Featured News, Freelance Life

Freelancing in Australia: the 2017 Freelance Jungle survey

May 19, 2017
australian freelance research

Like the true research nerd I am, I love looking at freelancing in Australia. Surveying Australian freelancers is what started the Freelance Jungle journey. Now, it’s time to publish the 2017 revamp.

This time around, we attracted 319 Australian freelancers servicing local clients. The survey was conducted across 2016 and 2017 and officially closed April 2017. This was almost double that of the maiden survey of 166 participants conducted and published in 2011.

Here’s what we found out!

What kind of freelance work do you do?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
CINEMATOGRAPHER / DOP 0.3% 1
CONCEPT ARTIST 0.3% 1
COSTUME DESIGNER 0.3% 1
DIRECTOR (FILM / TV) 0.3% 1
EXHIBITION DESIGNER 0.3% 1
FESTIVAL PRODUCER 0.3% 1
FINANCIAL ADVISER / FINANCIAL PLANNER 0.3% 1
GAME DESIGNER 0.3% 1
JEWELLERY DESIGNER 0.3% 1
LAWYER / SOLICITOR 0.3% 1
LIGHTING PROFESSIONAL 0.3% 1
PROPS PROFESSIONAL 0.3% 1
SCREEN EDITOR 0.3% 1
WEB APP & SMARTPHONE APP DEVELOPER 0.3% 1
ARCHITECT 0.6% 2
DIRECTOR / THEATRE MAKER 0.6% 2
FINISHED ARTIST 0.6% 2
LIFE COACH 0.6% 2
MOTION GRAPHICS DESIGNER 0.6% 2
RESEARCHER (TV OR FILM) 0.6% 2
RETOUCHER 0.6% 2
SALESPERSON 0.6% 2
SCREEN WRITER 0.6% 2
COMPOSER / MUSICIAN 0.9% 3
INTERIOR DESIGNER 0.9% 3
ACTOR / PERFORMER 1.3% 4
ANIMATOR / VFX ARTIST 1.3% 4
SOUND & AUDIO PROFESSIONAL 1.3% 4
ACCOUNTANT / BOOKKEEPER 1.6% 5
PRODUCER (FILM/ TV) 1.6% 5
VISUAL ARTIST 1.6% 5
ILLUSTRATOR 1.9% 6
OFFICE MANAGER & ADMIN (FACE TO FACE) 1.9% 6
UI / UX PROFESSIONAL 2.2% 7
WEB & DIGITAL PRODUCER 3.1% 10
CREATIVE & ART DIRECTOR 3.4% 11
PRODUCTION / PROJECT MANAGER 3.8% 12
ACCOUNT MANAGER / DIRECTOR 4.1% 13
EVENT MANAGER 4.4% 14
BUSINESS COACH 4.7% 15
TEACHER / WORKSHOP FACILITATOR 5.0% 16
WEB & DIGITAL DEVELOPER 5.3% 17
JOURNALIST 5.6% 18
CONTENT CREATOR (VISUAL) 6.3% 20
PHOTOGRAPHER 6.3% 20
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT 6.3% 20
PUBLICIST / PR PROFESSIONAL 6.6% 21
Other (please specify) 8.8% 28
BLOGGER (AS IN FOOD, FASHION, TRAVEL ETC) 9.1% 29
STRATEGIST / PLANNER 10.3% 33
WEBSITE & DIGITAL DESIGNER 11.9% 38
GRAPHIC DESIGNER 12.9% 41
MARKETER 14.1% 45
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER / COMMUNITY MANAGER 16.6% 53
COPYWRITER (SEO) 17.9% 57
EDITOR / PROOF READER 20.4% 65
WRITER 25.1% 80
CONTENT WRITER (DIGITAL) 28.5% 91
COPYWRITER (MARKETING) 30.1% 96

How long have you been freelancing for?freelancing in australia graph

How long have you been working in your chosen field (freelance and also regular employment combined)?

