22 February 2013

A short guide to becoming a freelancer

Last week we announced that 2013 is the ‘Year of the Freelancer‘, based on figures from the Office of National Statistics.  Research by Mitel backs these findings up, showing that 81% of UK workers want to “escape the shackles” of conventional employment. We’ve therefore put together a short guide for those thinking about taking the plunge and ditching their job to become make a living on their own.

What to consider before taking the plunge

Going freelance shouldn’t be a decision made on a whim and there are several factors to keep in mind before taking the plunge. First and foremost, consider whether you are actually suited to freelancing. Are you ready to forgo a weekly wage, pension, company of workmates and paid holiday leave? Do you have the energy to take on such a commitment?

You should also thoroughly research whether there is a market for what you do, and take into account the competition that’s already out there, keeping in mind that establishing a good market position may be the most arduous task of all. The overriding advice before taking a plunge into the freelancer world is to plan, plan and then plan again. If you feel unsure of how your business may take off, do it in your spare time before making a long term commitment, as this is better than starting up and realising your aspirations aren’t viable.

First steps to becoming a freelancer

The first step is to devise a clear, well-thought business plan. Address what it is that you are selling, who you will be selling to and at what price. The best way to calculate this is usually by looking at what’s out there and how you might be able to compete.

Once you know who you are and what you do, it is time to start promoting yourself. Creating a website and social media links are the first steps and you should also have a dedicated business phone or mobile number to promote. A business card and a business address is handy – the latter doesn’t necessarily have to be your own home.

There are various compliance issues that you will have to personally take care of as a freelancer, such as tax and National Insurance contributions. You need to keep business records and details of your income so you can fill in an annual self assessment tax return. Depending on the product or service you are providing, you may also need to register for VAT.

Flexible business solutions

The most valuable asset for a freelance worker is a flexible business space. At Bizspace, we offermeeting rooms and  offices that can be used as and when they are needed. Alternatively, we can provide virtual offices, which give you a permanent business address, with your phone calls professionally answered and all mail handled.

Freelancing hotspots

Surprisingly, most freelance work is being taken up outside of the capital, with Yorkshire, the north west and Scotland all seeing a huge increase in their self employed populations. Over the past 12 months, Bradford – which came at the top of the freelancer league table for the whole of the UK – has seen its freelancer population more than double, according to PeoplePerHour. Sheffield, Halifax and Huddersfield have also seen their freelancer populations swell, far exceeding rates observed in London and the south east.