How to thrive as a freelancer

Dave Howell
Written by Dave Howell
on July 27, 2020

Freelancing can be a stressful way to make a living. However, if you buy the right services and create a set of automated systems, you can make your freelance life efficient and fun.

Ask any group of freelancers what pain points they feel when running their businesses, you’ll get a range of answers. Often, the main areas of frustration is invoicing, tax and comply with company regulations. Developing systems and buying the right services are the keys to stress-free freelancing.

There is little doubt that freelancing is now the career choice of millions. The European Freelancers Survey concluded: “There is no reason to believe the growth of freelancing is about to stop any time soon. As freelancers become a larger part of the European workforce, their needs will have to be heeded more by policymakers and all our institutions. In particular, our social protection will have to evolve to take their situation into account. In many European countries, red tape and bureaucracy are still stifling a lot of economic activity.”

The reality is you can make some simple changes to how your business is set-up and run, which will reduce your stress levels and enable you to work on the fun aspects of freelancing: working for clients that appreciate your unique skills. Stress-free freelancing isn't something to aspire to but something you can actively develop.

Freelancers have to master many skills. “Probably the most challenging aspect of freelancing is the fact that you need to wear so many hats,” said Luigi from Brazil. “You have to become an accountant, marketer, client support specialist and learn how to allocate the right amount of time to all those tasks.”

Developing the ability to multitask and learn skills that had previously been taken care of by your employer, is continuously pointed to as a major pain point when moving into freelancing.

Freelancers are, though, not powerless to act. Taking time to organize your business’s structure and put in place systems which can automate many of the tasks that can become a drain on your time, energy and bank balance, is vital to run a successful freelance business in the 21st Century.

The freelance life

Stress, anxiety and isolation are real and present dangers for all freelancers. Paying close attention to your wellbeing – both physical and mental – is critical for all freelancers. If you’re fit, your business and clients benefit. Your work is of a higher quality and, you avoid damaging burnout. Stress-free freelancing should be one of the critical goals for your business.

Michele from the UK says: “Sometimes freelancing can be a bit lonely and isolating particularly when you are 100% accountable and responsible for all aspects of your business and your client work. When you are part of a larger company, you have teams of people around to work with and bounce ideas off and can call upon IT support whenever you need it. You have to learn very fast to get structures and support in place, whether that is joining a freelance network or finding reliable technical support when your computer crashes.”

Stress, anxiety and isolation are real and present dangers for all freelancers

Luigi also commented: “From the beginning, I tried to keep a rigorous routine, that helped me mentally cope with the freelance lifestyle. Having a corner that you can call ‘my desk,’ a big monitor a comfortable chair, creates a Zen space – it’s very important. Although freelancing comes with a lot of freedom, sometimes I do miss the social part of the office. That's why I push myself to invite friends and co-workers to work in my space or go to co-working spaces, to socialize and do networking.

“Participating in a webinar, groups online, conferences, visit co-working spaces, participate to talks and seminaries – these are all the things I try to do to be part of one or more communities,” Luigi continued. “However, my best advice is to cherish relationships with partners, other developers or designers in my case. Organize some night out together and, help each other with projects and in any moment of need.”

Freelancers across Europe are using platforms such as Meetup, and Panion to keep in touch with their professional networks and forge new connections. If you’re a digital nomad services like The Nomad List and the active Digital Nomad Reddit community are great places to hang out. And don’t forget the Xolo Community Facebook page.

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Automating your business

Becoming a freelancer also means becoming a small business owner. As we have already mentioned, you suddenly have to wear several hats to make your business run successfully and comply with all the relevant regulations.

“When I started my business, I couldn't afford to buy any services,” said Orhan in Turkey. “Hence, I did everything myself. It was really demotivating for me to do stuff that I didn't sign up for. The problem for me was the motivation, not the focus. But, as I generate a steady income, I outsource all the administrative tasks I could.”

A powerful way to free yourself from the pain of running your freelance business is to use additional services that remove stress and anxiety. Choosing the right business structure is your first step. Xolo has several options which can grow as your business evolves.

Orhan continued: “As a Turkish citizen, it is really difficult to enter the EU market. Having an Estonian company through e-Residency enabled that. I also like to travel a lot. Having a company that can be managed virtually is a great way to run my business the way I want to.”

If your freelancing takes you across European national borders, Estonian e-Residency has proven to be a significant component of many successful freelance businesses.

Estonian e-Residency has proven to be a significant component of many successful freelance businesses

"What we aim to do is to create a worldwide virtual business environment, where people from both the developed and developing countries can easily become entrepreneurs and start doing business anywhere in the world,” said Kaspar Korjus, Estonian e-Residency Program Director. “Physical national borders and restrictions will no longer present an obstacle. You can start a business, open bank accounts, make transactions, sign contracts and even declare taxes, all on your computer.”

Michelle from Germany says: “Having Xolo take care of my legal compliance and accounting is really a huge weight off my shoulders — and the main reason why I decided to leave Germany with my business.”

Andrei from Romania also explained: “Romania is a former communist bureaucratic nightmare when interacting with any government institution. Trade registry is a horrendous. We have something between 15 and 20 forms and other legal documents to complete and file.

“Given that I target people outside Romania – mostly EU and, with payments in Euros, my e-Residency in Estonia is heaven when it comes to running my business. XoloGo is great for me. I can concentrate on finding my customers and doing great work for them. I know that when it comes to generating and sending them invoices, this is fast and easy. This is great peace of mind for me.”

Simple things, such as organizing your business's banking, can have a major impact on the efficiency of your freelancing. Being able to generate invoices and connect your business's bank account to leading payment platforms such as PayPal, TransferWise, and Stripe removes a significant headache when operating your company. Putting these services in place as soon as you are able is a practical solution to many of the root causes of freelancing stress.

“If I had known about Xolo from the day I started my freelancing, I would have been a client,” Luigi succinctly stated. “The services on offer are bliss for me. The fact that all my expenses go directly into the dashboard, and all my invoices are all there in one place, has made my life so much easier.”

The key to reducing or even removing many of the pain points freelancers across Europe often describe is simple: Take control of the day-to-day operation of your business today. Many of the tasks you have to complete can be automated. 

Becoming a freelancer was your ambition. That drive should not be dampened by bureaucracy. Take practical steps today to use the right business structure your freelancing needs, put in place system to manage your paperwork and make running your business profitable, fulfilling and fun.

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