How do you currently source freelance work?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Through posting or answering Gumtree or similar free ads 2.8% 9
Client referral 77.1% 246
Peer referral 69.0% 220
Friend / family referral 44.2% 141
Cold calling and emailing 11.6% 37
Through employment agencies 4.4% 14
Through digital/marketing/advertising agencies 13.2% 42
Bidding for jobs online (e.g. eLance, Freelancer etc) 6.9% 22
Searching standard job websites (Seek, CareerOne etc) 11.3% 36
Checking out specialised sites in my field 9.1% 29
Paying for my own advertising online 5.6% 18
Paying for space in print magazines in my field 0.0% 0
Focusing on my own SEO via website& blog 24.5% 78
Facebook advertising 17.6% 56
Instagram advertising 2.5% 8
Other social media advertising forms (LinkedIn, Twitter etc) 14.7% 47
Organic social media (such as your pages & channels etc) 27.6% 88
Participating in online forums and offering help 22.6% 72
Paying for PR 0.0% 0
Working at coworking joints and similar 6.0% 19
Face to face networking events 31.3% 100
By presenting at events to the right audience 12.5% 40
Other (please specify) 10.3% 33
answered question 319
skipped question 0

How effective have the following sites been for you when sourcing freelance work?

what helps get freelance work in australia

What sorts of challenges do you face when trying to find freelance work?

This was an open ended question with a varying degree of response. Common issues faced are summed up with these select direct quotes:

“Assumptions that I can do work for free; providing too much free advice and not closing the sale” 

“Clients who under-value the services I offer as an investment in their business; Finding clients who will pay fairly”

“Quoting!” – both in terms of time taken and accuracy when quoting

“Finding clients; getting myself out there” 

“Competing against offshore agencies and freelancers” 

“Many clients want work done “yesterday”. It’s often a flood/famine cycle of too much work or not enough” 

“Knowing what and who to say ‘no’ to.”

“Time spent negotiating and pitching and building proposals; not hearing back after proposals are submitted”

“Chasing late payments”

“Confidence and mindset”

“Networking; building the networks I need for regular work”

“Balancing work and family life” 

“Motivation to keep going; motivation to win the jobs” 

“Increased competition” – this was especially true of copywriters

While many said they faced no challenges at all.

Which one most accurately describes your usual working situation:

working from home

How many hours a week on average do you currently work as a freelancer?

Does your freelance business currently make enough money to pay your bills?

does freelancing pay in australia

What causes you stress as a freelancer?

freelance stress

What sorts of things do you think would help you with your freelance journey?

What’s the NUMBER ONE reason you chose freelancing?

what motivates people to freelance in australia

Other notable answers included a lack of jobs in regional areas and ageism.

Are there any topics you’d like to learn that you think would make your freelance journey easier?

freelance tips

What do you love about freelancing?

Again, this was an open ended question but the responses were very similar in a lot of cases.

“Freedom, independence, flexibility” 

“I like being able to do new and exciting things and develop new skills. I also like improving my portfolio so I can impress future employers.” 

“The variety” 

“I LOVE that I can choose the team I work with, and don’t get lumped with jerks that I can’t escape!”

“The buck stops with me”

“Can travel all over the world and still work closely with my favourite clients” 

“Working in my pyjamas; working from home” – seriously, we’ve got to build some pyjamas for freelancers because you guys are raving about them!

“I can look after my family better”  

And someone summed it up perfectly:

“That it is MY business, not someone else’s; not working for someone or people I dislike; can set my own hours; can work in casual clothes; I have more interest in my business than someone else’s.”

What parts of freelancing do you struggle with?

Another open ended question with some common themes.

“The mental health impacts; dealing with the stress”

“Crazy clients; unrealistic client demands”

“Maintaining work/life balance; no holidays or weekends; switching off at the end of the day”

“Time management; managing workflow”

“Cashflow problems from late payments; budgeting”

“Procrastination”

“Marketing myself without feeling like a jerk”

“Confidence; self belief; self doubt”

“Loneliness and isolation; having no one to talk to”

“Tax and finance; super”

“Finding new clients; business development”

“The celebrity “look at me” style culture everyone in business is chasing these days; crazy competitors”

“The endless gaggle of women oversharing in business forums”

“I’ve become sick of my business but I am stuck making money from it; it’s not my passion anymore”

“Admin!”

Is there anything else you would like to discuss about your freelance journey?

This ranged from compliments for the Freelance Jungle (naw, you guys!) through to requests for pizza. I shit you not. Here are some of the highlights:

“WHY IS THERE NO NYC PIZZA AVAILABLE IN SYDNEY. SERIOUSLY!” 

