How much does it actually cost to set up a freelance business? Whether you've just finished a course or you are working full time, looking to make the transition, or running a side hustle, going freelance requires some startup cash. Here's the breakdown whether you've got money to burn or you're on a budget.


Whether you're a freelance consultant or a mobile makeup artist you will still require a space to work. When it comes to choosing where this is going to be, there are a few basic rules to follow.

Choose a space that is quiet, void of distraction and with good natural light. Most freelancers (especially Londoners with pokey shoe box apartments) often have to improvise and create a space in their home that works for them. Sectioning off your lounge or using a quiet space in the kitchen can work. The basics needed are a reliable Wifi connection, a good light, desk, chair, computer and printer (optional).

Most freelancers starting out will already have the majority of these items but if not, that lot will set you back anywhere from £600 - £2000 depending on your taste. Extras such as a laptop stand, scanner, stress ball... can start to add up (£200 and upwards throughout the year). 

There are plenty of alternatives if you'd prefer to get out of the house from renting desk space (from around £200 - £300 per month in London) to working in a freelance-friendly cafe. See our AFFORDABLE DESK SPACE article for more details. 

True Cost of Freelancing



Building your website is just the beginning. Before you start, you'll need a domain name (£5 - £12 annually) and hosting (£10 - £50 annually). When putting your website together you can try to do it yourself using a template (around £25 for a Wordpress template plus the time it takes to build it) or use a 'free' website builder (free versions will have brand banners, brand domain and limited services that are not recommended for a professional freelancer - pro versions cost anywhere from £100 upwards per year).

Finding a developer to build you a bespoke site can cost anywhere from £250 to thousands depending on the type of site you're after. The tip here is not to try and do it all yourself. The website is one of the key components of your brand and worth investing in. Once it's built, you'll need to update it regularly and set aside a budget for upgrades or fixes (£200 - £500 per year for a basic portfolio site). 

Then there's your brand. Hugely important, very underrated. Your brand identity ie: your logo, the design of your site, font and colour choices etc... are key to your customers connecting with your services. Your brand story and brand message are equally as important. These make up the content on your site (often a bit on the homepage and About Me page). Why did you set up as a freelancer? What is your passion? Do you have a niche?  

Even your portfolio of work reflects your brand. Creative freelancers often require a portfolio of work to show clients. In an ideal world, you build your portfolio over time but what if you're just starting out or your work is not of a high enough quality? Photographers, designers, makeup artists all have to show their work and it's often the main reason for landing a job. It requires time, effort and money. Whether you pay to have it done (not recommended) or you test shoot over time, it comes at a cost. A ball park figure of £200 - £1000 to produce a basic professional portfolio if starting form scratch that constitutes. The important take away here is that you produce work that reflects your business and your style at a professional level. Skimp out on your portfolio and it becomes a lot harder to sell your services.   



It's surprising how much we spend on online tools for businesses but if you know what you're doing, they're a great investment. Let me throw a few examples out there that you may not have considered. Storing all your work, documents and data for many creatives can be a puzzler. Should you keep them on your hard drive, it will slow your computer down so perhaps you put them on an external hard drive (£40 for descent size) or you can keep them on the Cloud. Dropbox charge around £79 per year for a Pro account and if you're a freelancer with tons of RAW images or video, it's worth it. If you don't have a lot to store, Google Drive gives you plenty of space for free. 

Speaking of Google, if you'd like your business email address to work through Gmail, that's a cost of £3.30 per user per month (for 30Gb of space across all Apps) or £6.60 for unlimited (£40 - £80 per year). Want to send mailers to your customers? Mailchimp will cost anywhere from £20+ per month depending on the size of your lists (it's free up until a point). A-Webber is also a good option. These are all good investments so long as you ask yourself 'will this add value to my business?'. If the answer is yes, go for it. 



Photographers and videographers really have it bad here. A good camera, lens, lighting setup, fast laptop and kit to shot at a professional level can set you back thousands. Likewise, a makeup artist will have to buy kit and constantly replenish it. The general rule of thumb is 'only buy what you need for now'. The expensive stuff can wait until your first few sales come in. It's near impossible to put a prices on this as it's so dependant on the area you work in and the quality of the equipment but it's fair to say it will cost in the region of £500 - £1000 for the very basics. 



Now your freelance business is up and running, you have to tell the world about it. Most turn to the free option of social media for this. It's definitely a good idea to have a presence on social media but don't rely on it as the sole route to market. It can take years to build up a strong following and you most likely need sales now!

Whether you advertise online (paid ads on social media) or in a magazine, design flyers to distribute locally, hire a stand at an expo or run a marketing campaign, it's going to cost. The way to budget for marketing is simply to assess whether the investment will produce more sales than the cost. In other words, will you receive a Return On Investment (ROI). An advert in Gumtree costs about £40 so one job would justify the ad and represent a healthy ROI. 



There are a few more costs that come into play such as travel and insurance as well as miscellaneous costs that'll surprise you from time to time. The main point to consider is that you generally need money to make money so spend wisely.