Being a freelancer is often idealised as ‘being your own boss’. And while there are many perks to the freelancer lifestyle, such as flexible schedules and being able to work from trendy cafes (or from home in your pyjamas), freelancing is definitely not a walk in the park. Challenges can include finding a reliable client base, building up your reputation, and dealing with an ever-fluctuating income. It can be a massive adjustment, especially for someone who has worked a ‘regular’ job for many years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of freelancers and remote workers that we see in the UK, and this way of working is becoming far more popular and attainable for the average person. It’s also becoming more common practice for employers to staff their teams with independent contractors.
Before you hand in your resignation and decide to become a freelancer, ensure that you educate yourself about all of the possible challenges and regulations surrounding freelance work to ensure that this decision is a good fit for you.
Can anyone be a freelancer?
The great thing about freelancing is that most of the time, the work is done remotely, so you can work from any time and from anywhere and offer your services to international clients.
Technically speaking, anyone can become a freelancer as there are no prerequisites for becoming a freelancer. All you need is the equipment and tools required to offer your services effectively. That being said, freelancing is not particularly suited to every profession or individual situation, and certain people may face many struggles along their freelancer journey.
If you need a steady monthly income every month to pay certain bills, freelancing may not be the best option for you, as it can take a while to build a client base. And even when you have a steady stream of clients, you can never rely on an exact figure. What you could do is freelance on the side while still keeping your regular job and only hand in your resignation once you have built up a loyal list of customers. There are many people that work as both employees and freelancers for numerous different reasons, and having freelancing as your side-hustle may suit you better than freelancing on a full-time basis.
If you really want to be a freelancer, there are many ways that you can make this a reality.
Can anyone hire freelancers?
Quite simply, yes. And because there’s no need to pay taxes, overhead, or benefits for freelancers, it’s no wonder why employers are leaning that direction. Still, the gig economy is becoming increasingly regulated, and it’s important for employers to understand the costs, benefits, and legal obligations of hiring independent contractors. Some of these issues include correctly classifying workers and ensuring that their timesheets are legally compliant.
How do I start freelancing?
Are you ready and excited to start your freelancing journey” Starting freelancing can be explained in six easy steps.
Decide what type of services you want to offer
What skills, knowledge, expertise, and experience do you have behind you” Thinking about this should help you decide what type of freelance services you could successfully offer. If you are just coming out of high school, you could look at doing a short online course that will help equip you with some basic skills to assist you with starting freelancing.
Popular freelance services include digital services such as copywriting, graphic design and web development, as well as teaching classes and skills online.
Get creative when you think about your service offering, and come up with something that not everyone is doing. It’s advisable to do some market research and ensure that there is at least some sort of demand for what you plan to offer.
Register yourself as self-employed
It’s recommended that you register yourself as self-employed as soon as you begin working as a freelancer. You’ll need to register with the HMRC, and from now on, you’ll also be responsible for your own taxes!
Most freelancers are considered sole traders, although you could open up a limited company and offer your services as a business if you so wished. As a sole trader or a limited company, you’ll now need to submit your taxes yearly, and you’ll also need to pay NIC. It may seem intimidating at first, but the processes are fairly straightforward and can all be done online.
Decide where you are going to work
Don’t fall into the trap of doing everything from your bed. If you want to work efficiently and effectively, you will need a dedicated workspace. If you have room in your home, set up a desk workspace for yourself in a quiet area where you’ll be able to work without interruption.
Alternatively, if you’ll need to be meeting with clients on a regular basis and don’t have any room to work in your home, you could also look at renting an office space. Office rentals can be very pricey and are often not worth the expense. In the UK, there are many ‘hot seat’ options available where you can pay per day or per hour to work at a desk, thus not being tied down to any lease agreements. These co-working spaces also often offer boardroom rentals which you could use for meeting with clients.
Get all of the equipment/ tools you need
The type of equipment you’ll need will depend on what type of services you’ll be offering. If you’re baking cakes for weddings, you’d probably want to invest in some quality baking equipment and so forth.
You don’t need top of the range from the get-go, especially if you don’t have a customer base yet. Make do with what you have, but also make sure that you have everything you need to offer your services in a professional manner. No matter what route you decide to go, you’ll most likely need a good internet connection and a decent laptop.
