29 July, 2020 8 min read

how to get started as a contractor

The past few months have been a bit of a wild ride and found most of us working in different ways than we used to - hands up if you are still in your jarmie pants at midday! But this global pandemic also has left many people who have been stood down, have had working hours reduced or who are facing redundancy.

If you have been thinking about contracting or freelancing to get a bit of cash rolling in or broaden your network, be sure to set yourself up properly. That way there will be no ‘gotchas’ when it comes to tax time and you’ll be able to concentrate on dazzling businesses with your know how and skills.

First things first: Consider getting an ABN. 

As a contractor or freelancer making it easy for companies to pay you is smart thinking, especially if you are delivering ad hoc pieces of work for them.  The Australian Tax Office has guidance on the difference between an Employee and a Contractor. 

If you decide an Australian Business Number (ABN) is the right path, you will be able to invoice a company for any ad hoc and project work you do. There are activity and reporting requirements that are required if you get an ABN so check out the guidance from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

A basic good business practice is to keep a record of your invoices and your business expenses. There are a few ways you can keep your invoices and expenses in order:

  • Google has a number of products free for individual users including Google Sheets and Google Docs with free templates for invoices and budgeting 
  • There are also paid tools which do have a bit more of a learning curve such as Xero or Quickbooks - plus many more if you do an internet search.

Get organised.

Doing ad hoc or short term jobs does take a bit of organisation but if you are between jobs or have had your hours cut, it can be a great way to fill your time with paying work to keep your skills up. There are plenty of online project tools available to help manage your project and ad hoc work. As a bonus most of them have a free plan for individuals!

  • Asana has a basic plan that is free for individuals with unlimited projects and tasks and collaboration features. It’s an online tool and has some great help documentation to get you started
  • Here at nextmile we use Trello and personally I have found it very easy to use to keep all my thoughts in order.  Also I can have a cat as the background of my to do list. (that’s extra points in my books).

In most cases you will likely need to provide your own equipment such as a laptop, internet connection and any specific tools for your industry.

What skills can you offer to business projects?

Projects often need defined skills and know how. It might be that a project doesn’t require industry experience but does require a specific functional skill set. How can you present this information to businesses who need ad hoc or project support?

  • List out the specific software or methodologies you have experience with and your level of knowledge with each. For example:
    • Agile methodology - Scrum Master
    • ProCore construction project management - Advanced user 
  • Articulate the deliverables you can produce. For example
    • Creation of a simple website for small businesses 
    • Risk assessment for on site working at a Not for Profit

Time is a huge factor to consider when you are starting out with contract or freelance work.  

What you can actually do around your other commitments such as your main job and family time? Two days a week for the next month, a few hours a fortnight, full time for the next two weeks? Only you can answer this question, so be realistic.

 Keeping information secure

 Any company that you do project work for will expect you to keep the information they share with you safe and secure. Basic security for your devices and physical security of hard copies will be the minimum. When doing work for multiple companies it can be tricky to keep track of all the systems and passwords but there are quite a few reputable services you can use to help such as LastPass or Norton Password Manager - an internet search will give you a lot of options.

How to find contract and ad hoc project work in Australia

Getting started with contract and ad hoc project work can take a bit of time but you can use this time to get yourself ready for business! You can leverage your networks to find ad hoc work but to broaden your reach into the contract and freelance world of work register with nextmile.

You set your terms, availability and tell us your skills - we’ll match you with small business and Not for Profits that have an immediate need for skilled professionals to help them. You can also use the same profile to search for permanent jobs within our network of employers.

Create your nextmile profile now.