Congratulations if you are seriously considering working on a freelance basis - it’s an exciting way to work, with plenty of opportunities. However, before you make the final decision, there are many things to think about, some of which we have listed below – just to make sure it is the right thing for you.
Don’t confuse this article with definitive advice – we should talk individually for that, to make sure we tailor our information to your own set of circumstances. However, you should read this for guidance and to prompt some questions and thoughts that you might need to address and to gain some deeper understanding of how freelancers operate.
How flexible are you?
Are you raring to go? Do you know what needs to be done? Self-employed freelancers usually manage every aspect of their work day themselves. Everything from sales, accounts, marketing, providing the actual goods or services, mending the printer and making the coffee. When you are accustomed to an infrastructure of any level, going freelance can be a culture shock!
Learning as you go
As you grow, or are able to afford it, you might outsource some of your regular tasks but it is good to make a start in all of the areas of your business so you fully understand them.
The best piece of advice we can give is to surround yourself with people who can help you when you need it but who will also be generous with their knowledge so you learn as you go.
For example, your accountant should empower you to learn how to look after your day-to-day accounting but be available for the more top level advice when needed. You can eventually outsource your book-keeping but we’d advise that you have an operating knowledge of your finances at all times.
A different set of challenges
Working for yourself isn’t a magic wand, you are simply replacing one set of circumstances for another – choose the set that suits you best.
Employment takes care of many things – a steady salary, pension, NI, tech support, sick pay, maternity pay, holiday pay – the list is long. The negatives include being at the mercy of your employer, having to work to a set of rules set out by your employer and maybe having to undertake work that you prefer not to. There are many pros and cons of being employed, you should do your own lists.
Self-employment means that you can work for lots of customers, spread your risk, enjoy the freedom of planning your own time, potentially earn more and focus on the work you enjoy, maybe fulfilling a personal ambition. The negatives are that you don’t have the financial infrastructure and protection of an employed person, you have to learn to run a business (even though there might only be you in it) and be more disciplined than you can ever imagine – to get the work in, keep it flowing, do the work, set aside tax and so on. Again, make lists of your pros and cons.
Is your offering viable?
Knowing what you have to offer as a freelancer is crucial. You must have a good outline of your business services and know who might buy from you.
You then have to take this further and do some market analysis. Who else offers the same goods or services in your proposed geographic location? Are they successful? If not, can you see why not? What is the estimated size of your market? If you are selling to golfers, for example, how many golf courses are nearby, how many golfers are within your trading area? What is your trading area? Who else sells to your market? Is there an opportunity to collaborate? What makes you different?
You might choose to book a session with a marketing expert at this stage to plan your branding, logo, tagline and immediate launch plans with someone who sees things differently from you. A good marketing person will look at your business from a consumer angle, not yours.
Can you work alone?
If you are the sort of person who needs an army – or at least the buzz of colleagues - you might like to consider hot desking or working from shared office premises (safely of course). Keeping IR35 in mind, working from customer premises might also be an option. Working alone, quietly and focused, is hugely productive but there is a kind of intensity that not everyone is comfortable with.
However you operate, factor in time to be with others, even if it is only virtually for now - sharing ideas and communicating will keep you relevant, fresh and sane!
Routes to market
We will be writing an article on marketing your business in a couple of weeks but for now, we suggest you look at the ways you can sell what you offer. In a nutshell, you need to consider:
· Your trading name, logo and overall presentation
· Your premises
· The cost of your overheads
· Your price points
· Your launch – website, social media, brochure, flyers, business cards
· Routes to market – shop, office, online, via other businesses
We can’t stress enough how doing your research, taking your time, making notes (go old school and write it all down in a dedicated note book) will reward you.
Come and see us – we have been working with freelancers for a long time and can help you get off the ground, with everything you need to get started. We’re a small but successful firm so we will have also walked the same path at some point.