Freelancing: How much money do you need to start freelancing?

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We all know that starting a business from scratch is not easy and it doesn’t only take hard work. Ideally, one should pursue freelancing as a ‘side gig’, while keeping a steady job, which will pay the bills, cover the debt, put food on the table and theoretically help save some money. This is the theory at least.

And yet it doesn’t always work like this.

When I started freelancing (taking it seriously, I’ve been ‘playing’ the freelancer for around 5 years already), my situation was far from being perfect. I just lost my job and the industry I was working in (mass media) was absolutely ‘dead’ in my city.

The best salary I could hope for was 40% of my previous one and wouldn’t quite cover my car payments, lest give me enough to live, save, pay taxes etc. It was clear to me that my future was no longer in this area, no matter how passionate I was to be working as a radio DJ and have my own daily show.

freelance-budget

I wasn’t even halfway through my car payments (started 16 months ago and had to make 48 payments), not to mention that I had to pay taxes for my small freelancing business (and in my country these taxes are taken NO MATTER WHAT). So, even if you actually make NOTHING for months, the Romanian state has no problems with asking you to pay a ton of taxes.

The ideal situation would have been for me to have some savings put aside, so that my ‘starting budget’ would be enough to push my small business forward. Yet, I had NOTHING. Oh, excuse me, I did have something: debt and taxes.

So what did I really have?

1. a working computer

As I already mentioned in the ‘about my debt‘ post days ago, I did have a decent computer, so at least I could do the freelancing work and not worry about the PC crashing down every time I had to save a Photoshop file.

2. an internet connection

Fortunately for me, the internet connections were pretty cheap in 2009, compared to what we’d pay 10 years ago for instance. It was fast enough for any of my work, not to mention almost no downtime.

3. me, myself and I

The third element I needed was myself. With a computer and an internet connection, I was able to start doing some serious work for the next months and get my small business off the ground.

I would have loved being able to have a budget to pay for my taxes and solve my debt, but it wasn’t the case. Fortunately money started coming (not much at first, but it was still OK) and it allowed me to keep up with the payments and be able to earn a living.

Starting out as a freelancer (depending on your specialty) might not cost as much as some would think. Sure, it’s always a good idea to save money first, so that you do have even a small budget for any expenses that might arise. I was lucky to make it work like this, but it’s surely not the ideal way to start out.

How about you? How much money did you need to start freelancing? Did you have savings? A budget?

23 COMMENTS

  1. Well put Ramona! Freelancing is an extension of a simple skill and doesn’t require anything more than a working computer+internet and tons of hard work. Yes, having savings help provide a cushion but with the kind of connected world we live in, if the person is talented he/she can find enough gigs to live a decent life

    • I wished my start wouldn’t have been this ‘bumpy’, but maybe it was still good, this made me really put 150% into my small business. Having some money saved is a better idea though 😀

  2. I was thinking about starting a freelance career in like real estate niche but the thing that’s hard for me to deal with is starting at low rates. Honestly I think I kind of want my money to come faster then what freelance writing gets you. But I’m trying out some other online ventures and I may still give freelance writing a shot but it’s great that it really costs nothing to start.

    • We don’t have such libraries here with internet. I think the city library is actually still closed after being moved from a very ‘friendly’ area for the real estate moguls 😀

  3. I was in a similar situation when I started, plus I had absolutely no idea what blogging was all about. 🙂 Knowledge on how things work is probably the biggest asset when starting as a freelancer, but fortunately you can get that on the go, just like I did.

    I really like to find similarities between us as I too was a radio DJ at a local radio and for a very brief period I worked as a news reporter for a radio station in Bucharest (now defunct… because I left them, of course). In my case, what I do now is what I love to do.

    • I do think what we have in our heads is really the biggest asset we need. Even with little to no money, a good specialist won’t starve as a small business owner.

    • Absolutely. I had clients from all over the world (almost all continents, except for the one with the polar bears and penguins :D). And, as you said, access to information shared by people who are also on all kinds of ‘meridians’.

  4. Great post Dojo. It seems as though freelancing is something which many of us start out in with less than ideal circumstances. In my case, I had just given up my job and moved country and wasn’t really in great financial shape. This can help give an extra incentive to do a great job. Maybe it would seem like to much hassle to someone who is coasting along comfortably

    • Well, when my job was still there, I was also not that involved, which makes me kick myself. If I started working for myself more seriously at least 3 years before, I’d be in a way better stop. Oh well …

  5. Very good article. I started with nothing more than what you mentioned in this article. I did not see any other investment as important and I was lucky enough to already have a computer and internet for person use before starting work.

  6. Freelancing is definitely something that is easier to start. I would also say that it’s great to have Microsoft Word if you don’t already have it, as that’s a generally accepted format for submitting things. It also depends on what you are freelancing in. Freelancing in graphic design will require special softwares.

    • You can use Open Office, if you’re not willing to pay for the Office suite by Microsoft. I am using this one and it’s pretty OK. There are also free options for design software (Inkscape – vector design and Gimp – instead of Photoshop) for the people who can’t yet afford the real ‘deal’

  7. While it is not totally necessary, I think that it is hugely beneficial to have a portfolio website to highlight your work. I’d add that to your list. It’s a great marketing tool to entice new freelance business.

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