Going it alone
Setting up on your own will be terrifying, confusing and utterly thrilling at the same time.
Getting your house in order before you start is a really good way of entering into the world of freelancing, but even if you’ve already started to take that journey then we hope these pointers will help a little. Just don’t ask us to do your taxes. Please.
Money in the Bank
We always recommend having at least three months’ worth of salary available before you consider going down the freelance route. This is to buffer you during the initial stages of establishing yourself, and should also help if businesses are not paying up as quickly as you would hope. Often when you start working for a company it takes a while for their accounts team to get you set up.
Set up a Business Bank Account
It’s a really, really good idea to have a separate bank account to the one you use for daily living. It means you can keep business costs and personal costs clearly defined- we also recommend having a business savings account too so you’re able to put a percentage (ideally 20%) of your earnings away so you’re able to manage your personal and corporate tax bills, as well as VAT if applicable.
Speaking of which…
VAT is confusing. Big time. It’s like a dark art that no one really understands. Our advice here is to get a good accountant who works with smaller businesses and independent consultants. Ask questions and if you’re not getting support then find someone else. There are some excellent people out there who are excited about working with creatives – if you have friends who use someone then ask for recommendations.
Make sure that you’re keeping all your receipts and it could be worthwhile investigating online bookkeeping systems like Xero or FreeAgent where your bank feed reconciles (matches for the newbies) with the transactions you’re making (another reason to keep your personal and business banking separate). They also normally send invoices out and manage your outstanding stuff so it’s there for you to see. Nothing worse than forgetting to collect an invoice and remembering months later.
Make sure that any information that’s online about you is showcasing you to the highest level.
Is your LinkedIn up to date? Is your picture ok or are you holding a glass of wine at a friend’s wedding?
Is your Twitter feed open? If it is then ensure your tweets are work appropriate. If you don’t use it anymore then make yourself private so the last message isn’t something from 2011.
Same for Instagram – either keep it private or make sure it’s looking tip top.
Do you have a website? We’ve noticed that some people have started password protecting these – in our opinion there is no point. If you’re speculatively marketing yourself out, then the likelihood of someone taking the time to type in a password to see your work is super minimal. We know you can’t show off work that is for other clients, or hasn’t been released yet but be smart – do some personal projects or better still, have a great PDF portfolio that is snappy and will engage people. See our guide here.
If you’re reaching out to people then make sure you are talking about relevant and interesting work you have done. You’re unlikely to get a response back first time so keep a record of who you’re talking to and then follow up each week.
Managing your workspace
If you’re working from home, try and designate an area where you can escape from being distracted. Get a nice succulent plant, some jazzy pens from Hay and a cool lamp.
Make sure you start at a regular time, have a lunch break and stop at a normal time too. It’s really easy to get into the wrong rhythm and end up stressed when you have something to finish.
Keeping yourself in check
When you don’t have a boss, it’s sometimes a little hard to motivate yourself. This might be because there’s a lull in work, or you might have a project that you’re a little “eh” about. You might also just be plain old lonely – we all get that so make sure you try and keep connected to other freelancers or ex-colleagues you can share some “my client is a total ****" chat.
When things like this happen, it’s tempting to feel a little low. It’s time to remember why you’re freelancing in the first place and give yourself a pep talk. Try and be plugged into a network of other freelancers so you can talk about this with others. We also recommend writing things down – a strong To Do list with some good challenges and ideas tends to set us straight.
Also, remember that learning and development is important in whatever capacity. We thoroughly recommend The School of Life for short and longer term courses about emotional intelligence. These are great for the workplace as well you personally and are also good for networking.
Keep a record of the projects you’ve been working on – we see countless people who come to a lull in work and then can only showcase what they were doing when they first started freelancing. Try to keep a list of businesses you’ve worked for and update your portfolio and/or CV as you go.
Another thing you might miss when you’re consulting is someone saying “well done”. Make sure that every six months you’re looking back on where you’re at with your career. If you’re getting clients and growing then that’s incredible and should deserve a good pat on the back. Just because it’s you doing it shouldn’t mean any less.