The idea of going freelance is exciting, daunting, empowering and also very popular. The ONS reports that the number of UK freelancers is at an all-time high, with 4.6m people working as freelancers in 2014, many of them professionals.
Setting out on your own offers a real sense of freedom, and greater control over your work-life balance, as well as the advantage of taking all your work profits home. But leaving a steady professional job to go freelance is a big move. You’re giving up a regular pay cheque, health benefits, sick or holiday pay, and company pensions to move into a world of uncertainty.
If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, follow these steps to get the most out of the experience.
First, think about whether you are at the right stage in your career to thrive if you go it alone. Companies employ freelancers with different levels of ability and experience, so you need to be confident in your capacity to work independently.
Some say that this comes from having at least two years of experience in your profession, while several more are required before you’re taken seriously, but it depends on how you feel.
When you have decided you’re ready, you should make sure that you have your first job lined up before you leave. Whether you arrange this through a recruitment agency or your own personal network, it is often said the first job is the hardest, so it’s helpful to know what’s in the pipeline. This goes without saying, but don’t burn bridges with your current company. You never know where future work may come from.
As a freelancer, you’ll be responsible for your own money – expenses, invoicing, tax and national insurance. Freelancers only get taxed on profits, so the higher your expenses, the lower your tax bill. It’s easy to read up online about which expenses you can deduct and how to fill out a tax return, but it’s always good to find an accountant to get their tax advice too.
You shouldn’t be precious about which work you take on at first. You’re unlikely to be working for as many high-profile clients as you were at the company you left, and it will take time to market your new business effectively.
If you come unstuck, you should consider a taking a highly-skilled temporary position. According to a report by Russam GMS, there was a 6.5 per cent rise in UK demand for interim managers in the 12 months to June 2014, with more than half of those hired for their specialist skills. More than just a stop-gap, interim positions may help you to make useful contacts for when your business gets off the ground.
Even if you have plenty of jobs lined up when you leave your current company, there’s a chance you will experience times without work. So it is a sensible plan to save enough money to live on for at least two months before you leave your current position.
YOU ARE THE BOSS
Many useful technological tools have been cultivated to help you manage your new work and personal lifestyle.
Freelancers are moving to cloud technologies in droves. It simplifies a whole host of tasks and functions, from managing finances to setting up project management tools in a coffee house.
Going it alone is an exciting time for any professional and can be one of the most rewarding decisions you make in your career. If you feel ready to be your own boss, and are armed with the right tools and prepared on the professional front, then maybe it’s time you joined the growing number of people choosing the path to become a “business of one”.