Advice, Resources & Tools for Freelancers
Updated: Oct 1
By Zoe Womack
Want to be a freelancer but don't know how to handle the business side that comes with being self-employed?
Need some advice?
You've come to the right place!
In this post, I'll give some advice about each of the points below, as well as provide links to some tools and resources (both paid and free) that you may find useful. All links will open in a new tab.
Disclaimer: Nothing mentioned in this post is sponsored, and no links are affiliate links. I do not make any profit from any links that you may click. These are all just tools and resources that I have found via my own research.
Project Management Tools for Freelancers
Good project management will help you to stay organised so you don't miss any deadlines. There are many tools available (both paid and free) that are very helpful!
Many of them will allow you to set notifications, which you can use to remind yourself of upcoming deadlines, or check if an invoice payment is overdue.
LSP Expert is specifically designed for translators. You can use it to manage projects and clients, as well as create quotes and invoices. It is 100% web-based and has a 30-day free trial.
As a sole trader, however, I found that Notion was more useful and better suited to my needs.
I highly recommend playing around with all of the tools and seeing which one is best for you.
Keep reading for more details about Notion, or skip to the next section.
My experience using Notion: Ideas & tips
The tool that I personally like the most and highly recommend is Notion.
It is web-based but also has desktop and mobile apps that you can download, giving you more options for notifications.
It has many templates that you can choose from and customise to your needs.
You can set up and keep track of things like:
Social media calendars
Business assets (keep track of social media accounts, fonts and colours used, etc)
You can add any details that you find relevant and even upload and attach files such as invoices, style guides, fonts, etc.
You can set reminders for upcoming deadlines and for when clients are due to pay you. So, you'll never miss a deadline and you'll always notice if a client is late paying you!
As far as I'm aware, there currently isn't a template for making a Client Database in Notion.
So, what I did was create a Database using the "Wiki" template, then created a page within that (possibly using the People Directory template, but I can't remember, sorry!). I set the view to "table view", deleted everything I didn't need, and added in all of the properties that I wanted to keep track of about the clients I work with.
At the moment, I keep track of:
The rates they pay me for each task
The currency they pay me in (USD, AUD, EUR, JPY, etc.)
Links to any vendor portals
Instructions for how to invoice them
How they pay me (PayPal, bank transfer, Wise, etc)
Whether they pay Net 30, 45 or 60
Contact name (the person who normally contacts me about work)
Contact email address
What CAT tool(s) they prefer me to use, if any
I attach any Style Guides, etc they like me to use
My supplier ID (if applicable)
Company contact details (website, physical address, phone number, other email addresses, etc.)
Any notes I have about them (eg. If they don't pay on time, if they have any special ways of assigning tasks, etc.)
Of course, you can keep track of anything that you find relevant!
Keep your business and personal finances separate! It will make it much easier for you (and your accountant if you have one) when it comes to tax time.
Opening up a business bank account is an easy way to keep your business finances separate from your personal ones.
In Australia, many banks offer basic business account plans that do not come with monthly fees. They may be limited in some ways, but tend to be perfect for freelancers!
Business bank accounts in Australia
Opening up a second business bank account (like an online saver account) is a good way to set aside money for tax or GST (if you’re registered for GST in Australia). A good rule of thumb is to just put 30% of any business income you get into that second account, so that you're never caught short at tax time.
Receiving money from overseas
If you're using PayPal, consider opening a business PayPal account. They're free, have an invoicing tool, and are a really simple way to keep your business and personal finances separate.
Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) is a UK-based company that allows you to send and receive money from overseas and charges lower fees than PayPal.
Wise can set you up with local account details in some countries so you can receive payments while avoiding bank transfer fees. They currently provide this service for: British Pounds, Euros, US Dollars, Australian Dollars, Singaporean Dollars, Romanian Leu, Canadian Dollars, Hungarian Forint and Turkish Lira.
You can also hold and covert money in 40+ currencies. Check out the currencies they support here.
Accounting & Invoicing tools
There are many tools that you can use for keeping track of your financial records and create invoices for your clients.
I'm personally a fan of ZipBooks. The free version is perfect for what I need:
You can select the currency for each invoice
You can customise your invoices with your logo, business information, etc.
You have the option of adding a "Pay Now" button if you've set PayPal or credit card as accepted payment methods
ZipBooks doesn't force their own advertising onto your invoices (this was an issue with the free version of Pandle)
For my bookkeeping, I currently just use an Excel spreadsheet with formulas that automatically calculate my total income and expenses for each month, as well as for the year.
Feel free to download my template (at the end of the post) for your own use, but be aware that it uses the Australian financial year (July-June).
A website is a good landing page for customers to learn about what you have to offer them. There are a couple of ways you can get a website: you could pay someone to design one for you, or you could design one yourself.
