content freelancer

How To Become A Freelancer – what does it take to work for yourself

Tips from a content creator
Tips from a content creator

There comes a time in many careers where you reach a crossroads – do you continue to grow and develop yourself within the realms of your company role, or do you instead take a step towards something new and entirely your own and work for yourself? In this blog we will look at some key consideration if you are considering how to become a freelancer.

Making the decision to give up employed work and undergo the transition to becoming a freelancer is a journey not to be undertaken lightly; while there are many advantages to becoming your own boss, there are also a number of considerations that you must take into account.

Is this the right time for me to go freelance?

Let’s rethink this question a little – after all, is there ever a RIGHT time for any big decision?

Taking a step back from employment is a decision sure to spark different opinions in different people, and this is something you will find yourself faced with as soon as you announce your move. Some will celebrate and herald the move as a show of independence and growth, while others will inevitably view it as a risk – and will tell you so.

Before you go any further, learn to accept these different opinions and don’t let the opinions of others influence your choices.

What to do before you take the leap

The first thing to realise is that when you become a freelancer is, there will always be an element of risk – it is up to you to ensure that you cover yourself in as many ways as possible, and provide a buffer that will see you through the inevitable slow start and set up time, before you start making real progress and bringing in real profit.

Before you take the leap into the world of freelance, make sure you have these steps in place:

  • Save up a minimum of 3 months’ worth of salary, to tide you over during the early days of your freelance business.
  • Understand where your market is, and take time developing your USP. Who are you targeting with your freelance business? What exactly are you offering in terms of your product or service? What will help you stand out?
  • Come up with a brand name and service proposition which is designed to attract that core target audience. Decide which platforms you need to develop – for example a website, social media presence and an online blog.
  • Ask yourself the fundamental question that all freelancers face, and answer honestly – do I have the drive and motivation to do all this and make it a success?

The power of motivation when becoming a freelancer

The truth is, many freelancers believe that their talent and skillset is enough to build a successful business.

And while these are both crucial elements to delivering your end products or services, the most important part of any freelancer’s job is what happens behind the scenes – getting started, marketing, constantly seeking and picking up work, keeping on top of projects and finances, and meeting deadlines.

how to be a freelancer

We often overlook the structure and ease that comes with standard employment; moaning about the monotony and routine of working 9-5 and dreaming about a time when we can be our own boss and manage our own time and commitments. But does that mean we understand what being our own boss entails? More often than not, what we expect doesn’t cover half of it.

The reality is very different, and all too often we see freelancers falling at the first hurdle as they realise that being their own boss requires motivation and drive; an ability to negotiate and adapt, and an understanding of all the cogs that will continue to spin whether or not you can control them.

The importance of time management

Time management and routine is one area of focus that is crucial if you want to go freelance, and there are a number of models you can follow to ensure you make the best of your time:

  • Dedicate one day a week to each area of your business; for example a day for marketing, a day for project work, a day for admin and financial planning, and a day for email correspondence.
  • Work by client – dedicating a full day to ensuring that your project work, admin and correspondence relating to that one client is up to date.
  • Understand how your mood can affect your work, and try to base the day’s work on how you are feeling – for example if you are feeling particularly creative, spend the day on the more creative elements of your business such as your website or marketing.
  • While marketing is important, don’t get bogged down in too much behind the scenes work and end up scrimping on the project work for clients. Remember, your best form of marketing is word of mouth and testimonials, and this must always be the priority.

The practical aspects of becoming a freelancer

The market is full of individuals who are great at what they do but find themselves at a loss when it comes to negotiating costs and fees, marketing themselves, and understanding their finances.

  • Do you want to operate as a sole trader or a limited company? While setting up a limited company is a good idea in the long run as it allows you to separate your business finances from your personal finances, most freelancers choose to start as sole traders – which offers the same freedom but without the formality. Do be aware that if the business fails and you are acting as sole trader, your personal finances will be at risk in the face of debts.
  • As soon as you go freelance, you become responsible for your own taxes. That means completing a tax return, monitoring your income completely, and making sure that you set aside enough from each invoice to pay your tax as a lump sum once your return has been filled.
  • Going freelance also means keeping on top of your own pension fund. No longer will you see an amount heading out of your paycheck to be stored in a pot operated and managed by your employer. As a freelancer, it is up to you to future proof your finances.

With so many of the crucial practical elements of freelancing sitting in the financial sphere, almost immediately after deciding to go freelance it is a good idea to find yourself a decent accountant. Not only can they support your decision to operate as a sole trader or a limited company, but they can also support you with your tax return, help oversee your business expenses and income, and even guide you when it comes to off-setting expenses such as basic electrical usage and water costs (particularly useful if you work from home!)

Other things you can do to support the practical arm of your freelance business include:

  • Looking into courses on social media marketing and business marketing, to help you reach your ideal target audience.
  • Work on a price list for standard services and try not to deviate too much from it. If you find your prices are too high and are putting clients off, drop them a little; if you feel bogged down with too much work, consider increasing your prices.
  • Find a space in your home where you feel productive and able to work and dedicate your working time to that area. This will help you separate home life from work time.

When in doubt, seek help!

There are millions of freelance workers in the UK today, with the number growing every day as more and more individuals leave their 9-5 in search of a career which provides them with a good income and flexible lifestyle. This means that the internet is full of people who have done it before; people who have faced and overcome the obstacles; people who are full of advice and ready to share it.

And finally… the best bits. What we love about becoming a freelancer

If you’ve gotten this far and you’re ticking all the boxes, then there’s a high chance freelance life is right for you. So, here are the best bits – and the reasons why, if you can see past the effort, commitments, and obstacles, freelance can be a great ride:

  • Having a routine is important, but so is breaking it. You’re your own boss, and if you need a day off or you want to finish early, you can.
  • You will discover what interests you the most – and then you can choose to look for projects which sit under that area of interest.
  • You can work from home (or wherever you like!), saving money and time which would otherwise be spent commuting.
  • You get to see your family and friends more, and your work-life balance will start to improve vastly.

We often hear the phrase “if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life” – and that couldn’t be truer than when facing the decision to go freelance.

As long as you are confident in your skillset, able to adapt to different projects and proposals, and driven to succeed, the only thing standing in your way is you!

Beth Hellowell
Founder of Women in Agencies and co-founder of Signify Digital. Mother, social media scroller and frequent pasta eater.