If you plan to become a freelancer in New Zealand but don’t know where to start or how to switch, you have landed on the right page. Here, you will learn the step-by-step process of making a living as a freelancer in New Zealand.
Residents, NZ citizens and visa holders with open conditions can do freelance work in New Zealand. Freelancing is less popular in New Zealand but is still a viable option if you have the right skills. You can work with local employers or expand internationally using platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.
We are seeing the rise of freelancing everywhere, but people are afraid of risks when it comes to starting over and switching to freelancing. In this article, we will discuss all the essential information you need to start your freelancing journey in New Zealand.
Can you work as a freelancer in New Zealand?
Working as a freelancer often means working as a self-employed or contractor. To work as a self-employed in New Zealand, you need special permission unless you are a New Zealand or Australian citizen.
However, everyone can do freelancing in New Zealand if their visa has open conditions, e.g., not dependent on one employer. Keep in mind that international students can’t work as self-employed.
Consequently, residents are allowed to work as self-employed and for visa holders – a visa must include open work conditions, otherwise, you can’t be a freelancer and need to apply for another visa. Of course, New Zealand citizens can work as freelancers with minimal paperwork.
However, if your freelancing field requires any licences and permits, you should obtain them in order to become self-employed in New Zealand. That said, most freelancing jobs don’t need any of these.
In today’s gig economy, anyone can choose their own path. According to Stats NZ, over 144,000 New Zealanders work as self-employed contractors – this is approximately 1 out of 20 people who work as freelancers.
Among them, some are full-time freelancers, while others work on temporary contracts. Some people are even doing it as a side hustle while doing their full-time jobs as well.
If you want to make money in NZ on the side, check out my favorite side hustles!
Working as a freelancer as a NZ resident or a citizen
The citizens and residents of New Zealand can do freelance work without needing any work permit or visa; they can work for any company or employer, from NZ or even foreign companies.
There are no specific legal restrictions for residents and citizens; just the basic employment laws apply for self-employment as well. The taxes you pay equal those of New Zealand self-employed or sole traders (check the last heading for more information).
You can start your freelance journey by making a portfolio of your services online. Signing up on any freelancing platform like Upwork or Fiverr is a good step in the beginning, especially if you want to work with overseas clients. There are many more freelancing websites that you can choose from. Besides, you can seek a job that meets your requirements on Seek.co.nz.
Lastly, work on your LinkedIn account and apply for remote work for agencies that need your services.
You can earn approximately an average of NZ$40 to NZ$1,000 on each project, depending on the services you provide. The average hourly rate of a New Zealand freelancer is NZ$55.
Working as a freelancer as a foreigner
As a foreigner in New Zealand, working as a freelancer is more complex, but you can do it using freelancing websites. Most work visa holders can also be employed in New Zealand as freelancers.
There are always exceptions; these exceptions may apply to people other than work visa holders, like partner visa. Depending on your work rights, you may have the freedom to work with any employer through freelancing, including employers outside New Zealand.
Legalities around earning and taxation as a freelancer in New Zealand depend on your work visa. As a foreigner, the taxes will be payable on your freelance income as per the law.
Caveats to working as a freelancer in New Zealand
You should keep in mind that working as a freelancer, self-employed, or contractor comes with trade-offs such as:
- You are responsible for taxes and tax returns
- You don’t get paid sick leave
- You aren’t paid for public holidays that you don’t work
- You aren’t enrolled in a KiwiSaver scheme unless you do it yourself
Paying taxes as a freelancer in New Zealand
If you are living in New Zealand, you must pay taxes on income from freelancing activities. Tax rules are similar for NZ freelancers, contractors, traders or self-employed individuals. You will use your individual IRD number to pay tax.
Generally, you either pay taxes as part of the PAYE or pay your tax directly to Inland Revenue. Paying taxes as PAYE involves you working for a company that will take care of taxes. That said, most freelancers do their taxes independently by paying them to IRD. Self-employed also fill in an individual income return.
The benefit of being self-employed is that you can claim back expenses involved in your freelance activity. This can be electricity, rent (if essential), meals out, etc. Therefore, many of your costs might be tax deductible.
You will need to keep some money from your earnings separate to be able to pay for taxes unless you are working through a hiring company that is paying withholding tax on your behalf or deducting a specific percentage for tax at source.
Choose the BIC (Business Industry Clarification) code of the activity you spend the most time doing when you file your tax return. Your ACC levy is based on this code, along with your earnings.
Talk to the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) about the work you are doing and the most suitable ways to estimate what your ACC levies might be. Be aware that ACC may charge their levy on activity that catches the highest levy rate.
