was able to contract at the same place for a couple months after I resigned and had another semi-permanent freelance gig in the bag already too. So while I still need to hustle, I’ve got at least 3 days/week sorted to cover my absolute basic costs to survive.”

How much did it cost you to start freelancing? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

Rachel Smith

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