Going freelance just over five years ago was one of the best decisions I made. It can work really well for some people. Balancing lots of spinning plates is a challenge for most. Adding a long term neuromuscular condition into the mix can mean it’s tricky to keep a balance between work, health, relationships and life generally! Going freelance allowed me more control so I could manage time, fatigue, rest and exercise. It’s never perfect, and I still continue to learn and adapt. There is always uncertainty and excitement for what lies ahead. No day is ever the same, and that’s what I thrive on. I do however think it’s important that being self employed is a choice and not something you feel forced into. Being in employment is something that everyone should have a chance to experience, and you can decide if that’s for you.
Here are my top 5 tips if you’re thinking of going freelance:
1. Know your worth and then …don’t forget to add tax
When you’re starting out it is tempting to start offering your services for slightly lower than the industry rate. Of course your fee will reflect experience but it’s important not to undersell yourself and undercut other professionals! People often don’t talk about money, so finding people you can confide in and doing some field research is crucial. It’s worth building into your fee things like tax and National Insurance.
2. Plan ahead
There will be some months which are busier than others, and periods of uncertainty so I find it helpful to plan ahead with budgets and income. (Excel has become a good friend!) You’ll be completing your own tax return so saving for tax and National Insurance is imperative. You won’t get a pension, nor paid for holidays or when you’re unwell, so allocating some money to these pots is important!
3. Opportunity knocks – but you have to make it happen
Selling yourself sounds a little risqué but being genuinely interested in people and putting yourself out there is important. Socialising, meeting people and taking the courage to share what you can bring will be a great way to lead to opportunities.
Working on your own from home can sometimes feel lonely, so its great when you can build projects with another person or team, and join networks where possible. I am lucky enough to work with some amazingly supportive and talented people, but don’t leave things to chance. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are a good place to start.
4. It’s ok to say no
When you don’t have a regular income, it can feel a bit daunting and the temptation to say yes to everything is often around. But it’s important that you are at your peak for yourself and your clients, so learning to say no if it’s going to negatively impact either is something to seriously consider. You could always phrase things in a way that doesn’t mean you’re closing off the opportunity, and it could be something for the future if time allows.
5. Reflect and evolve
When you’re starting out, it’s useful to think about what your area of expertise will be, and whilst you’re working, finding space to reflect and evolve is important. Where do your skills lie? What gets your creative juices going? What gives you a reason to get up in the morning? It’s always good to allow time to reflect on what you’re doing, where you’re going, and whether you want to do a course, gain new skills, or cultivate skills you already have too.