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Tips

Starting a new freelance life in a coworking space

St. Oberholz, a coworking space in Berlin

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Things worth spending time and/or money on at the beginning to save you time and/or money later

Beyond the people-power of your space, spend time finding out what your coworking space offers in terms of up-skilling workshops. Some spaces offer their members “How To …” courses on various topics. These courses can save you a lot of time and can reinforce the things you’ve already figured out for yourself. If your space doesn’t have anything on offer, find out if they have a partnership deal with another company. It never hurts to ask! 

Spend money on a good tax agent and a budgeting app/website, and spend time doing the maths. Work out how much you need to charge to earn a decent salary, taking into account the amount you need to set aside for tax and superannuation, as well as your billable and non-billable hours. Map out your estimated monthly and yearly business costs, and make sure you have enough left over to live a little, save a little, spend a little, and survive those clients who don’t pay their invoices on time. If you intend to conduct business internationally, make sure your tax agent is up on the ins and outs of the laws of the countries in which you intend to work or draw clients from. You don’t want to find out you owe more money because your agent hasn’t done their research! Again, the members of your coworking space are a great resource: they can point you to the right people (or away from the wrong ones).

Understand you’re on your own: you may need to consider spending money on insurance that would normally be covered if you were a company employee. Of course, the types of insurance you may need are entirely dependent on your profession and the country in which you conduct your business. Chatting with an insurance broker might help you to figure out what’s necessary. Again, check out whether your coworking space has a collaboration with an insurance company – in some cases they will have already done the hard work to find their members a good deal.

A few things to expect (and not to expect)

Expect that it will take time to build your client base, and don’t expect work to magically appear. Depending on how you expect to find clients (many of mine are referrals or word-of-mouth), business card and website design can be money well spent. Talk with members of your coworking space and find out how they source new clients. On a few occasions now I’ve been chatting with people in my coworking space who’ve said, “Oh, I should introduce you to ”. It’s amazing what a coffee and a chat can achieve. 

Expect that you’re going to get job offers that are a little outside of your niche. Expanding your skillset is never a bad thing; so, even if the job doesn’t seem like a perfect fit at first glance, try it on. 

Expect that managing your own business is far more time and energy consuming than you anticipated. Once you’ve got a good understanding of what needs to be done, figure out which elements of your business you can delegate. Is there someone (or something) that can better track your money/do your invoicing/schedule your day? 

Don’t expect it to be easy from the start, but expect that you’ll figure it out soon enough!

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Ashley Cooper is an Australian Freelance Scientific and Medical Writer and Editor living in Berlin, Germany


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