The Freelancing Diaries: Sharing the deep tea with UI/UX Designer, Jeff Lau

8 months ago by

This year we’ve teamed up with Hnry to bring you The Freelancing Diaries: a series helping freelancing creatives navigate self-employed life.

From handy resource articles, free-to-attend live webinars, to sharing some of the real and raw journeys from our creative, self-employed community – we’re tackling some of the biggest freelancing woes, what to do about them, and how you can build the successful, creative business of your dreams. 

This month’s topic was on ACC and what you need to know as a freelancing creative. Check out this resource article and webinar recap for the top takeaways.

Today we sat down with freelance UI/UX Designer, Jeff Lau, who shares some of the deep tea around what it’s like to run your own creative business including some of their big mistakes and big wins. 


This article is proudly brought to you by Hnry


If you dove straight into freelancing from study or elsewhere, how did you find that transition and what did you wish you had known?

I was fortunate enough to have friends who had already made the leap into freelancing. They’ve been incredibly helpful in guiding me through the transition and sharing essential insights. From practical advice like setting up for GST and skillful rate negotiation, to the more nuanced aspects such as setting aside funds for provisional tax, their wisdom has covered a broad spectrum. Beyond the technicalities, they’ve also been there with an encouraging pep talk that put me in the right mindset. These conversations haven’t just provided me with practical knowledge; they’ve also nurtured the confidence I needed to embark on this freelance journey.

I wish I had known all of this information during my time at university. Freelancing and the practical aspects such as setting up a studio, managing taxes, GST, tools, and more has never really been talked about in uni (these are key essential business skills).

TVNZ screens

Has your self-employed journey been easier or harder than you thought it would be before you started out? ( If harder, why? If easier, why? )

Surprisingly, it’s been easier than I initially anticipated. As someone who tends to overthink and analyse every step and possibility, I expected challenges at every turn. However, I’ve learned to trust the process. Instead of worry and stressing over uncertainties, I’ve found that riding the wave and living in the moment is the true essence of freelancing.

Always having a 3-6 months’ padding money saved in the bank, it’ll come useful for rainy days. 

Looking back, what was one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made as a freelancing creative that you don’t want other freelancers to make?

One of the most significant mistakes I made was overthinking the “what ifs” before even embarking on my freelancing journey. I allowed four years to slip away due to these doubts. Questions like, “What if I don’t succeed?” or “What if I can’t secure bookings?” clouded my mind. Fears of financial instability and not wanting to rely on my parents added to the anxiety. Reflecting on a quote by Mel Robbins, “What if it all works out?” “What if things unfold as they’re meant to?” made me realise how often we jump to the worst conclusions, ignoring the possibility of things turning out far better than expected.

What’s been one of your biggest wins in your creative freelancing journey?

Undoubtedly, taking that leap of faith and listening to my gut has been the best wins. Despite the daunting uncertainty of leaving my full-time job during the pandemic, it remains the most significant and rewarding decision of my life. I’ve learned to place more trust in my abilities and recognize my worth.

Since we’ve been discussing ACC this month, have you had any trouble with /horror stories about acc levies in the past?


Nah, not at all. Things have been pretty easy and straightforward on that front for me. Especially with Hnry – they handle all that nitty-gritty stuff. So, you’re totally in good hands if you’re using them.

Did you know about the ACC codes and which one to use? How did you make sure you were using the right code and paying the right amount of ACC levies?

To be honest, no!  I’ve been relying on Hnry. Their website provides great information about ACC and how it all works. Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue about these things initially, but Hnry takes care of all these details for me.

Daily tools you cannot live without in your business?

At this stage, I have to give a big shout out to Hnry (and no, this isn’t an ad, haha). Honestly, I’m genuinely thankful for this tool because, without it, I’d be swimming in confusion. Running a freelance business involves a ton of behind-the-scenes admin work that isn’t exactly glamorous. You’ve got to handle expense claims, file receipts, invoice clients, stay on top of invoices, tackle ACC levies, estimate earnings, manage GST, and allocate your earnings – it’s a full plate.

And then there are a couple of unexpected heroes in my toolkit: Apple Calendar and Notes. I find myself relying on them heavily. Whenever a thought pops into my head or my mind starts to wander (which happens a lot), I need to jot it down immediately, or it’s gone forever. And let’s not forget using the calendar to note down my freelance bookings and project meetings. Picture this: realising you’ve completely forgotten about a booking – that’s my ultimate nightmare.

Best and hardest parts about being a freelance creative?

The best part is the sheer variety of projects you get your hands on. You get to pick and choose what speaks to you, and you’re steering your course toward your creative goals. I’ll be honest, I’ve witnessed more growth in my creative journey over a year of freelancing than in the past few years of being in full-time roles. As a freelance creative, it’s a constant drive to push boundaries, reinvent myself, and stay ahead in the game – all to keep those bookings coming in. Plus, the perk of collaborating with incredible individuals along the way, is truly rewarding. Being a freelancer, I also get more time to travel, see the world and enjoy my dancing more. It does help nourish my creativity.

Now, onto the challenges. The trickiest part is the uncertainty that tags along, and there are moments when you might feel like a lone wolf. You’re part of the puzzle, but not a permanent piece. I’ve been lucky to often click with the teams I join, which makes the team dynamic enjoyable during my stint. However, for those who’re full-time, work-from-home freelancers, this might pose a slightly tougher challenge.

Lastly, where can we see more of your work?

You can check them out on my website www.jefflaudesign.com or my linkedin profile. Here’s my instagram for the fun side of me.

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