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Freelance Writing Life

45 lessons I learnt during my first year freelancing in Australia

I know. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been freelancing in Australia for a year already. Time flies when you’re having fun. It also flies when you’re setting a business and there are a million and one things you should be doing with your time to get your company up and running. As well as finding sources of income.

So, to celebrate the end of the financial year, here are 45 discoveries and realisations that sum up what the first 365(ish) days are like for a sole trader newbie in Australia.

1. Going to the beach is a very real distraction.

2. There are a lot of people here who don’t know what a copywriter is, or how you might use one.

2.1. And those who do know, either totally understand the importance of your work or they think you’re out to rip them off (I’m really not).

3. The ATO is scary. Even to Australian’s who have been freelancing for years.

4. You don’t have to contribute to your super, but if you don’t you will die poor.

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5. Keep Cups are excellent for those times you can afford to treat yourself to coffee out.

6. Commuting interstate for a business meeting is less painful than taking the London Underground.

7. You can travel to the other side of the country in the same amount of time as it would take to go a few kilometres across London.

8. The freelance community is small, but fabulously friendly.

9. If ordering marketing assets for an event (like new business cards), do so way in advance because delivery might be S.L.O.W.

10. If your internet drops out, you’re screwed.

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11. If you’re not on NBN, you’re screwed.

12. If you are on NBN, you’re screwed because you’re probably paying for a service that doesn’t deliver.

13. “A rare nice weather day” is not a legit reason to not do any work. ALL DAYS ARE NICE WEATHER DAYS!

14. Australian clients enjoy chuckling at odd British idioms. It’s worth playing up the pom-card.

15. Bribing yourself with beer when it’s time to do the week’s accounts is valid.

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16. Knocking off a little earlier on a Friday afternoon to enjoy a drink with freelancing colleagues is legit.

17. Officeworks is a mecca.

18. During summer, working somewhere with aircon is non-negotiable.

19. During summer, working somewhere without aircon means the work will not get done.

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20. The squawks of crows and cockatoos are really distracting.

21. I did not break $100,000, like so many freelancers apparently do. In a year. Pfft.

22. Clients are really good at paying invoices on time. (Seriously, didn’t have a single late payment all year!)

23. Companies who don’t do business online are suspicious of companies who only do business online.

24. Getting out of the house for desk breaks is way easier, because the weather is (usually) a lot nicer.

25. Going to work in shorts is a regular occurrence.

26. The support of other freelancers is vital for your mental health.

27. Knowledge, skill sharing and support amongst the Australian freelancing community is a strong and wonderful thing.

28. Australian businesses like to ask: “Do you think Australia is very progressive and outward looking?” I’m yet to feel comfortable answering this fairly and with all the facts.

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29. There are so many financial tracking apps to choose from that they could be coming out of your ears. Really, there’s no excuse not to keep on top of freelancing finances.

30. There are loads of networking events. Lots are free. You can learn useful stuff about business, freelancing and writing.

31. Australia is an effing big country, so you may never meet someone you work with or for.

31.1. This makes phone, Skype, email and social media all the more valuable!

32. It’s always worth keeping your Seek profile up to date, even if you’re not looking for a job right that second.

33. There’s no hard-set rule whether the Australian language prefers American or British English spellings. For someone who specializes in writing, it’s important I utilise the right system but this can get pretty confusing.

34. There’s no pound (£) on my keyboard, which makes it a tad tricky dealing with UK clients.

35. Conversion rate fees are a pain in the arse, but I still find that PayPal is the quickest and most secure way to get paid by overseas clients.

36. Facebook advertising is not the only way to promote your product/service/business, although many companies still think it’s the be-all and end-all.

37. Pricing projects up fairly is always hard. Doing it in a currency you’re still getting to grips with while learning the going market rate, is even tougher.

38. Getting an ABN is pretty simple.

39. There’s always going to be agencies that are bigger than you and cheaper than you. It doesn’t mean they are better than you.

40. Australia time zones show no mercy — quickly accept that you will be working late or getting up early if you have clients overseas.

41. On a whole, Australians live up to their laid-back stereotype so work deadlines can be “flexible”.

42. “No worries” will seep into all conversations, whether by phone, email, text, social or the client copy you happen to be writing.

43. There are lots of great looking hot-desk and co-working spaces, but libraries and cafes are equally awesome (free) places to head to when needing to switch up your freelancing work environment.

44. The gym is always busy. Doing things at ‘off-peak times’ is supposed to be a freelancer plus point, but Oz seems to be a nation of really consistent gym bunnies

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45. Freelancing in Australia and the gig economy is still an emerging profession. There are certain systems that could do better to support freelancers over here.

How long have you been freelancing in Australia?

If you’re reading this as a fellow sole trader in Australia (that’s satisfying to say), how have you been finding it? Let me know below with a comment, or drop me a tweet if any of these resonate with you.

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