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Self-employment, simplified: a Q&A with Hnry


We got in touch with James Fuller, the CEO of Wellington start-up Hnry. Hnry is specifically designed for self-employed individuals, contractors and freelancers—taking care of all the admin and hassle for them.


Thanks to Hnry, self-employed people no longer have to live in a world of spreadsheets, collected receipts, online calculators, reconciliations, payments and tax filings. Here’s James…

Tell us a bit about Hnry!

Hnry is a service that makes it simple for anyone to earn income independently as a self-employed person. There are so many Kiwis out there who are freelancing, contracting, or earning income as a sole trader. For years, they’ve been burdened with having to take on the hassle of tax, compliance, invoicing and expenses all by themselves. This ends up costing them time and money, causing stress and anxiety, and taking them away from what they actually want to be doing—getting on with the job or spending time with friends and family.

We’re bringing self-employment into the 21st century, making it simple, affordable and accessible for anyone to be self-employed.

What’s Hnry’s new ‘Allocations’ feature?

One of the biggest challenges that self-employed people face is the idea of inconsistent income patterns. Working with multiple clients at once, each of whom could potentially have different payment schedules means that using direct debits to transfer money and pay bills on a set day each month doesn’t work. The uncertainty of not knowing if you have enough money in your account to make your regular payments can be really stressful, and can lead to penalties from banks and other providers.

We talked to our customers and learned that freelancers and contractors would much rather transfer funds and make payments at the time they get paid, rather than on an arbitrary day each month. So we created ‘Allocations’—a new feature that allows Hnry customers to transfer a percentage of their income to anyone, every time they get paid.

By setting up Hnry Allocations, our customers can now transfer a portion of their income to Sharesies, savings, or friends and family whenever they get paid. It’s like a direct debit but it actually works for self-employed people!

What are the biggest challenges that self-employed people face?

If you’re a self-employed contractor or freelancer, you’re being treated as though you’re a ‘small business’. If you go to the bank for a mortgage or loan, or when you speak to any government department, they all treat you as though you’re a small business as opposed to an independent earner. This means that self-employed people are often expected to produce the sorts of documents you would expect a small business to have—profit & loss statements, balance sheets, cash flow forecasts. Imagine you’re a midwife, graphic designer or business analyst being asked for this sort of information!

We make things simpler for self-employed people by making the earning of self-employed income similar to the earning of a salaried income. Hnry members get paid into a Hnry Bank Account, have all their taxes paid for them straight away, and get given a payslip every time they get paid. This means they can prove their income to anyone and can show that they’re always up to date on their taxes. To a bank or other organisation, Hnry customers look very much the same as someone who has a permanent job. With Hnry, you get all the freedom and flexibility of self-employment, without having to worry about being treated as a ‘small business’.

What are your top 3 tips for self-employed people who want to manage their money better?

A lot of self-employed people find it time-consuming to have to manage the day-to-day of their finances—income tax, GST, ACC, student loans, etc—and so often they don’t spend time thinking about how to actually manage their money.

I would always recommend that self-employed people do things like:

  • Get into a routine—the hardest thing is usually to change habits, but I’d recommend that self-employed people try and start new habits. Whether that’s being more aware of what you’re spending on each month, or regularly checking your KiwiSaver or the performance of any investments you may have. It’s always important to be actively involved in managing your finances.

  • Put a little bit of money away, and often—regularly putting money into your savings, KiwiSaver, or Sharesies can be a great way of having your money work better for you. You don’t have to put away a lot for it to make a difference over time.

  • Find advice that is right for you—there are so many different places to get financial advice these days, and whilst that’s great to see, it can sometimes be overwhelming if you’re out on your own. Finding reliable financial advice that is relevant to you is important for making informed and confident money choices.

What is the ‘gig economy’ and how do you think it might impact the future of work in New Zealand?

The ‘gig economy’ describes the new wave of opportunities for people to earn income independently. In the gig economy, individuals are selling their time or services on short-term ‘gigs’, sometimes across multiple clients or jobs. Companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Upwork are all seen to be ‘gig economy’ platforms—helping those in need of services to find people willing to provide those services. Whilst most people will associate the ‘gig economy’ with these new digital platforms, it’s actually no different from anyone earning a self-employed income. Essentially, all self-employed people are part of the gig economy—whether as freelancers, contractors, or sole traders.

All over the world, more and more individuals are taking advantage of the opportunity to earn income independently. Here in New Zealand, around 10% of the population are already taking advantage of self-employment in some way. So it already accounts for a good portion of our economy.

We predict that New Zealand’s self-employed workforce will continue to grow over the coming years, with more and more Kiwis seeing the advantages of earning independently. The idea of a 9-5 career at a single company is being replaced by far more flexible working arrangements. Arrangements where individuals use a range of skills across clients and jobs to create the work/life balance that best suits them.

What does a financially informed and empowered generation look like for Hnry?

Being financially informed and empowered should be a necessity for everyone, rather than being a luxury for some. For years, being financially empowered has seemed out of reach for a large proportion of the population. People have felt excluded from services and advice because of their income source, or how much money they have. Hnry are thrilled to be part of a growing number of companies who are making it simpler for anyone to be financially empowered, and to take control of their financial futures.

With all the opportunity and flexibility provided by earning income independently, it’s great to see so many more people in a position to take advantage of this growing global trend. Having a new generation of Kiwis be more confident and educated about their finances can only be a good thing—not only for the individuals themselves, but for the economy as a whole!

Ok, now for the legal bit

Investing involves risk. You aren’t guaranteed to make money, and you might lose the money you start with. We don’t provide personalised advice or recommendations. Any information we provide is general only and current at the time written. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice when considering whether an investment is appropriate for your objectives, financial situation or needs.

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