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Article | 06 Feb 2015

It doesn’t include a typical office space. Before you can firmly place your foot upon the freelance career ladder, you need to know what it is you’re going to do and how you’re going to get there. Look into your skills inventory to help define your area of expertise and then consider how marketable you are and whether your skills set is in demand.

There are four and a half million self-employed people in the UK. Freelancing has revitalised the working day, so it is more profitable to play to your strengths in such an expanding and competitive market. Individuals choose to become independent professionals for many reasons. Parents may opt for this career path in order to be readily available for their children, whilst graduates may want to dip their feet into self-employment when other jobs are scarce. Whatever your reasons for choosing the freelance career path, this booklet will be your guide on how to successfully set yourself up.

Identify your brand.

Compiling a list of your interests and skills can help you decipher the type of work you want to pursue. In 2009, creative freelancer, Katy Cowan, launched the very successful Creative Bloom blog, which has been supported by big names, including the BBC, Adobe, the UK Government, and so on. Beginning with WordPress, her online presence crossed over to Twitter, where she now has a following of over 56,000 and boasts another 20,000 on Facebook. Cowan believes that her success is due in part to her strong social media presence, connecting with people and re-modifying her blog to cater to her audience.

“A brand gives you your own identity – and everyone has one. Your brand is more than a logo and a name; it is the work you do, your achievements, and your reputation.”

Work space.

Will you be working remotely, free from the watchful eye of a boss? Or in a more social setting? Due to a recent upswing in workspaces for freelancers, called co-working hubs, the Work Crowd have partnered with NearDesk to provide flexible office spaces that can be used on an hourly basis or more permanently in a number of locations across the UK. These hubs offer an alternative to the sense of community found in office environments. Familiarity with project management platforms, like Trello or BaseCamp, enable you to keep connected to the rest of the team with online file sharing and delegation of assignments.

Office equipment.

If you’ve decided you will be working in an office setting, because that is what works best for you, then you will most likely have most of the office equipment you will need - but if you are setting up a home office, here is an extensive list of some essentials:

  • A quiet, well-lit room free from distractions;
  • A multifunctional printer with a scanner, photocopier and fax;
  • A working and updated computer with necessary software;
  • Binding equipment, plastic sleeves, and folders along with other filing equipment to keep important documents organized and accessible;
  • Blank envelopes and stamps;
  • Stationery - pens, pencils, ruler, hole-puncher, staplers, paper, printer ink, etc…;
  • A USB with plenty of memory to save and back up your files;
  • A desk with draws so your hard-copy files are easily accessible;
  • General storage space;
  • A white board to jot down aims, ideas, targets, notes for projects and other work-related doodles;
  • Posters, artwork and motivational notes on the wall to keep you going and to make your home office feel more homely;
  • A supportive desk chair to work from in absolute comfort; and
  • Lots of coffee for those late nights!

Salary.

Because you will be setting your own rates, you must decide if you will you be charging per hour, per day, or per project. It will be helpful to look at other contractors in your discipline to see what the average rate is.

At the Work Crowd, the legal and contractual details are taken care of for you, with agreed upon ‘milestones’. Ensure there is a clear understanding of deliverables against payments received.

Accounting.

Having a separate bank account is a business savvy idea because it will help you manage the finances coming in and out of your business. A good accountant is also beneficial to look over your accounts and HMRC filings. The Work Crowd have partnered up with Qudos Accounting who works with freelancers to offer a reduction in accountancy costs.

Work restrictions.

A client might need you to work in a specific location, so before agreeing you must know - are there any locations that are off-limits for you? Do you have any restrictions or time constraints? Draw clear lines as to what your working hours are.

How will you work?

You might want to work project-basis with a company where the projects you decide to take on may last from a few months to a few years. Another option is to work on a retained basis where you and the client can discuss a schedule of how many days a month you will work.

Finding the right business structure.

As an independent worker you need to be able to identify your business model and assess which structure best suits you.

Sole-trader.

An individual solely liable for their business. If you’re earning over a certain threshold, the tax is higher compared with being registered as a limited company.

There is less administrative hassle compared to that of a limited company, so you won’t have to worry about sorting through annual accounts, tax returns, or paying a registration fee.

Traditional partnership. 

Working in partnership with someone is seen as an expansion to the sole-trader structure; still solely liable, the only difference is each partner is expected to register as self-employed and fill in tax returns separately.

Limited company.

Unlike the sole-trader structure, there is a “limited liability”, making the company liable for its own debts and the shareholders immune to risk.

Profits from the company are shared through a dividend and given to the shareholders.

A limited company has less privacy and is expected to share certain business information with Companies House which is accessible to the public.

There is more administration and higher expenses to pay but the tax after income is more efficient.

Freelancers, who are expecting to earn more money, may be better suited to this business structure.

Limited Liability Partnership. 

This business comprises of two or more people and closely resembles a traditional partnership, but with the benefits of having limited liability like the limited company structure.

IR35.

HMRC categorise those who do not work autonomously in their work roles and who work through an intermediary (company or partnership) as working inside IR35.

The HMRC website clearly states that directors and owners of a Personal Service Company (PSC) is “the person who must decide whether a particular engagement falls within the IR35 legislation”.

A lawyer can help to set up your company structure, with contracts and other important facets of information. The Work Crowd also offers advice on IR35 compliance and will provide professional insurance.

Marketing yourself effectively. 

The key word here is audience. You need to ask yourself what your clients are looking for and deliver it. This is where your unique selling proposition (USP) comes in - define your brand’s USP.

Your online presence.

Your website is your source to keep up the inflow of work - it is your pitch. So, if you have any work-related achievements, show them off. Your website can come in the form of a blog, a Facebook page, Google+, YouTube, a LinkedIn, or in any other form of social media. Don’t forget to check out online portfolios that showcase your work, like Cargo Collective and CarbonMade. In a recent report published by Social Media Examiner, six million people view Facebook every minute, so exposure opportunities are waiting to be fulfilled if you just keep your online presence alive! An inactive profile appears dead, leading employers to assume that this reflects your work ethic and services too.

Show, don’t just tell.

Instead of saying what you’ve produced, show that you have with links to your portfolio. It’s a good idea to have all your links in one place on all your pages to make for easier browsing.

Is freelance for me?

Even if you feel that you don’t have much of a USP and your ideas don’t blow everyone out of the water, as long as you persevere and stay consistent in your work, progress shouldn’t be too far out of reach. If you’re still feeling unsure and need more guidance, talking to business mentors can help. Schemes, like the Growth Accelerator Fund, can provide tips and strategies into making your business a success.

Written by Chrissie, edited by Antje Doel