The Complete Guide to Freelancing
What does the ideal freelance life look like to you? A quaint coffee shop where you can gather your thoughts and let your creativity flow or sitting on a beach in a far off destination while you brainstorm ideas for a client? Whatever picture you just created in your mind, freelance work is one of the most exciting and rewarding career avenues to follow. You can work on the projects that interest you, follow your passions and interests and work when and where you want. That said, it’s not without its challenges. Managing clients, pursuing payments that sometimes never arrive and worrying about where your next work is coming from as you navigate through the feast and famine cycle of work are all things you must learn to overcome. In this guide, we will cover everything there is to know about freelancing.
Getting Started with Freelancing
Freelancing is the act of working for yourself instead of an employer. A freelancer is self-employed and not committed to a particular employer long-term. Freelancers can work in many different fields, such as writing, graphic design, web development, and more. You can also have multiple areas of expertise and work for lots of different clients.
The route into freelancing will depend on a few things:
· Whether you're moving from an employed position into the freelance world
· If you want to start freelancing as a career change
· If you're a school or university leaver and want to jump straight into the world of self-employment
To get started, ask yourself what you really want to do. Who do you want to work with? What does your working day look like? What types of tasks will you carry out day to day? Are there any tasks that you could get lost in for hours? Can you monetise this in a freelance capacity?
Next, you must recognise that in the early years of freelancing it will be tough. Irregular income (or no income at all), a steep learning curve and a lot of work with little recognition can all lead to feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. Freelancing is an incredibly competitive field so you must learn to differentiate yourself from all the other freelancers out there.
It’s also important to develop a solid understanding of your core values as a freelancer. What motivates you? Why do you want to freelance in the first place? When the going gets tough, these values will be your North Star, guiding you back to what's important.
A skills inventory may be helpful too. What skills do you already have that could be useful to clients in your chosen field? Are there any gaps in your skill set that you need to work on?
Legalities of Working Freelance
Freelancers in the UK will work as a sole trader (unless you set up a company and have a team) and operate on a self-employed basis. This means that you are in control of your own finances, including tax and National Insurance.
You must register as a self-employed person with HMRC and file a self-assessment tax return every year. You will also need to pay income tax and National Insurance on any money that you earn from freelancing. In doing so, keep accurate records of your income and expenses. It's a good idea to open a separate bank account for your freelance business, so that you can easily keep track of your finances.
There's also a matter of business insurance to consider. This is not mandatory, but it is something that you should look into, as it can protect you financially if things go wrong. The main types of business insurance for freelancers include public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance and income protection insurance.
Public Liability - covers you if someone is injured or their property is damaged because of your business. Usually, freelancers wouldn’t need this type of insurance
Professional Indemnity – Provides cover if you give bad advice or make a mistake in your work
Income Protection – Offers support if you can't work because you're ill or have had an accident
Next, it's time to start building your freelance business. This means doing things like:
· Creating a website or online portfolio
· Setting up social media accounts
· Developing a marketing strategy
· Writing proposals and creating contracts
· Pitching for work
· Building a network of clients, collaborators and contemporaries
Of course, you don't have to do all of these things at once. In fact, it's probably better to take things slowly at first. Get the basics in place such as a client agreement, a portfolio and way to find clients. Start small, otherwise it will soon become overwhelming. As you start to get more work and build momentum, you can add more things to your list.
Finding a Niche
One of the most important things that you can do when starting out as a freelancer is to find a niche. This means focusing on a specific area of work, rather than trying to be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades.
There are a few reasons why it's beneficial to focus on a niche:
· Become known as an expert in your field, which makes it easier to win work
· Charge more for your services
· Build a network of contacts who can refer work to you
Of course, finding a niche doesn't mean that you have to narrow your focus down to just one thing. You can have multiple niches, as long as they are all related to each other in some way. For example, you might focus on working with small businesses in the creative industry. Within that niche, you could offer services such as branding, website design, social media marketing and content creation.
How to find a niche step by step
1. Make a list of the areas that you're interested in
2. Research each area to see if there's a demand for the services that you could offer
3. Identify any gaps in the market that you could fill
4. Consider your skills and experience
5. Decide on a niche (or multiple niches)
6. Start marketing yourself as an expert in that field
Creating a Website or Online Portfolio
A website is one of the best ways to market your freelance business and attract new clients. It can also show your work and share client testimonials and case studies. If you're not a web designer or developer, there are plenty of platforms that you can use to create a simple website or online portfolio, such as WordPress, Squarespace and Wix.
When creating your website, there are a few things to keep in mind:
· Make sure that it's mobile-friendly
· Include a clear call to action
· Make it easy for people to contact you
· Include testimonials and examples of your work
· Ensure that the design is professional and in line with your brand
· Write content that shows what problems you can solve for your clients
Marketing Your Business
Once you've got your website up and running, it's time to start marketing your business. Some of the most effective marketing strategies for freelancers include:
Social media - Use social media to share your work, connect with potential clients and build your brand
Content marketing - Write blog posts, create videos or podcasts, or offer free resources such as eBooks or email courses
Public speaking - Give talks or workshops related to your area of expertise
Networking - Attend industry events, meetups or webinars, or join relevant online communities
It's also worth considering paid advertising, such as Google AdWords or Facebook Ads. However, it's important to make sure that you're targeting the right audience and that your ads are well-designed and relevant, otherwise you could end up wasting a lot of money.
How to Find Freelance Work
One of the most common questions that new freelancers have is "How do I find work?" Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The best way to find work as a freelancer is to get out there and start pitching for jobs. There are a number of ways that you can do this, including:
· Searching job boards
· Applying for jobs on freelancer platforms
· Reaching out to companies and clients directly
· Attending networking events
· Building a personal website or online portfolio
In the early stages, you should be using as many of these methods as possible. Even when you have a steady stream of work, you should never stop marketing. You can either add prospective clients to a wait list if they are willing to wait or direct them to a DIY service such as a workbook, eBook or course you have.
It's also worth bearing in mind that it can often take a while to land your first few clients. Don't get discouraged if you don't get any bites right away - just keep pitching and eventually you'll start to see some results. You may only get one client from every 100 you contact. But stick with it and keep going.
Pricing Your Services
One of the most important (and difficult) aspects of freelancing is pricing your services. When setting your rates, think about:
· Your experience level
· The type of work you're doing
· The going rate for similar services
· How much you need/want to earn
It can be helpful to do some research on the going rates for similar services in your industry. This will give you a good starting point when it comes to setting your own rates. Once you have an idea of what to charge, it's important to be confident in your pricing. Don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth - if you don't value your services, neither will your clients.
Of course, there is always some room for negotiation, particularly when you're starting out. If a client offers you a lower rate than you were hoping for, try to counter with a compromise that works for both of you.
The key thing to remember is that your rates should be fair - to both you and your client.
One final tip: As you start to build your freelance business, don't forget to take care of yourself. This means setting aside time for rest and relaxation, eating well, and exercising regularly. When you're self-employed, it's easy to work all the time, but burnout is a real danger. Make sure to take care of your mental and physical health, and you'll be in a much better position to grow your business.
We hope this guide has been helpful. Best of luck in your freelancing journey!