The freelancing industry has enjoyed impressive growth over the past few years.
According to a report by IPSE, in 2020 there were around 2.2 million freelancers in the UK, with the number expected to keep growing. Freelancing attracts people who want more work-life balance, the ability to set their own schedule, and the opportunity to take their income and futures into their own hands.
Deciding to hand in your notice and start out as a freelancer is an exciting and life-affirming moment — and then the hard work starts. Being a self-employed freelancer means owning your own business. Whether you’re prepared for it or not, you have to be your own boss.
To help you better understand the nature of freelance work, here are six things all potential and current freelancers should know about and consider.
1. Can You Afford It?
The startup costs of launching your own business can vary greatly depending on your industry. For example, if you were a looking to start a freelance photography business, your upfront costs for the latest equipment may be higher than that of say, an editor or journalist.
Money will feel tight at times and when you’re starting out, you’ll feel stressed about it. That’s totally normal, and it’s fine as long as you know how to deal with the stress.
2. Get Organised
Before you quit your day job and dive into the world of freelancing, it’s important to gather together all the tools you’ll need to succeed.
For most freelancing careers, like copywriting or graphic design, you’ll need to have an impressive portfolio if you want to convince clients to hire you. Start going through your previous work and select the pieces you think best represent your skills to be part of your portfolio.
Then start investing in any equipment or technology you need to complete your job, and decide where exactly you’ll work. Having a dedicated area to work (even if it’s a local coffee shop) can make a big difference to your productivity.
You’ll also want to cultivate a professional image online by having a LinkedIn profile and your own website — ideally with a blog that you update regularly.
3. Know Where You Can Find Work
Finding work when you’re a freelancer is imperative to your success. Without work, there’s no steady income, and without any regular income, you’ll find yourself struggling financially.
Put some shout-outs to your social circle. Chances are someone will have a friend of a friend who needs a writer, photographer, IT consultant, or whatever your specialisation is. It doesn’t hurt to ask your pals and peers — what are friends for, anyway?
Whatever your industry, there’s a good chance there’s an online marketplace or recruitment platform out there to help you find work. There’s a great range of freelance job websites available if you’re starting out.
4. Plan What Prices to Charge
This is possibly the most important part of becoming a freelancer: you need to work out how much you’re going to charge, either as a flat project-based fee or a daily (or hourly) rate.
Do some basic research and get a sense of the going rate for your services or skill set. Of course, it’s going to depend on your level of experience, but there’s no sense in charging rock-bottom rates only to find a few months later you can’t afford to pay your bills.
Remember the importance here of building up a good reputation and referrals. Earn the respect and trust of a group of solid clients with reasonably-charged work, executed according to the brief, on time and to a high standard.
5. Beware of the Rollercoaster Cycle
When freelancing, there’ll inevitably be very productive, high-earning periods — amazing times when you’re making lots of money and enjoying a healthy bank balance. But before you go out and splash the cash, be aware that the good times won’t last because every freelancer is continuously on a roller coaster cycle of ups and downs.
There will be quiet months, and there will be months when you’re working all hours of every day. Just remember that any money you earn one month might not be the same as the next. So get used to saving for a rainy day.
6. Sole Trader or Limited Company?
Deciding whether to be a sole trader or a limited company is vital to starting a business. Many freelancers prefer to begin as a sole trader and allow themselves time to get their head around other aspects of freelancing — such as finding clients and knowing what expenses to claim — before moving on to form a company when business is going well.
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