Everything you need to know about being freelance

Did you know that 1.91 million of UK workers are freelance?

Head to your local café midday, midweek and you won’t just be surrounded by children or the retired. Oh no, look around you and you’ll find yourself cornered by laptops, coffee-drinkers and groups of people using the facility WiFi for their transatlantic Google Hangout meetings.

The modern world is seeing a continued growth of the freelance economy and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon.

According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the self employed, there’s already over 1.91 million British freelancers across all job sectors and it’s because people value the work/life balance that flexible working allows you. 1 in 7 of all freelancers are working mums, the largest proportion of freelancers are 40-49 years old and the fastest growing occupational group is ‘artistic literary and media freelancers.

And, now, with huge corporations adopting technology that allows them to manage an extended workforce, businesses finding independent contractors an attractive employee option and smartphones getting even smarter to allow for a remote workforce, it’s never been better to be freelance.

But what is freelancing really like? What are the pros? What are the cons? We asked real people to tell us their real stories – and more importantly, their top tips.

Freelance

Don’t underestimate the power of networking

‘Aside from the obvious work opportunities, it’s easy in the beginning of your career to realise you don’t know that many people doing the same thing as you which can be isolating as hell. Make it your aim to befriend at least one other person living the same lifestyle as you in a BFF way, NOT in professional way, so you can build each other up and send garbled messaged of despair to one another at any hour of the day… It will save you. Also know that your mum/partner/children will hassle you while you work from home because they think you’re not doing a real job.’ – Freelance writer Shanna

Save, save, save

‘Always put 25% of any payment aside in a separate account ready for when you have to pay tax at the end of the year.’ – Freelance writer Jo

Embrace a share economy

‘You will have lulls in work so it’s important to keep your costs down by spending your time spending less money. I found a climbing centre that offered free membership for people who helped with gardening, and I used to make videos or take photos for gyms in exchange for memberships.’ – Freelance director Jamie

You CAN get a mortgage

‘Mortgage regulations have changed significantly over the past few years and the principle of offering mortgages based on income multiples is no longer relevant. Instead, financial advisers and lenders work on the basis of ‘affordability’ and ‘suitability’. So, the most important thing to consider is whether you can prove that a mortgage loan is affordable for you based on your current incomings and outgoings. Many lenders and advisers will ask you to complete a budget planner to demonstrate this. They will also require three month’s bank statements; at least two years’ accounts and a good credit history. If you are unsure of where you stand, websites like noddle.co.uk and clearscore.com offer free access to your credit reports, so check in advance and reduce your credit card and any other unsecured loans as much as possible before applying for a mortgage. Don’t worry if your income is volatile month by month, as long as you can show you manage any debts and pay them off regularly this will be taken favourably.’ – Nicola Mitchell Freelance Financial Adviser

Look out for yourself

‘Being freelance gives you an easier opportunity to earn more if you really want it (and deserve it). It’s much easier to negotiate up when you’re dealing with new companies each time. If you’re stuck in a staff job, they know exactly what you’re on, know exactly what your recent experience is and how much you actually deserve an increase in rate so there’s more room to climb the career ladder without getting stuck in an office hierarchy.’  – Freelancer factual TV producer Dan 

Make sure to keep a balance

‘Being a freelancer is exciting because it’s filled with variety and that ‘first day at school’ excitement but, the grind can be tough. You can find yourself working ungodly hours and lining up your next job when you’ve just started one and negotiating rates with the lack of any sort of perks means you can’t ask for any medical benefits, maternity pay, pension or eventual pay rises. Applying for a mortgage or credit card can also be difficult but not impossible. I’ve been fortunate enough to have consistent work since 2008 (although the months of December, January and February are notoriously quiet) but being freelance means you’re in control of your time and can pick and choose when to take time off.’ – Freelance TV producer Greg

Freelance

Do get dressed

‘I would really recommend getting washed and dressed first thing as you would do for a normal job. I often don’t, but it makes me feel more professional and engaged when I do and I get more done.’ – Freelance writer Virginia

Never stop learning

Keep your brain working by going on courses, reading books and learning from other people. And, learn to say no sometimes.’ – Freelance writer Olivia

Set up your own tribe

‘Set up a regional group and meet regularly. And make sure you have an annual Christmas lunch or evening meal so that you still have that sense of community, which can be especially lacking if you live outside one of the larger cities.– Freelance writer Nicola 

Have a pet

‘It will become your colleague. You will ask its opinion and let it sit in your intray, filing.’ – Freelance writer Flic

‘Know that you will, at some point, just find yourself lying on the sofa in your pyjamas with your laptop on your belly talking to your cat.’ – Freelance writer Megan

Freelance

Know that you WILL piss off someone at some point because of work

‘Your girlfriend will get mad because she has to wait an extra hour before you can go to the beach on holiday because you’re waiting for that guy to call you back.’ – Freelance writer Freylin

‘I once got invited to the country which is ‘great because you can’t get reception’ and I felt sick with fear so turned them down,’ – Freelance writer Flic

Enjoy the fact you don’t have to commute

‘One of the ultimate perks of being freelance is not having to travel in rush hour so don’t organise meetings, interviews, coffees between 9 and 10am, always wait until 10.30 onwards.‘ – Freelance writer Stevie

Get your side hustle on

‘Be prepared to mix it up to pay the bills.’ – Freelancer journalist, PR and personal trainer Patrick

Keep up a working week (and go on holiday!) 

‘Try and stick to Monday to Friday and have some sort of working hours if you can. Everything can wait until 9am the next day. Don’t send emails at 3am to people because they will think you’ve gone mad and also, you might have gone mad. Don’t not book holidays just because you think work will come up because when you book holidays, your dream job will absolutely come up and you’ll be tempted to cancel your holiday/fly back but don’t do this. If it came up once, it will come up again, and you need a holiday.’ – Freelance writer Stevie 

Freelance

Take the plunge

Make sure you plan well. It’ll always be up to you to make sure you have enough money in the bank in case things get slow but it can be done and it is certainly worth it. But, make an office and give yourself a designated space to work, whether it’s in your home or in a co-working space – and when you leave this space, learn to switch off and leave your work behind to avoid burn out.’ – Freelance PR Ashley

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