The Financial Pitfall Every Freelancer Must Pay Attention To

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Ana Dehtiarova is Ukrainian by birth and now lives in Bulgaria. As a freelancer, she focuses on marketing and community building for brands and NGOs across Europe. In this Q&A feature, she shared her journey into freelancing, her advice for dealing with difficult clients, and the one financial pitfall every freelancer must pay attention to.

How did you get into freelancing?

I started as an employee for a startup in Belgium and that 1 year was the only time I had a “stable” income. After I joined a publication, which preferred to work with freelancers rather than to employ them, I had to start this new adventure. And I liked it. The flexibility, business expenses, working from any country I want were the main reasons to never consider employment again. 

What kind of freelance work do you do? What kind of clients do you work with?

I create marketing strategies for organizations with big missions. My current projects are a community-fueled NGO Open Sofia, a publication for Belgium’s international community The Bulletin, Freelance Business Community and a small project about a marketplace for art based in Europe.

What’s your advice for freelancers dealing with difficult clients?

Know your worth and what you want to achieve long term. Some projects are more stressful but look fantastic on your portfolio. Chris Do puts it as “Think of it as a marketing expense for your business”. If the project is not worth your mental stability or the money, be ready to quit. THis way you’re in a stronger position. 

What’s your top growth tip for freelancers?

Connect to other freelancers, especially your “competitors”. It’s almost impossible for another marketer, developer, photographer to do exactly the same thing you do, and even if yes, their path is not the same as yours and they can teach you a ton. Leave the competition mindset, learn to collaborate and lead. Be the first one to propose to collaborate.

Refer each other to clients, upsell your services and involve these freelancers in your projects for the tasks they do better. Everyone wins.

What are your best strategies for maintaining mental and physical health? What’s your routine?

First thing I do is meditation. This is how I used the awful habit to check the phone first thing in the morning for my own benefit. After that I journal, just one page, it’s simple and fast enough to not get overwhelmed and quit fast.

Then I check my finances in an awesome app Wallet which shows me what I spend my money on; sometimes it’s just 30 seconds. I exercise and eat a good breakfast. I still need to learn to move more between work blocks and to get out of the house to go to the park, my estimation is that the warm spring weather will help better than snow!

At the end of the day I check in with a cool emotional intelligence AI app Youper which helps me track my emotional state, see what factors cause it and how to work through negative emotions. It also keeps me in check about the anxiety and signs of depression. And it’s a place I fill in with things that I’m grateful for on that day. The perfect ending would be reading before bed, which I try to follow at least three times a week.

What’s one pitfall of freelancing that every freelancer should be aware of? How can they avoid it?

Taxes and financial planning – you need to understand what you’re doing with your money. I learnt on my own skin the issues that might arise from bad financial planning and am now figuring it all out years after I started.

I’m also now reorganizing my debt, pension and investment plans and it feels so empowering! I am going to recommend it to all my friends, and especially to freelancers since we are now in charge of everything in our lives.

What do you hate about freelancing? Why? 

I am only slightly upset when my employee friends talk about their paid time off. But the perks of freelancing are way greater for me.

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Photo courtesy Ana Dehtiarova