How to become a freelancer


Freelancing is a fulfilling career choice that has many perks. But it also has challenges, as not everyone is suited to being an independent professional. It's important to remember that all freelancers are business people and so the simplest way to be successful as a freelancer is to use good business sense.

Plan your business

Whether you're already an established media professional or an enthusiastic amateur, becoming a freelancer involves figuring out answers to these questions, among others:

  1. What or who is your target market?

  2. Can you offer the services your target market wants?

  3. How much money do you need to earn to make a decent living?

  4. Can your target market afford you? (Remember your 'decent living' criteria)

  5. If the answer to the above is "no", can you continue to work part-time as an employee and part-time as a freelancer? Some employers' contracts specifically rule this out.

  6. Why would a client pay you rather than any other freelancer?

Give great service

As a freelancer, you're running your own business: the profit is down to you. If you provide good service, you'll keep your clients happy and they'll come back to you again. If your service is bad, clients will not only prefer not to use you again but they might also prevent other potential clients from using you. A good product (for example beautiful photographs) is not enough to guarantee a flourishing freelance career; you also need to become accomplished at client management.

Network with other freelancers

All freelancers benefit from networking, which is what SAFREA is all about. Our members-only Google group provides members with a forum for asking profession-related questions, discussing business tactics, getting help with computer problems, and simply enjoying the conversations that are so often missing from the daily life of a freelancer due to isolation.

There are no stupid questions

Members often say that the Google group is the main reason they pay their subscription fee. With over 300 members from all over southern Africa and in different professions, someone out there usually has the answer to your problem. Here are just a few questions that have been answered in next-to-no-time on our group:

  • I need to find a middle-class black entrepreneur to interview this afternoon by phone. The interview I had lined up has fallen through and I'm on deadline. Help!

  • How do I work out how much to charge my client for a retainer?

  • Does anybody know someone who can do English to Xhosa translation?

  • I'm having problems getting payment from a client and want to know how to take them to the Small Claims Court.

  • I need to get hold of the Minister for XYZ - does anyone have a direct phone number? I'm on deadline and the press secretary isn't answering!

  • I'm a journalist but I sometimes need to take good quality photos to go with a piece. What camera do you recommend? I don't want anything too complicated.

  • What's the word I'm looking for? It means XYZ.

  • My lens filter has got stuck and I've tried everything to budge it. Help!

  • I want to pitch a story idea to XYZ magazine but I'm worried they might just use my idea and then tell me they're not interested. It's going to be difficult to tell the story without giving away the details. How do I approach this?

  • Does anyone know of a good Apple Mac support shop in Cape Town? My keyboard isn't working.

  • XYZ magazine has paid me for an article I wrote but their accounts department has deducted PAYE even though I'm a freelancer. Has this happened to anyone else? What did you do about it?

  • How do you get the character é in Word?


If you're just starting out in your profession, you will probably be eligible to join SAFREA as a student member (even if you're not studying a formal course).

If you're established in your profession but you're new to freelancing, you can apply to become either an associate member or a provisional associate member. Associate membership is open to those who are already earning a proportion of their living from freelancing (up to 50%) whereas provisional associate is for those who are still dipping a toe in the water and are probably still employed full-time.

For more information, look at our joining page.

SAFREA is a Registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO 114-297).
PBO 930049795