Take out insurance
As a freelancer, you are in no way obliged to take out insurance of any kind, but you’ll definitely thank yourself for doing so should you run into any issues down the line. Professional indemnity is always recommended if you have complications with clients. It’s also a good idea to take out insurance for any assets that you have for your service offering, such as vehicles, electrical equipment etc. Do a bit of research into the insurance recommendations for freelancers, or alternatively ensure that you’re putting a bit of money aside each month to cover yourself in case of emergencies. You’ll thank yourself for creating a safety net!
Start looking for work
Now that you have fully prepared yourself, it is time to start looking for work and advertising your services. Be confident in your offering, and don’t hesitate to speak to other freelancers to ask for advice. Listening to their personal experiences could give you great insight into the world of freelancing.
How can I do freelance work successfully?
While you may have followed all the steps in getting yourself set up for freelance work, you may still find yourself battling when it comes to freelance work.
One of the first things you’ll need to do to have a chance at success is to research the market very carefully. Go and have a look at what your competitors are doing, assess average industry rates, and look for ways in which you can fill niche gaps in the market. While there is a huge demand for freelancers, the freelancer industry can be very cutthroat, and it may be hard to land your first job. The more you know, the better!
You’ll also need to practice patience. The chances are that the jobs won’t all come flooding in as soon as you start advertising your services, but stick at it and be consistent, and you’re bound to land some great clients eventually.
Get your branding on point! In this day and age, aesthetics is very important, so ensure your branding is eye-catching and accurately represents what you do. Investing in professional branding will definitely not be a waste of money.
How do I manage my money as a freelancer?
As a freelancer, you are responsible for all the money that you make. Unlike a normal job, you won’t be receiving weekly wages or a monthly salary and will most likely be paid per job you do or project you work on. You’ll have to be smart about your money and do industry research to set fair rates. Some clients may want to negotiate your rates, and you’ll need to make sure that they aren’t working too far below the industry standard.
You’ll also have to ensure that you pay your own taxes and budget accordingly. It will be very important to keep track of all your finances and follow up with clients to make sure that they pay you on time.
Invoicing is also a very important aspect of managing your money as a freelancer. Discuss with your clients when you will invoice them and when the invoice should be paid by. Make sure your invoice looks professional. There are many tools and templates available online to help you with your invoicing system.
What are the most important traits of a successful freelancer?
As a freelancer, there are certain traits that will greatly benefit you. Even if you feel like some of these traits don’t come naturally to you, you can always work on them and develop them:
- Self-discipline – self-discipline is probably one of the most important skills you can have as a freelancer. As you’ll be managing your own time, it’s important to be strict with yourself when it comes to staying on schedule.
- Motivation – motivation is also another key factor for successful freelancing. Having the motivation to get up and promote yourself and work on projects can be tough to maintain, but it is possible, especially if you’re passionate about what you’re doing.
- Good communication – as you’ll be dealing with clients remotely, it’s integral that you have good communication skills.
- Organisational skills – being a freelancer requires organisation. Keep your workspace clean and ensure you have a way of effectively keeping track of everything you need to get done.
- Time management- time can really run away from you as a freelancer. While you can have a flexible schedule, it’s important to maintain some sort of structure to ensure that deadlines are met.
How do I promote myself as a freelancer?
One of the most important things about being a freelancer is getting your name out there so that people know about you, and you can find ideal clients who you want to work with! Luckily, in this modern-day and age, there are so many ways that you can promote yourself.
You should let your friends and family know about your new career path so that your services can be spread by word of mouth. You should definitely look into creating dedicated social media pages that advertise your services and perhaps even a website.
You could also look at advertising your services on dedicated freelancer platforms such as fiver.com and freelancer.com. If there are any businesses that you’d like to work with and that you feel could benefit from your services, you could always get in touch with them directly and promote your service offering.
Do I have to register as self-employed if I am working as a freelancer in the UK?
You may find yourself in a heap of trouble if you don’t register with the HMRC as self-employed when you begin freelancing. You’ll need to register even if you maintain your regular job and only freelance on a part-time basis. Registering online is easy, so there is no excuse to delay registering as self-employed.
Will I make more money as a freelancer than I would at a regular job
This is a very tricky question to deal with. While most freelancers report that they are making more money than they did at their regular jobs, the thing you need to remember about freelancing is that there is no guarantee when it comes to money. While you may have the opportunity to make more money than you would at a ‘normal’ job, that doesn’t mean you will.
Having to pay your own taxes and NIC, as well as fluctuating monthly incomes, are just some of the financial challenges that freelancers have to face and employees don’t.
The goal of making more money should probably not be the only reason for you becoming a freelancer.