Starting up as a Freelancer?

14 May

This week’s unemployment figures show another 244,000 finding themselves without regular work.  In this environment, more and more people will start considering “the third way”.  If you are thinking of joining the 1.4 million freelancers in the UK it is not an easy option, but can lead to a fulfilling and exciting career.

If you are interested in setting up as a freelancer, the first thing to consider is what you’re selling – look at your experience and CV and draw out your core competencies and sellable skills (define your product).  Cross reference these with relevant job boards and websites.  Is there a market for you? 

If you feel that there is a market, now is the time to consider carefully the benefits of being freelance such as:

  • being your own boss
  • having the freedom and striking the work/life balance (consider carefully the reality as opposed to the ideal)
  • variety – working on a range of projects
  • working for multiple clients, potentially not having all of your eggs in one employment basket

Consider also the disadvantages of freelancing:

  • less security (sick pay and holiday pay will be a thing of the past!)
  • uncertainty
  • potential isolation
  • the responsibility and time associated with running your own business
  • 100% accountability 

again social networking websites can often give you some fascinating insight into the daily worries, problems and experiences of people currently at the coal face (they should also give you a clue about how easy work is to come by and the competitive environment that you will be entering). 

The practicalities also clearly need consideration – look at your earnings potential as a freelancer.  There are some great calculators around to help you with this (be realistic!).   

If you are still keen to press ahead, you will need to work out the best route to market for you.  Freelancers can find work directly and/or sign up with a recruitment agency that specialises in their area of expertise.  Either way you will need to brush up on your sales skills and consider how best to promote your business.  Actively network to your old contacts, it is time to get that address book out and start looking on Linkedin and Facebook for old colleagues.  Remember what’s in it for clients (why you might be useful to them as a freelancer):

  • Freelancers offer a more flexible resource than permanent staff, they can call upon freelancers as and when they need the resource which has to be an advantage in this economic climate
  • Freelancers are not a burden on resources – companies don’t have to pay them sick pay, holiday pay, redundancy pay or pay their NICs
  • Freelancers are well placed to take on projects that can yield quick wins (and may be on the back burner because of resource issues)
  • Freelancers are well place to drive and manage change
  • Freelancers can provide expert skills that an in-house team may not have
  • Freelancers usually bring a broad range of experience, seldom available in-house

Once you know what you are selling, who you are selling to and have a feel for the market, seek out good professional advice from experts – accountants, personal finance advisors – experts who understand the contracting and freelance marketplace and model and can help you establish and manage the business model best suits you (e.g. sole trader, limited company, umbrella etc…).

 The PCG’s Guide to Freelancing provides a useful source of information to new and established freelancers and small business owners, and offers a wealth of helpful advice about running and nurturing a successful business.  Further information is available through www.pcg.org.uk and we work with a range of companies who can help you.

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3 Responses to “Starting up as a Freelancer?”

  1. Gill Hunt May 18, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    Some really useful information here – but I think people need to consider their own personal likes and dislikes/personality as part of the process. If you’re the kind of person who likes to be part of a team, working in an office environment and needs the ‘buzz’ of working with lots of people the you need to look at longer term contracts where you’re effectively doing a ‘job’ but on a contract basis.

    If you’re happier working on your own at home you may prefer a more independent workstyle where you do projects for customers but at your own office (aka home for most of us!). This needs stronger sales skills but puts you more in control.

    Choosing the right kind of self-employment for your personality is important because if the fit is good you’ll be both happy and successful!

  2. sophiehubble August 18, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    Agree with Gill – you really need to think about the sort of person you are and the ways that you like to work – if you need a social workplace, freelance or contract work may not be for you.

    However, if you want to take control, earn more money and be your own boss, its a fantastic oppotunity. We have a take-home pay calculator on our website that might be helpful to anyone consider contractor work…

    http://www.sjdaccountancy.com/contractor_calculator/index.html

  3. Christopher Joynes October 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    Great comments from Gill – completely agree.

    We believe that contracting and freelancing are the best possible ways to work. You have so much more control over your life and there is just as much risk in the job market as there is in the freelance. However make sure you have the kind of personality that works well when working from home or remotely – you won’t always be in a busy office.

    Check out some of our guides to help you make a decision:

    http://www.123contracting.co.uk/#/step-by-step-guides/4542510436

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