FFWD - Freelance & Self employed financial habits

Profiles of respondents

How long have you been a freelancer / self-employed?
What is your average monthly income from freelancing/self-employment?
Age categories

[CATEGORIES] Business type
[WORDCLOUD] Business type

Summary of job businesses or freelancer work

22% of respondents run a business in the beauty and personal care industry. This includes hair salons, nail salons, and beauty salons, as well as the selling of beauty products.
18% of respondents are involved in the food and restaurant industry. This includes fast food restaurants, mobile kitchens, home-based cooking, baking businesses, and selling food and snacks.
13% of respondents own businesses in the retail sector. They run small shops (like spaza shops and tuck shops), sell clothes, or other various consumer goods.
12% of respondents operate businesses related to construction, civil engineering, and trade skills, such as builders, welders, and plumbers. Some also sell construction materials.
9% of the respondents are involved in digital and creative industries, including digital marketing, fashion design, photography, web and app development, online sales, and graphic design.
7% of respondents run cleaning services businesses, both residential and commercial. This includes car wash services, chemical cleaning, and laundry services.
6% of the respondents are involved in consulting, coaching, and business services sector, including financial skills training, business consulting, life coaching, HR solutions, and virtual assistant services.
5% of respondents are involved in the agriculture and farming sector, including selling agricultural products, poultry farming, and selling eggs.
4% of respondents are involved in event-related services, such as event decor, baking cakes for birthdays, and make-up services for events.
4% of respondents have businesses in niche sectors like shoe fixing, courier services, sewing, operating a recording studio, and transcribing services.

Top insights

The majority of respondents spend between R500-R1000 per month on managing their business/finances, including software, advisors, tax returns etc. On average, respondents spend 3.26% of their income on finance costs (out of those who know their monthly cost). The difference in average finance cost is ~R400 compared to the income difference which is R50k+. This indicates that tax and financial management is a significant expense for many freelancers and self-employed individuals.
Most respondents have never missed out on income, faced tax penalties, or encountered other negative consequences due to difficulties with financial management. This suggests that despite the challenges, many freelancers and self-employed individuals are able to manage their finances effectively to avoid such issues.
The most common way respondents manage their taxes is by doing it themselves (39%). This could indicate a lack of affordable or accessible tax management services for freelancers and self-employed individuals.
When asked to rate how easy or hard they find managing taxes and doing their tax returns, the most common response was ‘Neutral’ (44%). This suggests that while some respondents may find tax management challenging, others may not find it particularly difficult.
Despite the challenges associated with tax management, most respondents strongly agree that they understand what to do legally to pay as little tax as possible - ‘Strongly agree’ (39%). This indicates a high level of tax literacy among the respondents.
Why was it hard or what did you struggle with?
In the last 12 months, which of the following did you most struggle with?

Summary to: Why was it hard or what did you struggle with?

About 25% of respondents expressed challenges with budgeting, primarily due to unexpected or variable expenses, or a lack of discipline in spending.
Nearly 20% of respondents encountered difficulties with tax-related issues, including preparing and submitting tax returns, or understanding tax requirements.
Approximately 15% of respondents experienced issues with securing loans or financing due to lack of steady income or employment, not having payslips, or because their businesses were not registered.
About 10% of respondents reported challenges with invoicing and handling accounts payable. They either had issues with customers not believing their invoices, or had trouble keeping track of their spending.
A small fraction, about 5% of respondents, indicated difficulties in managing their stock due to inflation and high costs, with some respondents also mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on their business.
What financial service/product would be most helpful for you?

Loan and credit questions

The majority of respondents (120 out of 309 - 39%) have not applied for a loan because they haven't needed to. This suggests that most freelancers and self-employed individuals require business finance before getting a loan for themselves as an individual.
Among those who have applied for a loan, the most common type of loan was a business loan (77 out of 172 respondents - 25%). This could indicate that personal loans are the most accessible or suitable type of loan for freelancers and self-employed individuals.
When asked to rate how easy or difficult they found it to take out a loan, the most common response was ‘Very easy’ (49 out of 172 respondents - 28%). Following by ‘Easy’ with 35 or 20% of respondents.
Have you applied for a loan (as individual or business)?

OPEN TEXT ANALYSIS: Hardest thing about applying for a loan

A significant proportion of respondents, approximately 35%, have never applied for a loan. The reasons vary from lack of need, fear of debt, and satisfaction with current financial management methods.
Approximately 25% of the respondents reported challenges with the loan application process related to credit scores. They either had a low credit score, bad credit history, or were unsure of their credit standing.
Around 15% of respondents highlighted that document provision and verification was a challenging process. This primarily involved supplying proof of income, getting the correct paperwork, and submitting numerous documents.
About 10% of the respondents stated that they didn't apply for loans due to income instability, especially for self-employed and small business owners. Banks' requirements for payslips or consistent income proved to be a hurdle.
Nearly 7% of respondents mentioned loan rejection and long approval times as significant barriers in their loan application process.
Around 5% of respondents expressed concerns about high-interest rates as a barrier to applying for a loan.
A small percentage, about 3%, cited negative experiences with loans, such as monthly deductions and high repayments, as their primary reason for not applying for a loan.

