Career

How To Handle The Business Side of Your Side Hustle

Whether you’re a freelance writer, semi-Instafamous influencer or moonlighting as a graphic designer, everyone with a second gig needs to know how to juggle the more serious parts of their side hustle. We’re not telling you how to start a business – though we do have some tips on how to do that here – but rather how to keep on top of the business-y things when you’re picking up some freelance work on the side. ELLEN WARDLE tells you how.

Following leads

Landing a gig can be the most exciting thing in the world after months of cold-email pitching. Sometimes the side-hustle can mean sending upwards of twenty emails a day, depending on what the business is, and often no commissions for weeks. When it comes to social media work or brand journalism, I tend to jump on the first company to ‘like’ an Instagram picture or share an article I’ve written and introduce myself and what I can do for them via email –in sales this is called ‘following leads’ and it can be easily transmuted to your freelance business.

The ins and outs of the ‘cold-email’ or pitch

To contact a potential client I usually start with a short introduction, mention my previously published work/what I’m currently working on and other relevant experience. Emails are typically addressed as: ‘ATTN: (Editors Name): Article Title: My Name’.

Keep it brief, polite and professional.

My benchmark email for editorial or brand journalism goes something like this:

‘My name is (NAME)I’m a (LOCATION/JOB DESCRIPTION/SOCIAL MEDIA DESCRIPTION) currently in the process of creating (TYPE OF CONTENT). In the past I have worked with (DESCRIBE ANY COMPANIES YOU HAVE CREATED CONTENT WITH PRIOR).

I’m very interested in working with your company and perhaps featuring some of your products across my social media platforms. To see some examples of my work you can look at the following links:

Thank you for taking the time to read my email, (YOUR NAME HERE).’

Conversational, friendly emails that remain ‘professional’ are usually the best measure of deciding whether two personalities will gel in the working world.

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The tax man

The best piece of advice I can give you as a freelancer is to keep all your business-related receipts. Keep digital and hard copies of all payments, invoices, profit and loss and receipts concerning tax-deductible purchases you plan to claim, alongside your payslips and group certificate from your regular job. Any business-related expense over $100 – such as a laptop, art supplies, graphics pad, etc – is worth claiming, so save and file your receipts using a Profit and Loss form. You can also claim 15% of your rent and internet bills if you operate out of your home (schwing!).

You don’t want to end up with a fine just because you didn’t understand the deductions you were ticking off.

The amount of money your business makes, and what it is defined as by the ATO (i.e. business or hobby) will determine how much tax you will be due to pay if any. There are certain income brackets different types of businesses must clear before being required to pay taxes on commercial activities. Most freelance businesses are defined as ‘Sole ‘Trader’ business types meaning they are owned and operated by one person. As these differ between activities however, you must contact the ATO to check the specific rates that would exempt or qualify your business activities.

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Alongside taxes, operating any business requires an ABN. Without one you would have to pay over 48% of your earnings to the ATO, and it is unlikely clients would really trust paying you without one. ABN’s are always included on any invoice you send to clients. If you’ve never written an invoice before the ATO has a downloadable guide here.

When tax season rolls around you will need to contact a freelancer-friendly accountant to help you sort out your income. If you have been earning money from both a side hustle and your regular job this is especially important: always defer to an accountant. You don’t want to end up with a fine just because you didn’t understand the deductions you were ticking off.

Freelancing is difficult, but it’s rewarding to learn how to run a business. It was my experience in freelancing that got me my current day job writing accounting and business degrees, and I’ve found connecting with brands – through what I initially thought would end up unanswered emails – to have been the most rewarding way to diversify my business, learn to market myself as a ‘brand journalist’ and create more income.


Ellen Wardle is a Melbourne-based brand journalist. She instagrams prolifically over at @ellenbourne and spends most of her days terrified about the future of the housing market.