The honest truth about freelancing

According to a study by the IPSE, freelancers contributed a whopping £119 billion to the economy in 2016, that’s a rise of £10 billion from the previous year. Impressive.

Aside from contributing positively to the economy, freelancing gives you freedom like no other job. If you’re one of the lucky few with flexible working in a full-time job – that’s great, I’m jealous.

But, working for yourself brings with it ultimate flexibility. You can work into the night if you wanted, or get up at the crack of dawn. It’s the job that fits around your lifestyle – whatever that may be.

Maybe you fancy travelling the world but still want to earn money – the mobility a laptop offers you means anywhere can be your office.

There are cons to working for yourself as a freelancer, obviously. For example, unless you bag some retainer clients, your income could be pretty sketchy, and you’ll need to muster up some will power and stop watching Netflix. Put the washing down and go back to your work!

If you’re truly fed up with the 9-5 grind of the office-based job, the long work commute and the office ‘bantz’ – freelancing could be the perfect option for you – you just have to work out if your pros outweigh your cons.

Why do people start freelancing?

A study by Kalido shows that there are many reasons freelancers decide to follow the path to self-employment with ‘earn more and improve quality of life’ placed as the second highest reason with 54% of the vote.

I’m not sure if I understand why the highest voted answer was to ‘learn new skills for a more secure future.’ OK, you can learn new skills – but, let’s be honest, you can learn new skills in any job – do you necessarily take the leap into freelancing to widen your skillset? I’m not so sure…

Don’t get me wrong, you learn a lot of new skills – but not always job-related. You learn about running a business, how to fill in a tax return, how to diplomatically but firmly ask why the hell invoices are late/not paid, and, of course, there’s winning and then onboarding new clients.

It can be a minefield and very overwhelming. But, like everything, it gets easier with time.

Advice for new freelancers

I think when you become freelance, it’s very easy to get absorbed in your new work-life that your continued development goes out the window and all you seem to do is chase your current clients for payments and chase new clients for new business. Before you know it, it’s late evening, and you’ve barely eaten all day.

I’ve just started my second round of freelancing – mainly because my first time I said ‘yes’ to all jobs from any client – even when I got bad vibes from them (I’m still owed money two years on).

I felt I had to in order to earn money – Chandler in Friends was right – THE FEAR gets to you once you’ve quit your full-time job.

I was miserable, stressed, and I had slowly come to resent some of my clients, and the work I was doing wasn’t fulfilling in the slightest.

Here are my top tips for new freelancers:

Think about your decision properly

You need to really weigh up the pros and cons of working for yourself. Are you someone who can work by themselves – sometimes going a full day or multiple days not talking to anyone?

I was warned it could get lonely, but I don’t actually feel lonely. I am a chatty person – anyone who has unfortunately sat next to me in any office space can attest to this. I still talk to people, and so far, I’ve not missed the office chit-chat.

I talk with people online, in cafes I work in and I make sure I break some days up by meeting friends for lunch. Whatever gets you out of the house and working in a new environment – even if it’s just one day a week – do it.

Pick your favourite cafe with free WiFi and buy a drink. Sit and work for a few hours – when you go back home, you’ll feel refreshed.

Save money

This was something I didn’t do a lot of my first time around. This time, I’ve got a cushion behind me. Having money saved means you don’t make rash decisions when accepting work.

I took shit from clients left right and centre last time, and I’m sure as hell not doing that again! If you struggle with saving money, I’ve been using an app called Plum – it’s free, and I read all about it on Money Saving Expert, so I knew it was trustworthy. Check it out.

Nail down your client persona

If you don’t know who you want to work with, how will you market yourself properly? I work with business owners, mainly in the B2B sector. I know their pain points and exactly how I can alleviate the issues they’re having. You need to outline something similar so you can focus your offering.

Don’t compromise on price, clients or contracts

First of all, you need to work out what you’re going to charge. Look and see what other freelancers are charging for similar services. Write into your terms and conditions that you have the right to change your pricing without prior notice. Then if after a few months you think your pricing is too low or too high, you can adjust accordingly.

If a client tries to ask you to complete work for a price you’re not comfortable with, stay firm with your pricing. If they want to pay they’ll hire you, if not, they’ll find someone else, and they weren’t for you anyway.

As soon as someone repeatedly questions my pricing, it’s a red flag that they might not pay. So stay away from them and politely decline.

Contracts or at least an email chain is a must when working with a client. I use PandaDoc for sending professional proposals and contracts. This software enables me to track when a client has opened and read the document, I can put an expiry date on the proposal, and it also comes with e-sign signature built-in.

You need to protect yourself and your earnings when freelancing this means not holding back when it comes to chasing invoice payments and insuring your business. I am insured with PolicyBee – not only does insurance help keep you protected, but it’s also a sign to a client that you’re not a risk.

This article first appeared on

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