Working freelance means that you need to find your way around lots of things that a person working in an office might take for granted. From choosing a printer to brewing good coffee, booking your website space and domain to keeping track of your task list, finding people to whom you can delegate some of the work, and a number of other aspects. Here is some advice based on my experience and sometimes extensive research and trying various services hands-on.
Please note that I do not vouch for, nor recommend any of these services, but simply share what set-up I have in place. You need to find what works best for you!
This is just a start, I will be updating this page with more information so please keep checking back.
The links below are mostly affiliate so if you sign up through them, both you and me will get some kind of incentive.
Studio / office space
If you need a studio or an office space chances are you will find an affordable unit in London within Workspace venues. Make sure to mention my name (Pawel Siwczak – Academia Creative Services Ltd) the first time you get in touch with them to receive a £1000 credit towards your rent. And you will help me too!
I love coffee. Or maybe I can’t function without it… It doesn’t matter if you drink a lot or just one cup, why waste life and money on that bitter liquid that some of the chain sellers offer? I prefer to buy my coffee from Pact, a company that hand picks their beans and works with growers, sometimes very small, from all over the world to make sure that they can sell their produce at a fair price. For me that’s best of both worlds: I want the best coffee without overpaying, and I want to help make the world a little bit more fair, one cup at a time (or four…)! Taste a wide selection of unique and delicious coffees from Pact here. You can also manually input my referral CAFEBAROQUE (yes, that’s right) for £5 off your first order.
If you want to put on live performances online and you would like to stream them to more than one plaform at the same time, try restream.io – you can go live on YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and about 30 other platforms simultaneously, without abusing your broadband. You simply send your live feed to Restream and they distribute it to end destinations of your choice.
Tax & Receipts
Who doesn’t love sorting their receipts? If you still have a shoebox, consider 1Tap Receipts: you can take a picture of a receipt, or forward it from an email to keep them all in one place. Easily categorized (mostly automatically) you can annotate them, add locations, edit. And it works in foreign currencies too. HMRC allows to keep digital copies of the expenses so you can recycle your shoebox finally. Free basic version, or a small fee for premium features.
Musicians travel. A lot (usually). There is a card that does not charge any fees for currency conversions nor foreign payments, and even lets you withdraw certain amount of cash from an ATM abroad free of charge. Revolut is a prepaid card, so it is safe even if it gets stolen or lost, and it supports about 80 currencies (cryptocurrencies coming soon too). There are other features, such as sending money to a bank account, to a friend, splitting a bill, receiving payments and various add-ons (medical insurance, phone insurance). Get your Revolut via this link.
Smart payment card
If you have a few debit & credit cards (also international) you could connect them to this clever piece of plastic (or metal!) and carry just this one with you. Curve lets you choose which card you want to use, you can even “go back in time” and change the originally used payment method. You also earn points as you pay and you can categorize the transactions into business, personal and several other types. And if you want, you will receive emails with receipts. Sign up for Curve using this link and we both get £5 to spend.
Accept Card Payments with iZettle
Do you always carry cash? Increasingly more people are used to paying by card everywhere, especially with contactless technology. It is very easy to accept card payments at your event / studio / wherever you go, without any subscription, and no monthly fees! With just a small percentage per transaction, iZettle makes it very cost effective and helps selling tickets, lessons, merchandise, CDs, refreshments etc.
There are many platforms that help you sell tickets to your concerts & events, I use TicketSource which is very cost effective, easy to operate, allows customization of the box office display (so you can match your brand), offers electronic tickets as well as physical ones, telephone box office and other features (such as seating plan if you need one, discount codes, reservations…). You can also embed their sales form on your own website or social media (as in the example of breconbaroquefringe.com). TicketSource will also tweet and help you promote your event, plus their support is friendly and efficient.
Get green energy with Bulb
If we all did our bit, the planet would be healthier. Bulb claims that on average, people who switch to them save 1,900 kilograms of CO2 per year. That’s the weight of an elephant seal! Sign up through this link and we get £50 each to say thanks for going green.