There are a few different platforms you can use if you decide to design one yourself. Some are easier to use, some require some knowledge about building websites, some are very customisable, some are limited in their customisation, and some offer free or very cheap plans.
Wix doesn't list a free plan on their pricing page, but they do actually have one! I was able to create an account and design my website before I purchased a plan.
Free Wix sites will have Wix ads, and you will not be able to have your own domain.
You can read more about the differences between their free and paid plans here.
Wix also has 50% off sales on their premium plan basically every week, which you will be notified of if you have a free account with them.
Note: There is a difference between Wordpress.org and Wordpress.com
Wordpress.org is free to download and use, but you'd need to purchase your domain and hosting elsewhere. Some people may find it difficult to use as it may be less user-friendly than other website design tools. You may also have to acquire various plugins elsewhere to get the features that you desire for your website.
How to pick the right platform for you:
I recommend checking out each to find out about their different features and plans, and picking one that suits your needs.
You could also check out YouTube videos comparing the different platforms. Here's a video by Payton Clark Smith that I found useful in making my decision.
Check out these YouTube videos for more advice about designing your website:
Do Translators Need Websites? (Freelance Translator) by Freelanceverse
There are a few ways you can get a logo. You can pay someone to design one for you, or you can design one yourself.
Hiring a professional designer will apparently cost you $150 or more. It's quite an investment, but you will end up with a professional, high quality, customised logo.
Hiring a freelance designer on a platform like Fiverr, Freelancer or Upwork could work out cheaper. They charge various prices and you can't be sure of the quality, so definitely be sure to do your research and read a lot of reviews before hiring someone online!
If you’re an artistic person, you could draw one yourself from scratch. There are a lot of free drawing apps you could use. I used Medibang Paint Pro for my initial design, and then Inkscape to turn it into a vector image.
Check out the video 5 Free (and Really Good) Drawing and Painting Apps – 2023 Edition by Brad Colbow on YouTube.
No matter how you get a logo, make sure to also get it as a vector graphic. Vectors are made up of points, lines, and curves based on mathematical equations rather than pixels. So, they don’t get distorted or “pixelated” when you resize them.
Some advice about designing a logo
A good logo should be:
Designed in black and white (colours can be added later)
A logo should look good and be recognisable even if it's printed in black and white. That's why it's a good idea to design it in black and white, and then add colours later.
I recommend checking out these YouTube videos for more tips:
Marketing Tools for Freelancers
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is very important for making sure that your content is seen. Most website design platforms (like Wix and Squarespace) have built-in SEO tools. You can also use other tools to help boost your SEO.
Set up a Google Business Profile to increase your visibility, especially locally. Getting happy clients to leave reviews on your profile will help promote your business even more.
Google Analytics will give you data that shows how well your marketing efforts are going.
Social media is a great way to promote your business for free! Think about who your target market is, and then do some research to find out which social media platforms they use the most.
The SproutSocial blog has a lot of great tips for using social media for marketing.
Canva is great tool for designing attractive, professional-looking posts. They have both free and paid versions.
Remember to use relevant (and trending!) hashtags to make sure that more people see your posts.
Discover new hashtags at Best Hashtag
Use QR codes to give your potential clients quick access to your website, blog, social media accounts, or whatever else!
Static QR Code Generator by QR Codes Australia is free and allows you to customise your logos with your own colours, designs and logos!
If you want to create digital business cards, try this free VCard QR Code Generator. Whenever anyone scans it, they'll get the option of automatically adding you and all your business information as a contact in their phone.
If you need ideas for social media posts or advertising, you could also use an AI like ChatGPT to help generate ideas.
Hootsuite is a social media management platform that allows you to interact with users on various platforms and from multiple accounts, all from their website. It's quite expensive, with the cheapest plan being $149/month (AUD). They have a 30-day free trial, or offer a 20% discount on your subscription if you opt to skip it.
Hootsuite also has some free marketing resources.
Learning basic copywriting skills will help you with your marketing.
Use customer-focused language
Say "You" not "I". Talk to your clients, not about yourself.)
Describe the benefits (not just the features) of your products or services.
How will your product or service positively affect your clients' lives?
Use descriptive and influential words, but avoid overused words that may sound far-fetched (eg. "exclusive", "no risk")
Use bullet points to list your key selling points. Don't assume people will be able to "read between the lines"—spell it out for them so there are no misunderstandings.
Appeal to emotional triggers (eg. the fear of missing out, the desire to be trendy, the need for instant gratification...)
Avoid TMI. Don't risk losing the attention of your audience.
Include disclaimers and phrases to protect yourself and back up any claims you make.
Include a Call To Action
The book Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps: Build the buzz and sell the sizzle by Susan Gunelius has a lot of great advice!
Emails, CVs & Cover Letters
Consider purchasing your own email domain rather than just using a free one like Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo. Free domains are often used by scammers, so people may doubt your authenticity. Having your own domain will give you credibility as a legitimate business.