If your expected earnings in the next tax year are more than NZ$60,000, you must register for GST. With GST, you charge an extra 15% on your services. Freelancers then pay this 15% back to Inland Revenue, so you need to keep track of it.
Tax agents and accounting officers might help you in this regard as they are knowledgeable about such things, and they might save you some money or help you keep track of records and receipts.
Since you will be taxed in New Zealand (because you live here), below are the tax rates in NZ for 2022-2023.
|Up to $14,000||10.5%|
|Over $14,000 and up to $48,000||17.5%|
|Over $48,000 and up to $70,000||30%|
|Over $70,000 and up to $180,000||33%|
|Remaining income over $180,000||39%|
If you have more than one source of income, you pay secondary tax. This helps you pay the right amount of tax so you do not get a bill at the end of the year. The tax brackets on the secondary income source are the same as shown above.
How to start working as a freelancer
Over the past decade, we have seen remote work and online businesses flourish extensively. Especially COVID-19 has proven that freelance and remote work can be very beneficial and cost-effective. Businesses of all sizes are now opting to hire freelancers for their business.
Starting your freelancing career is not difficult; it just needs a good skill, idea or service to offer efficiently over the internet, just like people sell their products. First, you need to make an appealing profile in which you clearly provide your services, benefits to customers and why they should choose you?
You can create your own freelancer portfolio on different social media sites like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook or YouTube. Through social media, you can tell people your skill, via pictorial and video content. Another way is to sign up at a freelancing website like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer and many more.
Now, let’s talk about which services freelancers can sell. There are plenty of services that are needed by different organizations and Kiwi employers that they seek from freelancers. The following are the most in-demand freelancing services in New Zealand:
- Digital Marketing services
- SEO, Social Media Management
- Copywriting and Content Writing or Editing
- Web Design
- Graphic Design
- Image, Audio or Video Editing
- Photography or Videography
- Project Management
After creating a profile and portfolio, the most important thing is to market yourself and your brand or services. Furthermore, networking in your existing professional network is highly essential and recommended. The following tipps will help you ace your freelancing journey:
- Know your target market, learn about the needs of employers, and then supply your services accordingly. Define the services you offer very clearly and tweak them a little as per the market or employer needs.
- If you are new, try to keep your rates slightly lower than the market rate so that budget-constrained employers will choose you over more expensive freelancers. The NZ minimum wage is over $23 per hour. Don’t go so low that you devalue your services, but don’t set your rates so high either that people can‘t afford you or don’t bother to choose you. Set your rates wisely, and keep in mind that others have the edge of experience over you.
- Use keywords effectively. For example, if you are a content writer, use keywords like best content writer, unique content, or professional copywriting services. When people start using these words to look for freelancing services, your profile will be shown to them.
- As a freelancer, you should create an online portfolio of your work to showcase your experience. Otherweise, how can customers decide whether you are good at your job or not? An online portfolio e.g. a website, is the biggest marketing tool for freelancers.
- Market yourself well on all social media platforms, especially where you have a more targeted audience.
Getting paid as a freelancer
Now that you know how to start, let’s get to the payment methods preferred by Kiwi freelancers. For employers from New Zealand or Australia, most people prefer bank transfers because they are cheaper and pretty straightforward.
I highly recommend Wise.
As a freelancer, you can determine how you want to get paid, for example, hourly, weekly, monthly or per project. You will need to establish your payment terms with employers beforehand to avoid any hassle later. Payment method, timeframe, and work requirements are mostly included in the contract and agreed upon before work begins.
Learn more about how to work for an overseas company and get paid when working for a foreign company.
Visas for freelancing in New Zealand
If you have a work visa with open work conditions, you can be self-employed or a sole trader. Otherwise, your work visa conditions will determine the types of work you can do. There are a few options for New Zealand visas that self-employed people can choose from:
This visa is for self-employed people who want to run their businesses in New Zealand. It can also be applied if you have operated a business on another visa that allows self-employment. You will be allowed to live and continue your business in New Zealand if you are granted this visa.
If you qualify for a Working holiday visa, you can basically become a digital nomad in New Zealand for a year or two.
A working holiday visa allows individuals of particular ages and particular countries to travel and stay in New Zealand for up to 2 years.
A digital nomad is a person who works remotely as a freelancer or employee of a company. The Working holiday visa in New Zealand is designed to cater for people of up to 41 nationalities aged between 18 to 30 years. In certain cases, some nationalities are allowed individuals aged up to 35.
Typically, this visa is usually valid for up to 12 months, but this can vary based on your nationality. British and Canadian citizens can qualify for up to 24 months visa.