Tax related questions

How do you manage your taxes?

OPEN TEXT ANALYSIS: Hardest part of managing taxes

Around 33% of respondents indicated that they do not pay taxes. Reasons provided included not earning enough income or not being registered taxpayers.
NOTE: When asked how their taxes are managed (in a previous question), only 21% of people said they don’t pay tax. Majority of these people answered that they manage their taxes themselves.
Approximately 20% of respondents reported struggles with administrative aspects of tax management, such as record keeping, submitting tax returns, and managing paperwork.
Roughly 18% of the respondents highlighted financial constraints as a significant difficulty in managing taxes, which encompassed issues like not making enough profit, needing to pay taxes out of small business earnings, and taxes taking a substantial part of their income.
About 15% of the respondents expressed challenges with understanding tax laws, procedures, and calculations. This included complexities in determining the tax due, grappling with tax laws, and problems in reconciling accounts.
Nearly 10% of respondents mentioned that time management was a challenge, pointing to issues such as last-minute submissions, remembering to submit taxes every year, and keeping up with deadlines.
Approximately 5% of respondents faced problems with accessing and understanding tax information, not being sure of what to claim or subtract, and uncertainty over how much to pay based on their business performance.
Around 5% of the respondents expressed difficulties with the technical aspects of tax submission, such as errors on e-filing systems, going directly to the office, or experiencing system downtime.
Nearly 5% of the respondents mentioned that they had hired professionals or enlisted help from knowledgeable individuals for their tax management, showing a reliance on external assistance.
Close to 5% of the respondents stated they faced no difficulties in managing their taxes. These respondents often pointed to the assistance they received from professionals, the use of tax apps, or their own tax savvy nature.
A small portion (3%) of respondents faced difficulties due to their business size or performance, mentioning that they found it hard to pay taxes when the business was not doing well or because their business was small.


Insurance products

OPEN TEXT ANALYSIS: Biggest frustration with insurance

29% of respondents mentioned financial instability or affordability issues as a major challenge. This included being unable to pay premiums on time, not having a stable income to cover the insurance, or not having enough funds in their accounts during debit order deductions.
Approximately 15% of the participants stated they had no issues or challenges regarding their insurance.
Around 14% indicated difficulty in finding suitable or right insurance, including not being able to find coverage that fits their unique needs or the nature of their business.
Roughly 18% of respondents complained about high costs or expensive premiums associated with their insurance policies. Some respondents specifically mentioned being seen as "high risk" due to self-employment, causing their premiums to be higher.
About 13% of the respondents indicated problems with insurance payout and claims processes, including delays in payment after claims, insurance companies not keeping their promises, or struggling with obtaining compensation for damaged items.
Nearly 9% of respondents reported challenges related to business ownership, such as difficulties in getting insurance for their business, or managing insurance aspects along with other business responsibilities.
Around 6% of respondents expressed frustration with administrative or process-related issues with their insurance providers, including having to resend documents multiple times, dealing with incompetent agents, or having to go through extensive evaluations.
Approximately 5% of respondents mentioned that they didn’t have any insurance, suggesting a possible lack of coverage in the population surveyed.
Close to 4% of participants raised issues with insurance providers not being trustworthy or transparent, including not delivering on promises or perceived dishonesty.
Nearly 2% of respondents mentioned challenges related to advice and information, including not getting proper advice or struggling to understand their insurance options.

Saving & Investment questions

Savings summary

The majority of respondents (248 out of 309 - 80%) have savings for an emergency. This suggests that most freelancers and self-employed individuals understand the importance of having an emergency fund and have taken steps to secure one.
However, when it comes to retirement savings, the most common response (143 out of 309 - 46%) was 'I am planning to start one soon'. This indicates that while many respondents are aware of the need for a retirement savings plan, they have not yet established one.
The second most common response to the retirement savings question was 'No, I don't have a retirement savings plan' (with 71 or 23% respondents). This indicates a significant number of freelancers and self-employed individuals who do not have a retirement savings plan.
57 or 18% of people have an ‘Investment account’ as their plan for retirement. Only 61 or 20% are getting the tax advantages of registered retirement funds (RA & Pension).


35% of respondents are part of a community of sorts.
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