North East Connected

How to become freelance in 2020

Young office workers are increasingly reluctant to join the rat race, and confine themselves to 9-5 office jobs, demanding a greater level of flexibility and freedom from their jobs. In fact, millennials may have single-handedly doubled the number of freelance workers in Britain since 2016, with the country’s workforce now including 4.7 million freelancers. With the scope to choose your clients, set your hours and be your own boss, the benefits of freelancing mean this figure is only set to keep increasing.

Although this increased level of control can make it easier for individuals to improve their work-life balance, and improve their mental health, physical well-being and job satisfaction, freelancing can also be a very unpredictable way of working. For starters, you may find yourself facing an inconsistent workload from week to week, and while being your own boss may seem appealing, that puts all responsibility for client contact and managing your workload squarely on you.

Still, despite the downsides, the millions of people freelancing obviously believe the benefits outweigh the negatives. And if you’re considering joining them, consider these things before you take the plunge.

1. Assess your current situation

Even if you like the idea of going freelance, it might not be possible for you. Deciding to go freelance can be life-changing, and as creative recruiters Major Players explain, it’s one of “the most important” decisions you’ll make, especially since it’s not guaranteed to work out. They recommend asking yourself some key questions — “Have you got work lined up? Do you have a cushion of savings in case of a rainy day?” — before making the decision to take the leap.

You will likely already have a full-time job and a steady monthly income which you’ll lose when you go freelance, so assess your current financial situation before you make the leap to freelancing, and carefully map out your incomings, outgoings and savings. Research has shown that 63% of freelancers feel anxious about the unpredictable nature of their work, so setting aside a sufficient amount of savings will stand you in good stead if work does dry up.

Otherwise, you could compromise by working freelance alongside your full-time job. Roughly 45% of employees with a side hustle work more than 40 hours a week, while a quarter work more than 50 hours—or you can work part-time along freelancing to ensure your bills are paid. However, by giving up some evenings and weekends, this will make it harder to maintain the work-life balance you were hoping to achieve by going freelance to begin with, so be mindful of how you use your time..

2. Figure out how much you’re going to charge clients

Whether you’re intending to stick to your current role, explore your passion or simply want to try a freelance work with a proven high pay rate, you will need to figure out how much to charge your clients. Research your industry to see your competitors’ rates, and consider how you’ll price the services you offer. For example, you could charge a specific set fee for an entire project, or a daily or hourly rate. The amount you charge will depend on your experience and skillset at the beginning, which will likely start relatively small. However, as you become more experienced and learn new skills with time, you can increase your prices as you go.

3. Register with HMRC

You must let HMRC know that you’ll be running your own business as a freelancer, so it’s best to inform them of this as soon as possible to avoid running into any problems further down the line. Registering as self-employed is a legal requirement if your earnings exceed over £1,000 in the course of a tax year, and you will fit this bracket if you run your business for yourself, have several customers at the same time, and decide how, when and where you work. As a freelancer, you still have to pay income tax on any earnings above the personal allowance limit, which stands at £12,500 for the 2019/2020 tax year. Failure to submit your annual self-assessment tax return could result in a £100 penalty fine if you’re up to three months late, and even more if it’s later.

4. Create a website to display your work

Publishing an online portfolio of your work makes you look more professional, and can help capture the attention of potential new clients. It’s a powerful marketing tool for getting your business noticed, especially since 97% of consumers use the internet to search for local businesses. Your website is typically where you can make a good first impression to prospective customers, so you will need to showcase the work you do and and effectively communicate the services you offer.

An attractive user-friendly site, with a bio that gives people a sense of your personality, examples of your work and client testimonials, will help you gain business. Make sure to sell yourself well, and demonstrate why you’re the best person for their project, as there’s so much competition in the freelance world. Keeping your site regularly updated will also show that you’re constantly working on new projects, and suggests that your work is highly in-demand.

5. Evaluate the amount of time you have

Since you will be your own boss, it’s up to you to decide when you work, and how you organise your time. This requires excellent organisation skills so you can keep on top of projects and deadlines while also splitting the time between another job if you have one, and your personal life. However, without the constraints of the 9-to-5 working hours, you can find it all too easy to overwork yourself as a freelancer, sacrificing the time you need to wind down and relax to take on more projects. This can lead to career burnout, experienced by 7 out of 10 people, with symptoms including excessive tiredness, a change in appetite or sleeping habits, and loss of motivation. Only take on as much freelance work as you can manage, and make sure you schedule some much deserved ‘me time’ into your week.

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