I have been working as a freelancer for many years. At the start I had no contacts, nor did I register a company. And later on I registered my own company and things started to pick up. There are routines you have to take to maintain your company, such as submitting accounting reports and filing for tax payment, and you need sufficient amount in your bank to keep your current account up and running.
While other freelancers find these routines to be troublesome, I see them as a must to keep my business on track. And there are many advantages too.
Firstly, you will have a systemic way of issuing quotations and invoices. How many invoices you have issued this month, and how much money you are expecting to receive this month and next – all in all, you will have a clear picture.
Some companies accept invoices issued by individual freelancers, but many prefer to work with suppliers which have company status. Stricter client companies only work with private limited or limited companies. If you don’t register your own company, sooner or later your personal invoice is likely to be rejected by bigger companies who mean business.
Secondly, things are easier when you have an accountant. You can maintain simple book-keeping, and your accountant will take care of the rest. Accountants are also becoming freelancers nowadays, and their charges go down quite a lot even in Hong Kong. The point is, it is no longer very expensive to hire an accountant.
Also, if you are invited to the tax office, bring your accountant along so that you can better argue your case.
Thirdly, things are easier when you file your tax. File your tax report and pay tax on time. No government in the world is going to let you off the hook, for most governments depend a lot on internal debts to run their administration. When tax income reduces, that would spell trouble for them. To avoid such trouble, they will chase every dollar and cent from the tax payers. Simple as that.
Fourthly, your own company for sense of belonging. We want to excel in commercial art and make a living. We blend art values in our works and sell them. When we have our own company, it attracts business opportunities so that we can shine in what we do best.
Do not sacrifice your normal life and income for the sake of becoming an artist of romanticism. Hunger and poverty do not help you in becoming a good artist. Contrarily, when you are poor and hungry, when people are ignoring you because you have been borrowing money everywhere for years, that does not make you a better artist.
If you think your art means business, why not start from your company?
Fifthly, a sole proprietor is just a start. Laws differ in one place and another, but the general rule is that partnership and private limited / limited company status provides more protection of your personal assets. When the business is improving, you will definitely want more protection for yourself and family.
Lastly, hold your head high when you are running your own company, for you are your own boss and need not return to rat race of the cruel corporate world.
當個 freelancer 也好多年了，從當初沒有人脈、名下沒有註冊公司的二十多歲小子，到後來註冊公司認真經營生意，我才覺得心中踏實了許多。很多 freelancers 朋友都會認為開公司很麻煩，因為要請會計師幫忙做帳報稅，國稅局有什麼新的稅賦制度就得馬上跟進。但是我可以實在地說一句，與其等到國稅局上門討稅的時候才來聘請會計師幫忙，還不如一早就跟足手續開公司、好好做帳報稅，因為只有這樣，國稅局才真正拿你沒輒。
一、每一張報價單／估價單 (quotation)、發票／發貨單 (invoice) 都是清清楚楚，哪個案子完成了出了發票，銀行往來帳戶紀錄有無顯示已經收款，或者有哪些款項還沒收到，這個月收款預計多少、下個月多少，所有事情都可以有系統地管理。你若依然是個體戶，以個人名義收錢，有些客戶可能覺得你不牢靠，因為生意有些規模的公司還是希望跟公司打交道，更嚴格的可能要求供貨商／服務提供者都是有限公司。這一點我們必須明白，一味以個人名義做生意，只要對方會計師不接受你個體戶的報價單或發票，你遲早還是會碰壁的。
五、個人公司只是一個開始。各個國家與地區的公司法不盡相同，但是大致上的規定就是私人有限公司 (private limited) 或合夥公司 (partnership) 應該是比較有保障的，也就是說萬一遇上法律糾紛，有限公司和合夥公司的股東都不會面對私人財產受影響的局面。換句話說，個人公司經營久了，有一些資本了，後來找個夥伴一起註冊有限公司或者合夥公司，其實都是比較理想的狀態。
最後不得不說，這畢竟還是一個現實世界，當你女朋友帶你回家見她父母的時候，你想告訴人家你是自己註冊公司經營生意，還是你想說你做 freelance 多年依然沒本事註冊公司呢？哪一個說法比較好，其實大家心中有數，習慣了 freelancing 之後願不願意多下功夫走上正式經營公司的正途，這個個人心態其實才是關鍵。