Get a custom email domain through Google Workspace.
Create a professional, customised email signature with your business details, photo, logo, and clickable social media icons.
Find out how to create your own email signature through this YouTube video:
There are many things to keep in mind when emailing potential clients.
Check out my blog post on Emailing Potential Clients as a Freelance Translator.
Business plan templates https://business.gov.au/planning/business-plans/develop-your-business-plan
Business plans, templates, tools, guides & checklists https://business.gov.au/planning/business-plans
Business Plan for Translators YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h40S37PM8kM&t=138s&ab_channel=Freelanceverse-AdrianProbst
Legal Requirements for Businesses in Australia
As a freelancer, you are likely operating as a sole trader and need to make sure you are adhering to any legal requirements for businesses in your country or area of residence.
Read about the legal requirements in Australia below, or skip to the next section.
Here are the requirements that I am aware of in Australia:
Australian Business Number (ABN)
In Australia, we are legally required to have an Australian Business Number (ABN), and add this to any invoice that we give our clients, regardless of whether or not they are based in Australia.
Getting an ABN is free.
You can apply for an ABN via the Australian Government Business Registration Service website.
Registering a business name
If you are trading under your own name, you don't need to register a business name. But you can only trade under your legal name, with nothing modified or added to it.
For example, I could trade as "Zoe Womack", but I could not trade as "Zoe Womack Translations" or "Zoe's Translations", even though it includes my name. I would have to register those as business names.
Registering a business name is very quick and easy.
It currently costs:
$42 for one year
$98 for three years
(Current as of 19 August 2023).
Read more about business name fees and payment options at the ASIC website.
If you earn over the GST threshold (currently $75,000 gross annual income), you must register for GST within 21 days.
Read more about registering for GST at the ATO website.
Use this tool to decide which business registrations you should apply for.
For tax obligations, please visit the ATO website.
How to Get Business Skills
You could get a degree in business from a university or community college if you wanted to. But there are many other, more affordable ways to get the business skills necessary for you to be successful.
Here are just a few ideas of where you can get business skills:
Self-Employment Assistance Program (Australia only)
This is a free program available for citizens and permanent residents of Australia.
Get free training in small business management, business skills, and business plan development.
If eligible, you can claim income support equivalent to Centrelink's Jobseeker payment for 9 months. The Self-Employment Assistance Allowance is not affected by business income. To be eligible, you must be receiving Jobseeker payments when you apply for the Self-Employment Assistance Program.
Get up to $300 reimbursement on any business expenses.
Get business coaching with a mentor for 12 months.
For more information and to check if you meet the eligibility criteria: https://www.dewr.gov.au/self-employment-assistance
Find a provider near you: https://www.workforceaustralia.gov.au/individuals/coaching/providers/search
Websites that offer free (or very cheap) online courses
If in Australia, you can also check out what business courses are offered by your local TAFE. Sometimes they have some free courses available.
Small Business Webinars & Workshops
ATO Small Business Webinars (Australia)
Workshops by Small Business Development Corporation (Western Australia)
Free templates, tools and guides available at Small Business Development Corporation (Western Australia)
Professional Development & Networking Events
Look for events held by professional associations. Here are some professional associations for translators:
AUSIT (Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators, Inc)
ATA (American Translators Association)
JAT (Japan Association of Translators)
ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting)
NZSTI (New Zealand Society of Translators & Interpreters)
FIT (International Federation of Translators)
ALTA (The American Literary Translators Association)
A list of professional associations of translators and interpreters around the world can be found at Inbox Translation.
Books about Business
You could buy some business books, but it's also quite easy to find books about business at the library. In fact, besides the translation-specific books, I found all of these at my local library!
The Marketing Cookbook for Translators: Foolproof recipes for a thriving freelance career. By Tess Whitty.
Working in the Gig Economy: How to thrive and success when you choose to work for yourself. By Thomas Oppong.
The Small Business Success Guide. By Margie Sheedy.
The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-start your business, brand, and job search. By Wayne Breitbarth.
Social Media for Business: Foolproof tips to help you promote your business or your brand. By Linda Coles.
Building a Story Brand. By Donald Miller.
Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps: Build the buzz and sell the sizzle. By Susan Gunelius.
Rework. By Jason Fried.
Manage Your Time and Your Life. By Miriam Salpeter.
My Financial Records template in Excel has formulas that automatically calculate your total income and expenses for each month, as well as for the year.
Feel free to download it for your own use, but be aware that it uses the Australian financial year (July-June).
Starting Out as a Freelance Translator: Advice & Resources for Translators in Australia This is basically a printable PDF summary of this post, but with more focus on translators based in Australia.
Do you have any comments or questions?
Know of any other useful advice or resources for freelancers?
Feel free to share them in the comments!