Author Topic: Going freelance: highs, lows and tips for making the change  (Read 453 times)

Offline Gerry1964

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Self-employment in the UK has boomed in recent years, with the number of Brits going freelance hitting more than 4.5 million, which represents 14% of the nation’s workforce. Clearly, there’s something rather desirable about being your own boss and having control over your workload. But it’s not all plain-sailing. With a freelance career comes great responsibility, and there’s a lot to think about before you decide whether or not it’s for you.


Here, we guide you through the process of going freelance, looking at what’s great, what’s not so great, and offer some best practice tips for getting your new career under way.

A new way of working

Having a more flexible schedule and being your own boss is one of the biggest differences between freelancing and regular employment. There’s also the admin side of things, with tax, fees and time management just some of the factors you’ll need to consider. For some people, having control over every aspect of your working life is the best thing about freelancing. For others who like a little more routine in their working life, it can take some adjusting to.

We don’t want to make going freelance seem like a big emotional rollercoaster but, as with any big life change, there are bound to be periods when you’re feeling either more stressed or more relaxed than usual.

Perhaps you’re seeing a lull in the amount of work coming in, or you’ve taken on too much – that’s when you’re likely to be feeling a little overwhelmed. On the other hand, if a dip in work comes exactly when you want it to, or you’ve found the perfect work-life balance, you’re bound to be feeling much more calm and in control.

The many faces of freelancing

Freelancing doesn’t just mean taking on odd, short-term jobs for multiple companies or clients – we also use the term when describing people who sign a long-term contract to stay with a particular company for a set period of time. You could end up freelancing for one week, one month or one year depending on what kind of work you pick up and which industry you’re in.

‘Funtrepreneurs’ are another brand of freelancers, including those who have chosen to turn a hobby or passion into a business. It may sound like a risky move, but according to recent research by Samsung UK and CEBR, funtrepreneurs are contributing around £165 billion to the UK economy and making £23,000 on average in their first year.



Then there’s becoming a franchisee. This essentially means that while you’re self-employed, you will have agreed to a long-term arrangement to work on behalf of a specific franchise who will, in turn, supply you with business. From driving jobs to owning a restaurant, you can become a franchisee in a range of industries and enjoy all the benefits on offer with a flexible working schedule.

Advantages of a freelance career

Want to know what other benefits there are? There are multiple reasons why so many people are switching to a freelance career – here are just some of them.

You’re not tied to a desk

Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day can grow frustrating over time. With many freelance careers, you can be based wherever you like, allowing you to take advantage of great new working spaces or spend more time at home. You can even enjoy travel perks and work from another country.

Greater earning potential

According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, the freelance economy is flourishing, and has grown by a massive 25% since 2009 to turn over around £109 billion a year. This means that there’s serious money to be made in freelancing once you get your name out there. How much work you can do obviously depends on what’s available and how much time you have free with your other commitments, but being able to charge your own rate and take on lots of work could see you earning way more than you would in normal employment.

Take holidays when you like

Just think: no more having to book Christmas holidays nine months in advance to make sure your colleagues don’t pip you to the post. When you’re a freelancer, you have much more freedom when it comes to going away and can take more time off. Indeed, a recent study carried out by PeoplePerHour.com revealed that, on average, self-employed individuals spend as many as 21 nights on holiday, compared to 10 for those working for someone else.

A flexible working schedule

Ever wanted to take up a new hobby, start a course or just book a hair appointment for the middle of the day? With a freelance career, your hours are much more flexible and can be adapted to fit around your other commitments. You won’t have to worry about clearing doctor’s or dentist’s appointments with your boss – you are the boss.

The main challenges of freelancing
As well as all the good things about freelancing, there are some challenges you’ll need to familiarise yourself with before you change your career.

Tax

This is just one of those things you’ll need to grin and bear as a freelancer. As you won’t have an employer to deduct income tax for you, this will mean working through the relevant paperwork yourself. You’ll also need to register with HM Revenue and Customs and follow their instructions for self-employed taxpayers. It may be painful, but leaving your tax return too late or even to the last minute will only result in more stress for you.

Building your network

To ensure that regular work comes in, you’ll need contacts. In most industries, it really is a case of who you know, not what you know (although the latter is also pretty important). Depending on what you do, freelancing can be quite a solitary pursuit, so having a solid network can make the work feel more sociable.

It can take time

Don’t worry if you’re not living the life you envisaged immediately. It takes time to get into the swing of freelancing and adjust to a new, irregular schedule. In order to build a good reputation for yourself, you have to actually get some projects under your belt first, so be patient. Ultimately, you get out what you put in – work hard, and eventually things will start to run smoother.

A lack of support

When you go it alone, you’ll have no employer to provide benefits such as sick pay, paid annual leave, maternity or paternity leave and any company-sponsored health benefits. You’ll be more independent, sure, but having no manager to help with your career development means you’ll need to be more organised and have clear goals for your future.

Tips to get your freelance career underway
Have you decided that going freelance is for you? Great! Here are some initial tips to help you get your new career off the ground.

Land your first project

For someone just starting out, having a portfolio or something else that showcases your work and credentials is essential. If you haven’t built this up yet, you may have to work either for free or at a reduced rate initially, in order to forge a reputation and show how you stand out from your competitors. You’ll need to be proactive and open to seizing whatever relevant opportunities land at your feet.

Don’t forget to invoice!

Many freelance jobs will require you to send an invoice to your client either when the project ends if it’s a contract, or at the end of each month if you’re in a long-term arrangement. Make sure you always include the invoice number, relevant dates, taxes, contact details, and information about how much time you spent working on the project. You should also keep a copy of every invoice you send and how it was paid.

Network, network, network

Contacts are everything in the freelance industry. You’ll often land work through other people, so don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone you know in your chosen sector. Freelancer meet-up groups are a great way to network, and have multiplied by five over the last six years, according to a report by innovation charity, Nesta, so your chances of finding something in your area are likely to be pretty high.

The legal stuff

A contract between you and your client is a must, and should contain details of everything from payment and contact numbers to deadlines and any restrictions or requirements. You’ll also need to fill out your tax return form every year to prove you’re complying with HM Revenue and Customs’ regulations around self-employment.

Organising your finances

When you’re not receiving a regular amount of money each month, a little more organisation is required. Budget for down periods – for instance, when a big project comes to an end or you’re about to go on holiday – and make sure you’ve got enough cash set aside. A spreadsheet is a great way to record all your earnings and outgoings – you may also want to dedicate a certain time each week to going through your finances.

Now you’ve heard a little more about what going freelance entails, you can feel more prepared should you decide to give it a go.  Don't forget to take the poll, Good luck to all those taking the plunge!