A freelance career is all the rage, with talented professionals up and down the country branching out in search of a more flexible and fulfilling way of working. The UK now has an army of around 2m freelance workers - up 43% since 2008 - as technology, online tools and co-working have made setting up on your own easier than ever.
So, if you’ve been watching enviously as friends or colleagues go solo, now could be your moment to do the same. Saying goodbye to the security of a full-time job might seem scary at first, but you’ll be amazed how quickly you get into the swing of it. Just follow these 8 key steps to get your freelance career started with confidence:
Have a financial buffer in place:
Handing your notice in with no job to go to is a lot easier when you have a couple of months pay to tide you over. After all, it’s likely to take a bit of time to get your freelance career up and running - and some cash coming in - so planning a buffer into your finances will help keep the anxiety at bay. You want to have the time and space to do things right, rather than feeling under pressure to pay the bills.
Get an accountant:
There is a fair bit of admin involved in setting up as a freelancer, and a good accountant will make it all a lot less painful. They can advise you on setting yourself up as self-employed, or as a limited company, and do a lot of the paperwork for you. They’ll also be able to fill you in on how the taxation works and help you complete your annual accounts and self-assessment, when the time comes. Plenty of accountants now specialise in working with small businesses and freelancers and many also give you access to accounting software where you can do your invoicing, and keep track of your expenses. Most self-employed professionals agree that it’s worth the investment.
Start building your portfolio:
Before you start approaching clients, make sure you have lots of examples of work you’ve done in the past, plus client testimonials and references to back it up. You may be new to freelancing, but no doubt you have lots of relevant experience from previous jobs, so dig this out and be ready to present it in a way that shows your skills and experience most effectively to potential clients.
Use your network:
Your first port of call for new business should be your existing network, whether that’s old employers, clients, colleagues, friends or family. Make sure you let as many people know of your career change as possible, to line up some early projects and start building a pipeline for the future. Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to grow your business, as people trust and feel comfortable working with people they know. So, get the ball rolling as soon as you can. Also have a read of our blog on how to approach winning new business for lots of tips.
Another great way of winning projects is to get yourself registered with platforms such as The Work Crowd, where you can hear about and pitch to relevant projects in your area of expertise. However, beware that some of these sites have quite a broad focus, which means it can be harder to find quality projects that match your skills. You can make yourself stand out by reading our blog on how to create an irresistible profile.
Work out your rates:
Working out what you’re going to charge is one of the biggest challenges for new freelancers. Too little, and you can end up undervalued, with an uphill struggle to increase your fees. But too much, and you may find it hard to build up your portfolio and get some momentum behind your business. To get an idea, chat to other freelancers about how and what they charge, as well as doing some online research, to find out the going rate. Most freelancers start by basing their costs on a day rate, but rather than quoting this to clients, we’ve found it can work better to package projects up, so they can see what they’re getting for their money. So, if you tell them how many blogs, articles and interviews they’ll get for £500, rather than the number of hours or days, it can seem better value. It’s also worth thinking about what your earnings expectations are both monthly and annually, then working backwards from there. Just remember that you won’t be working non-stop for 12 months, so you’ll need to bump up your fees to factor in for holidays and slow periods.
Tools of the trade:
Most freelancers don’t need much equipment to get started; a decent laptop and mobile phone are usually enough. But you may discover that there are other tools you’ll need to set yourself up with, such as a professional email account, media databases, or online tools for messaging, time management or invoicing. Check out our blog on the top five productivity apps for freelancers, for some other ideas. It could be worth getting yourself some business cards too, so you can maximise any networking opportunities that arise.
A good way of ensuring you get recommendations from your first couple of clients is to go above and beyond to do a fantastic job for them. Obviously, you would always want to do your best work, whatever the client, but if you can afford to invest a bit extra in really wowing them when you first start out, it’s likely to be worth it in the long run.
Ready to take the plunge? Then check out the latest exciting projects on theworkcrowd.com. And if you have any questions on how it can help you follow your freelance dream, don’t hesitate to drop us a line here here or give us a call on 0203 828 8440.