How to become a freelancer

By Georgina Rodgers



Does freelance life beckon? Whether you are looking for a job with more variety, you want to work more flexibly or you wish to pursue a passion, freelancing can be an especially rewarding way of earning a living.


If you decide to take the plunge, you will be joining a very well established number of UK freelancers; according to IPSE, there are now over 2 million freelancers in the UK.


The benefits of becoming a freelancer are obvious: it is quick and easy to get started, you can choose when you want to work and the type of work that you do, but what else should you consider before taking this route? Here are some helpful hints and tips.


How does freelancing work?


Freelance work is completed by people who are self-employed either as sole traders or limited companies, who provide different services to businesses on a flexible basis. Freelancers work with businesses of all sizes, both on a short or long-term basis.


Many businesses have need for freelancers. Freelancers will be paid by the hour or for a fixed, agreed price for a project and they can normally set this rate themselves, depending on the type of service they are offering and their expertise.


Define your goals


One of the first things when thinking about freelance life is planning what you want to achieve. Think about your reasons for becoming a freelancer – is it because of the lifestyle benefits or are you using it as stepping stone to achieving an entirely new career? There are many lifestyle reasons to consider freelance life, such as ditching the commute, being able to spend more time with your family and increased flexibility but think clearly about your career goals.


If you have clarity around where freelance life might take you in on your career journey then you can make a healthy mix of short-term, long-term and on-going goals. Make your goals both specific and measurable so you chart your progress from the start.


Figure out your niche


When it comes to thinking about the work you want to do, think about what might set you apart from the crowd. What are you really good at and will someone pay you to do it? Research the market and look at what other freelancers are doing and if they are successful. If you are an expert or plan to become an expert in one specific area, your unique selling point becomes clearer and more precise.


Think about the best way to showcase what you do to potential clients; this may involve creating a website showcasing your services with a portfolio of your work, for example. Think about your social media feeds and updating your LinkedIn profile.


Set your prices


Freelancers often wonder how much to charge and never want to undersell themselves but worry if they quote too high, potential clients will go with someone else. Do some careful and thorough research and check out the recommended rates with official trade bodies in your industry.


When you are thinking about what to charge, consider your skills, experience and how much time you have available. Remember to allow for money that is normally covered in a regular wage, such as tax and pension contributions and incorporate time for calls, meetings and admin tasks.


The importance of reputation


The importance of your reputation as a freelance cannot be underestimated and any freelance worker is only as good as their last piece of work, so you will need to work at your highest level at all times. As well as earning the trust and respect of new clients who will potentially use your services again, they could potentially refer you to other clients.


Your customer service and communication skills are also essential aspects of your professional reputation. If you gain the trust and respect of your client, a good relationship will ensure they stick with you.


What do I need to start freelancing?


You will need to decide whether you want to start freelancing as a sole trader or limited company - see our article about the pros and cons of each. Also talk to other colleagues within the industry about what works best during the first years of trading.


Once you have made this decision, you can register with HMRC and get your head around your tax responsibilities early. This is an essential part of being self-employed and you may want to use the services of an accountant, who will also be able to advise about claiming business expenses because you will get tax relief on these.


Make sure you have a system in place to log your invoices. There are numerous software solutions on the market to help you do this. For more information, read our guide to Accounting Software.


Do I need insurance?


If you are working from home, you will need to ensure that your home and contents insurance covers you for business activities. Think about tailored business insurance, such a professional indemnity insurance or public liability insurance. See our article about business insurance and why you might need it.


Where do I find freelance jobs?


Ideally the ultimate goal is for all clients to come to you but in the beginning, you will probably have to be proactive about looking for work. Learning to sell yourself and your skills are an important aspect of being freelance. Think about who your first clients might be or where you will find them. Before you leap into the freelance world, check out potential work opportunities within the local community.


There are a number of freelance jobs sites, such as Upwork, People Per Hour, Airtasker and Freelancer.co.uk, which allow you to ‘bid’ for jobs and you are paid via the site, who take a percentage. Some of the work is low paid and the competition can be fierce.


There are also regular sites, such as Indeed or Monster, where you can tailor job searches to suit your requirements.


You can also cold call or email companies or agencies who may be on the lookout for freelancers. Always tailor your applications to the company and address the correct person.


Good luck!