So I’m back with another post about freelance life and today I’m going to be focusing on how to become a freelancer, specifically the practical steps you need to make sure you’ve ticked off before you think about taking the leap. As I’ve spoken about before things happened quite quickly for me and it didn’t leave much time to think about these important factors which has meant I’ve been chasing my tail to catch up ever since. I want to make sure that you’re not in the same position if you’re on the cusp of making the choice to go self-employed so hopefully these steps can make a pretty handy checklist for you!
Register as Self-Employed with HMRC
Step one when you start earning any money as a freelancer, blogger or creative is to register as self-employed with HMRC. Now this might seem like a daunting prospect but I promise it is pretty simple (just a little faffy) and not something that’s worth getting in a flap about. Just get it over and done with as soon as you start bringing in money that way it’s one less thing on your mind!
Have Savings as a Back-up
When I made the decision to go self-employed I was lucky enough to be moving back in with Adam’s parents which obviously meant minimal outgoings and minimal responsibility. Now I know that not everyone has the luxury to do something similar so that is when having savings to fall back on is absolutely crucial! I can’t imagine having the pressure of knowing you need to make enough money to cover rent, bills, food, living etc. in the those first few rocky months of freelancing so having a good chunk of living costs saved will act as a very welcome comfort blanket.
Having a little savings pot that you can dip into is also great for those little unexpected things that life often throws at us, you know those times when you get two parking tickets in the space of a week (I cried) or your washing machine decides it’s the perfect time to break…Freelancing is notoriously unpredictable when it comes to your finances but I am lucky enough to have several regular clients which means I roughly know how much I’m going to get paid every month so I’ve been able to take advantage of that and stow away part of my earnings for rainy days!
Get Your Head Around Bookkeeping
In the beginning stages of your business it’s likely that you’re not going to want to shell out your hand earned cash to pay for an accountant to handle your finances so it’s pretty important to spend some time getting to grips with the basics!
As always I’m singing the praises of Julia from Easy as VAT for really stripping it back to the basics and helping business owners feel like they can take control of their finances. There’s so many times I’ve struggling with something whether it be on the self-assessment form or creating a simple way to track my invoices and expenses and Julia has always saved the day! I definitely recommend checking out her blog, Easy Numbers podcast and Facebook group if you want to take charge and get a handle on your businesses finances!
Protect Yourself Legally
There are certain things you want to have in place before you even think of taking on any paid work and one of those is a solid contract which will protect both you and your clients when it comes to points such as payment terms. You can find various templates on the internet which can be adapted or if you’re looking to create something more bespoke it might be worth splashing out to get a professional to draw one up for you.
Professional indemnity insurance is also another absolute must-have if you’re going to be providing services for clients and it basically protects you if any of the work you do means the business looses money. An absolute essential to protect yourself and your own freelance business!
Create a Community You Can Count on
One of the things that have really pushed me to get more business savvy was meeting up with fellow freelancers and creatives who were more established than me. Getting involved in conversations with business owners who know what they’re talking about usually meant that I left with a list of things to look up that I didn’t understand or wanted to find out more about but it’s always a great idea to surround yourself with people you can learn from.
I started going along to a regular freelance meet-up in Nottingham that specifically focused on topics such as tax, contracts, ts&cs and other business management advice which was so useful and I definitely recommend researching whether there is something similar in your area.
Don’t be Afraid of Self-Promotion
So when it comes to attracting the attention of new clients you simply can’t be afraid of self-promotion no matter how uncomfortable it might make you feel. Whether it’s posting about your services on social media, emailing contacts or handing out business cards at a networking event make sure you’re shouting from the rooftops! You might think you’re bombarding your friends and family with the same message over and over again but the likelihood is that due to algorithms and the pace of social media these days they won’t have seen even half of your posts.
I’ve found word of mouth to be the most effective form of marketing when it comes to taking on new clients so don’t be afraid to sing it loud and proud sister!