Sole trader New Year's resolutions


16th December, 2019

7 New Year’s (business) resolutions for freelancers and sole traders

They won’t help you lose weight or give up drinking, but these New Year’s resolutions will work wonders for your sole trader bank balance.

From flexibility and autonomy to annual leave limited only by your bank balance, being self-employed, a freelancer or a sole trader of any kind has it perks.

But on the flip side, the absence of a structured office environment with the requisite water cooler chatter can make flying solo a lonely choice.

Without a regular pay cheque, cash flow can also be unpredictable (read: feast or famine) – so freelance life isn’t always for the faint hearted.

Thankfully, whether you’re a freelancer by choice or necessity, there are steps you can take to get the most from the situation.

Because it’s that time of year again, here are seven of the best new year’s resolutions for freelancers. Implement them on 1 January and enjoy a less stressful, more fruitful year.

1. Set boundaries – with others and yourself

A common complaint among freelancers is that some people forget they have a job. Just because you’re at home, it doesn’t mean you’re watching Ellen in your tracksuit. But try telling your sister that.

As a freelancer or contractor paid by the project, word or hour, your time really is money. Explain to people that you need to knuckle down, and request any non-urgent contact be kept outside work hours.

Distracted by social media or a pinging phone? Practise self-discipline by turning off notifications or placing your phone in airplane mode. You can also use browser extensions such as StayFocusd to limit the amount of time you can spend on social media sites.

2. Market your services

As a sole trader, you need to get comfortable with self-promotion as it’s a crucial part of generating inbound leads.

Your personal brand matters, so start with a good website or portfolio site. Then make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and complete.

You had the confidence to go out on your own, so you’re likely an expert in your field. Share your specialist knowledge by starting a blog and pitch yourself for industry panels and guest speaking gigs.

Spare half an hour? Uploading your profile to freelancer platforms like Freelancer and Upwork is another simple marketing tactic.

3. Set aside money for tax

Without an employer deducting tax, many new sole traders fall into the trap of viewing their incomings as spending money. This can lead to a rude awakening, and hefty bill, come tax time.

Know your obligations as a contractor when it comes to tax and GST – the ATO website has lots of useful information. Then make sure you regularly put aside money so you’re not caught short.

READ: What are the differences between a sole trader and a company?

It’s also a good idea to keep things separate with a dedicated business bank account, and enlist the help of an accountant.

4. Build your sole trader business pipeline

When you’re elbows deep in an all-consuming project, you might not have the time or headspace to think about what’s next. But having no plan, and nothing in the pipeline, is a recipe for disaster.

Carve out a set time each day, or week, for prospecting. This might include cold-calling/emailing desirable businesses, or chasing up any existing leads.

Meet someone on Friday who expressed interest in your services? Follow up on Monday, while the lead is still warm.

5. Simplify your invoicing

In the absence of a regular salary, you need to manage cash flow as best you can. To get paid sooner, don’t begin a relationship without outlining your terms of payment in a contract or letter of agreement.

Is it a large job that will limit you from taking on other projects? Get a deposit up front, with the remainder to be paid at different milestones, or upon completion.

And if you’re still creating invoices in Word with no processes to track payments, it’s time to take stock. An online accounting platform like MYOB will help streamline the process.

With professional looking invoices and quotes, you can track when invoices have been seen, opened and paid, and set automated reminders for tardy payers.

6. Invest in your professional development

Amid all the admin that comes with freelancing, it can be easy to slack off on the professional development front. But it really does pay to invest in yourself.

Stay on top of developments by signing up to industry newsletters, being active on digital forums and groups and attending workshops and courses throughout the year.

Make a commitment to upskill and build your knowledge, then set a goal for the number of events/ training courses you’ll attend each quarter.

7. Connect with other freelancers

Nobody understands the freelance life like another freelancer, so make an effort to connect with your kindred – in the real world as well as online.

Ranging from functional to ultra-luxe, a co-working space can be great for this. Pay a monthly desk hire fee (or hot desk it) and you’ll work alongside other solopreneurs and start-ups. Many shared spaces also host regular networking events and talks.

There are also plenty of online networks to tap into, including Facebook support groups like the Jump Ship community and The Freelance Collective.

Tapping into the freelance community will not only make you feel connected, you’ll likely benefit from shared contacts and referrals.