So, I’ve been completely freelance a year in January, so I thought now was a good time to pass on some of the knowledge I’ve gained from the journey. I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the subject of being freelance as I’ve continuing to learn myself, but I often get asked questions about being freelance so thought it would be good to give some advise on the areas that I’ve been asked about most often.
Why go freelance?
I’ve always wanted my own business and flexibility with working hours, so that’s why I went freelance and it’s the flexibility that keeps me going. After over six years of working a variety of normal jobs with normal working hours and locations I learnt that it didn’t work for me due to some health issues that often make it difficult for me to thrive in these situations.
I don’t know what the reasons are for other people, but for me I would definitely say that going freelance can allow you to have a better work/life balance and flexibility to pursue things that make you happy.
When can I go freelance?
In theory, anyone can be freelance at anytime. However, I think the reason it worked for me is because I already had strong experience in the industry I was pursuing (four years working in digital marketing for some huge brands) so I could prove that I had the knowledge and experience to get work done on my own too. Going freelance worked for me too because I have a good network of people in the industry who recommend me for work and think of me when they need someone, it was working in the industry, attending industry events and being active on social media that helped me gain this network.
I think it’s also wise to research your chosen industry thoroughly before making the jump too, ensure that you’re going into a field where there is a need for your services. I’m fortunate that I’ve got a wide range of marketing skills I can offer so I’m not super specialised. I can see that people who specialise purely in social media might start to struggling in coming months as so many companies start to take this in house, so think about the longevity of what you want to pursue too.
So, my advise would be that for success in starting freelance you need to have some experience in your chosen field and a strong network who will help support and promote you. You can’t go freelance until you know you’ve definitely got some sources of work coming for you! When I was thinking of going freelance I downloaded Emma Cossey’s e-book and that really helped me get on track.
What hours do I work as a freelancer?
Obviously, this varies depending on what you’re doing and who you’re working for, but for me my work hours are pretty flexible now. For my biggest client I need to be available on emails within normal office hours, but I can check these on the go so it’s not a major constraint. With doing community management for social media it’s 24/7 keeping an eye on things, but again it’s flexible because I can do it whenever and wherever.
To sum up, hours really vary but generally for me I don’t find that I’m working any more than I would if I was in an office environment, I just have the benefit of being able to work around my personal life and have flexibility when I need it.
How much should you charge?
This is the number one question I get asked and again it really varies on what you’re offering. Generally my rule is that you need to work out what salary you would be on if you were in a ‘normal’ job and use that as a basis for working out your hourly rate/project rate. I have some projects that I charge an hourly rate for and keep a log of what hours I spend on a project and then bill the client according to that, but more commonly I have projects that are charged a set fee for completing a pre-agreed set of work, this is still worked out based on how many hours I think it’ll take, but often it’s not spot on, so take this into account.
When working out your fees, you also need to take into account that you will be paying a tax bill at the end of each financial year and will have higher living costs if you’re working from home (you’ll use more electric/heating…etc.) If you need a guide on how much to charge I find the Salary Checker on Brand Republic a great source for checking salaries for jobs within the media.
Before going freelance it’s really important to make sure you can afford to go freelance too, as it’s not a guaranteed income source like a ‘normal’ job make sure you do a budget of what you need to earn as a minimum and ensure you have a bit saved up just in case!
How does tax work for freelancers?
This is my most hated part of being freelance as I’m generally shit with admin and money things. Basically, you have to declare what you earn to HMRC each financial year and then they send you a tax bill you have to pay. You can also claim tax back on work expenses such as stationary, phone bills, internet…etc. I’m about to do this for the first time via an accountant, so I’ll let you know how this goes. I’ve found Rosie Slosek a really awesome sources of basic information if you need more knowledge. The main thing to remember is that when you go freelance you need to register as self employed with HMRC, they will send you a letter with a code that allows you to login online and then you can go from there. If you want to hire an accountant it seems a reasonable price to expect to pay for this help will be about £300 per tax year, which is pretty worth it if you ask me!
How do I find freelance work?
As I’ve mentioned before, this is all about your personal network, the more good connections you have in your industry the more chances you will have to pick up work via people recommending you. If you’re interested in doing freelance contract work, where you just go an work a ‘normal’ job for a pre-agree period of time (anything from a week to a year!) you can find these via recruiters and job boards. If you want to do some small, odd jobs you can use sites like People Per Hour and Gumtree to locate these kinds of opportunities.
For me, everything comes through recommendations and social media, making sure your LinkedIn is looking top notch always helps! I’ve also been very fortunate to work for a couple of awesome agencies as a freelancer, which means I’m always on their mind when something new comes up that they need help with.
The negatives of being freelance…
A lot of people tell me I’m so lucky being my own boss and yes, this is true. But being freelance doesn’t come without its downsides and these may not be for everyone. Here’s my little list of things that aren’t so great about being freelance…
- You have to do your own taxes and it’s really not fun and easy!
- You don’t have holiday allocation, so you have to organise your work and money around anything that you want to take and I’ve not experienced how this works yet.
- You have to pay for everything yourself, so if your computer breaks you have to replace it, so it’s wise to always have a bit of money to one side for these kinds of emergencies.
- Working from home is full of distractions and probs not too healthy, so make sure you make time to get away from the office.
- You’re on your own, most of the time for me this is a good thing, but I’ve definitely noticed a dip in social activity now I’m out of a ‘normal’ job so it’s extra important to make time to be socialable whether that be within your industry or just with friends.
- Although you can contract your work, some smaller jobs aren’t secured with contracts which means you could loose that work at anytime, so you don’t have the job security you would in a ‘normal’ job.
I’m sure there are a few more, if you can think of any, let me know in the comments below!
Overall, I’m glad I went freelance, it was definitely the right thing for me. What I would say is that it isn’t going to be the right thing for everyone and there’s a lot to think about before you take the leap. I think I’ll be self employed as my main income for the rest of my life, but I’m sure it won’t be just doing the same thing, being freelance gives me more time to explore other options and have time to be creative again, I’m definitely happier now.
I think I’ve covered the main things there, if you’ve got a question leave me a comment or drop me a tweet @JayneKitsch and I’ll do my best to answer.