“I want to ask people for help but I fear seeming like I’m preying on their business and skills.” 

“You have to have a certain personality to be able to cope with the uncertainty of freelancing” 

“I don’t know how I managed for so long working for someone else – wishing I started a lot earlier.” 

“I love it and don’t love it in the same breath. It has a sense of freedom and ownership of your life, control over your destiny but it is hard work. You work more hours than you would for an employer but that is your choice and you own it.” 
“All in all it has been positive and has allowed me to have flexibility to work around my children and maintain an income as a single mother. I could do without the constant pressure and stress to bring in the money and I’m always, always, always thinking about marketing. I wish I could turn my brain off sometimes. Self-care and meditation is important to give myself space to breathe.”

“Technology seems to be going at a pace faster than we can keep up with it ? Or am I just getting too old to keep up?”

“I think freelancing is inherently lonely, and there are some challenges and repercussions that come from being alone in your vocation: leading cause of depression and anxiety, distractions, procrastination, deterioration of social skills. I think that is a major challenge for freelancers – whether they acknowledge it or not.” 

“Honestly things much easier with a backup and support. Was very hard on my own, things much easier (e.g. financial stresses) with a partner now. Govt should keep this in mind when supporting small business.” 

“There is too much information out there. I’ve done many e-courses and signed up for so many free PDFs and ebooks that I can’t get through it all. I’m overwhelmed by upskilling. It also doesn’t leave much time to actually “work”, you know, for pay.” 

“Help, cat is on my lap and I can’t move!” – here’s hoping this has been rectified!

“How on earth do I find someone I like/trust/has the right experience to partner with or be self-employed and work for me?? Do I just put it out there, and interview some people? I’m shit-scared of making the wrong decision and fucking up my business, basically.” 

“I HATE grants. They take so much time doing the application and acquittal, plus the funding organisation often owns your IP, and they dictate what you do. It’s hardly every worth it – I’d rather go busking!” 

 

Freelance Jungle love:
“No but thanks Bek for all the work you do for the freelance community! You’ve helped me realise WHY I do this … it’s not just a default… it’s because I actually enjoy it. I enjoy the hustle.” 

“I’ve recently joined the Freelance Jungle after hearing your interview on Hot Copy podcast. I think what you’re doing is great. Your community is very supportive and I am really enjoying the Facebook group. I would be interested in a Melbourne meet up if one is happening.” 

“Please keep doing what you are doing. I’m shit at social media, and cringe a bit when I start sharing things on FB, but I think Freelance Jungle represents the best of what social media can be – and I am learning a lot.” 

“Being part of the Freelance Jungle community has been so, so helpful, especially as I’m just starting out. I would have been lost without it.” 

“I’m only just starting out but find the Freelance Jungle group on FB really helpful, so thanks!” 

“Thank you for this forum – I find it so helpful on so many levels. It’s a lot more helpful and provides a lot more practical support than what my official industry organisation MEAA gives to freelancers. Plus it’s fun and helps break the isolation and loneliness that can sometimes happen to freelancers.” 

“Bek, your group has been a great help.” 

What age group do you fit into?

Where are you currently based?

Note to freelancers everywhere, when someone says “use your postcode”, they want a postcode. Not your address. Not your city or town. A postcode.

Now that we’ve got that little whine out of the way: 

134 NSW participants answered with 76 from Sydney and the remainder in regional towns and cities.

80 Victorian participants answered with 63 from Melbourne and the remainder from regional towns and cities.

48 QLD participants answered with 28 from Brisbane and the remainder from regional towns and cities.

19 SA participants answered with 13 from Adelaide and the rest from regional towns and cities.

22 WA participants answered with a 50% split between Perth and other areas.

3 TAS participants with the entire number from Hobart.

0 Northern Territory.

Our Australian freelancers living and travelling overseas were (at time of survey) found in: 

Cambodia
Indonesia
Laos
Mexico
Nepal
Netherlands
Nomad
Norway
NZ
Ireland
UAE
United Kingdom
USA x 2

To everyone that participated in the 2017 refresh of the Freelancing in Australia survey, my heartiest of thanks. You’re a giving bunch that never ceases to amaze me.

Thank you! I look forward to discussing ‘future of work is freelance’ at Vivid Ideas on June 7th and/or seeing you in the Freelance Jungle. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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