Most of us will at some point have daydreamed about what it would be like to be our own boss. To be able to work when we choose, to make the decisions – to make the money. However, when we think about the time and effort (and the money) involved in setting up a company, developing a product or service and then actually finding customers who want to buy it, the idea no longer seems quite so appealing.
But what if you could enjoy the advantages of being your own boss whilst still doing a job that you know and are skilled at… if that sounds more like your daydream, freelancing may be a great solution for you.
We asked our brand designer Alison Arthington, who has been freelancing for the past ten years, to share her best pieces of advice for turning freelancing into a successful career.
Do your research (before you make the leap)
Before you head off to HR with your letter of resignation, find out what sorts of opportunities are out there for freelancers. Assuming you already work in an industry where the skills of freelancers are brought in for projects, talk to all your contacts (ex-colleagues, ex-bosses, suppliers, friends) and tell them – confidentially – what you are thinking of doing. If you can, take some leave and arrange a few meetings to introduce yourself to potential clients. Networking will make you feel more confident about the prospect of getting work and you may even be able to line up your first project. THEN you can resign.
Act like a business
Yes, you are a freelancer, but that still means you are running a business. You’ll need to send invoices to your clients, provide estimates and, sometimes, chase people for money. Put some basic systems in place to help you to be more efficient, for example allocating job numbers to projects if appropriate, and set up a really good filing system for your emails and digital documents.
You will also be obliged to keep financial records and file a tax return. If you don’t have a head for numbers and admin, a good accountant can provide you with bookkeeping services and lots of good advice.
Focus on client service
The fact that your client hired you for the project is usually proof that they believe you can do the job in hand. You’ve got the skills, now you need to deliver them in a consistently professional manner. Communicate with your clients, update them regularly on your progress and ask for feedback on your work.
Most importantly, listen to their requirements and make sure you answer the brief.
Treat every day like it’s your first day
If you are hired on a day to day rather than a project basis, you can’t afford to have an off day. The harsh truth is, if you don’t deliver on the day, there might not be another one.
Become part of the team
Yes, you left employment to become your own boss, but that shouldn’t mean you have to be a lone cowboy. At least for the length of the contract, act as if you are employed by your client, (say ‘us’ and ‘we’ rather than an ‘I’ and ‘you’) and you’ll soon be seen as an indispensable asset to the team – and the ‘go to’ freelancer when the next project comes up.
One last small, but very important, piece of advice; if there is a traditional office ‘brew round’ make sure you pull your weight and pop the kettle on every now and then. It will be noted and remembered.
If you would like any advice about setting up as a freelancer or contractor, or to discuss bookkeeping services and self assessment, please call any RfM office or enquire online.