Thinking about going freelance? Working for yourself can be rewarding and satisfying. Freelancers are great for the economy, last year they contributed £119 billion in earnings and are the fastest growing segment of the self-employed sector. When an industry is growing the way freelancing is, it’s usually because there is money to be made there.
If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, there are some essential things you’ll need to consider first…
1. You might need to ease yourself in
There aren’t many people who can quit their full-time job and jump straight into freelancing. If you have a healthy bank account, you might be able to manage it, but it’s not something we would recommend. It’s a much better idea to look at having a few clients ready and waiting for you to leave your full-time position, which means you might be working evenings, weekends and in your lunch hour for a while. Perhaps you can request more flexible working hours, such as working longer days Monday to Thursday so that you can have Friday off? Maybe after a while, you can go part-time for a while and dedicate half of your working week to freelance work? Or, maybe you have holiday days left to take where you can focus solely on your freelance duties.
2. Your employment contract might forbid you from freelancing at the same time
Some organisations make it clear in their staff contracts that they don’t allow freelancing alongside their full-time job. This could be for a range of reasons. Perhaps they think you won’t perform as well in the office if your focus is elsewhere or maybe there is a conflict of interest if the industry you work in is the same as your freelance industry as they might be worried about you taking their clients. Or, maybe they are worried you’ll be working on freelance stuff during work hours. Make sure you’re allowed to freelance alongside your ordinary job before you take the plunge.
3. People will ask you to work for free
For some reason, people seem to think that freelancers can survive off fresh air. You’ll be asked to work for free in return for ‘exposure’, or told ‘this might lead to more regular work’. Ask other freelancers how many times they’ve done free work that later became paid work. They’ll tell you never. It’s a bad idea to do this. Your time and your skills are worth money.
4. If they can’t have you for free, they’ll ask for you to be cheap
As well as being asked to work for free, you’ll be asked to drop your rates all the time. It’s at your discretion whether you do this or not depending on the situation (it might be a charity, for example). It’s a bad idea to float your quotations. If you drop your rate too far and then that client recommends you to two or three other people at the rate they’re receiving, you’ll quickly find your time is filled by people who aren’t paying you very much.
5. You will most likely have to forfeit the following:
Early nights. Late mornings. Holiday pay. Sick pay. Holidays during which you don’t work. Family trips. Weekends. Lunchtimes.
There is a misconception that freelancers have it easy. However, they definitely have to work hard to make a good living.
6. You may get lonely
Working from home sounds great, but it isn’t for everyone. There will be days when you don’t talk to anyone at all during working hours. You might not realise how much you’re going to miss daily human interaction until you don’t have it anymore. And Christmas parties are non-existent. However, if you’re an introvert that just likes to get their head down and work, working alone could be the perfect solution.
7. You’ll have to manage your money
Don’t forget about your taxes. You’ll have to save 20% of everything you earn to pay them. If you’re doing really well and have higher profits, you might have to save more. It’s a good idea to set yourself a salary and pay yourself on the same day every month, then put the extra capital into another account or your savings to cover tax. If you’re unsure about this, then get yourself an accountant. They cost a few hundred pounds a year, but they’re worth the expense if they mean you won’t be hit with any surprise tax bills. And have you ever tried to file a tax return? It’s like trying to decipher the Da Vinci Code.
8. Sometimes you’ll be rejected
You will spend a lot of time pulling together quotes and proposals for people only for them to reject you. Sometimes you might just never hear from them ever again. After a while, you’ll find it easier to spot those who aren’t serious about what they say, but even when you’re an experienced freelancer, you’ll sometimes be taken by surprise by a company you thought were going to hire you. Rejection is part of freelancing. Just remember, it isn’t personal, and it helps build confidence and resilience over time.
9. You’ll start to think differently about late night working
The work will come in waves, and sometimes you’ll be up at midnight because there is simply too much work for you to do, but you will be glad of this. If you’re working late, it means you’re getting paid more money. Having nothing to do will become a bad thing. We recommend you use that time to market yourself to win more business.
10. You’ll have to learn how to sell yourself
Being a freelancer is like being in an interview all the time. You’ll constantly have to tell everyone about all of the amazing things you do for your clients. Once you learn how to do this, you will realise that clients come from all over the place. You’ll start recruiting them at birthday parties, weddings and on evenings out with your friends. If you’re uncomfortable with blowing your own trumpet, you need to have a serious think about whether freelancing is for you.
Now check out our best business habits for self-employed people here…