Keep energy bills down
Sometimes switching your energy provider can save a lot of money. If you like doing the research go and compare current tariffs, or let someone do the work for you. Look after my bills is just the service, they constantly monitor the market according to your specifications and switch you to the best tariff if they detect that it would save you more than £50 / year. And they are free. (If you sign up using this link and switch, we both receive £20).
Here is what I found: Bluehost. They claim to be “The Best Web Hosting”, a bold statement but might not be far off, especially considering their price to quality ratio. Prices start from only $3.95 / month for the option that would be a good fit for a WordPress based comprehensive website. Check and join Bluehost here.
Design your own website
It’s not magic. If you get a good theme, like mharty, that allows you to visually customize almost every detail of your website (create, rename, reorder pages, choose elements on each page from a catalogue of “components”, control colours, fonts, upload design elements, create a shop, gallery, portfolio, and more) it becomes a manageable, or even an enjoyable process. You can choose a layout, a sample template from their catalogue, as an inspiration and a starting point to give your new website structure. And there’s technical support available throughout. Mharty is the best theme I found — at the moment their shopfront is in Arabic only, but an English version is on the way and the theme already supports English fully. This and all my other websites are based on mharty so go and explore!
Incorporated Society of Musicians provides invaluable help and support. From numerous guides and articles on their website, to legal and tax helpline, insurance, discounts, and more. They are doing a great job in representing and lobbying for everyone in the music industry. To join mention my name and use the code FULLREC for £10 off your annual membership (or if you are an early career member, EARLYREC for a special rate).
Share and backup files
Sometimes I need to send my publicity pictures in high resolution and it is not convenient to attach them to an email. For larger files I use sync.com, which is a Dropbox alternative but with even more focus on privacy and security. I also use it to store files and documents to which I want to have access from any device, anywhere. If you sign up via this link you and I both get 1GB extra space on top of the usual allowance.
Coffee is good and helps you focus. It also gives you boost at the gym and you also need protein to keep the balance and speed up the post-workout recovery. Probably the best value protein in the UK and a wide selection of foods (also accessories and clothes), including delicious 100% pure peanut butter can be bought from MyProtein.
If you receive too many emails, and want to automatically sort your mailbox so that the newlsetters, subscriptions, receipts etc. all go to their respective places, without obscuring messages from real people, try SaneBox. You can also set-up automatic email forwarding (e.g. send anything from the receipts folder to 1tap receipts).
Read, learn, improve
There are so many books I would like to read, and never enough time. If you want to get a grasp of some try Blinkist which advertises as “key takeaways from the world’s best nonfiction books in text and audio”, or over 3000 titles summarized as “key ideas from bestselling nonfiction distilled by experts into bitesize text and audio”. Perhaps after scanning through some you will find you want to read the full version, or reach for another synopsis. Up to you.
More about reading
On the note of reading, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Kindle unlimited here. This will give you unlimited access to iver 1 million books, a selection of magazines, audiobooks… That’s plenty! You can read them on any device using a free kindle app, even if you don’t have a kindle reader. If you decide to buy a kindle device, you will get 2 months of access to unlimited for free.
Hire a pro or delegate work
If you need someone to code your website for you, or maybe set-up your hosting, of configure your domain go to Fiverr. Or maybe you need a simple logo, or a short text written for you? Explore and see if there is anyone out there who can help.
I know you might not support it, but I like the competitive prices of Uber. So get their app and sign up using my code: UBERBAROQUE to get your first ride free (up to approx. £10 if you are in London).
Elegant clothes that fit
No one is “standard” and it can be difficult to find clothes that really fit. When you are on stage, the audience has a few hours to watch you and my experience tells me that some people scrutinize every detail! Having a made-to-measure (or bespoke) suit or a shirt, or other well-fitting garments does provide a boost of confidence. And if you are creative you probably want to add your personal touches and customize what you wear. Lanieri is an Italian made-to-measure fashion brand that ships to the UK and worldwide, and they have ateliers in a few European cities. Use my code BAROQUELEGANCE to get £100 off your first oder (and I will also get a discount!).