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11th December 2014

Making a move into freelance work is becoming an increasingly popular option in Britain. According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), nearly 1.8 million people are currently working solo in the UK, making an annual economic contribution of some £95 billion.

Furthermore, official data from the Office for National Statistics has shown consistent growth in self-employment in recent years.

For many people, going from a regular, full-time job to independent employment will be a jump into the unknown. These individuals could well be asking themselves: what exactly can I expect from freelance work?

Competition

One thing that all new freelancers should prepare themselves for is stiff competition for contracts, particularly in dynamic and rapidly developing sectors such as IT, media and creative industries.

A key reason for this is the fact that working methods and practices are changing. An increasing number of people are realising the benefits of working for themselves, while employers are becoming more willing to turn to freelance or contract professionals to save money or acquire specific skills for short-term projects.

If you are making a move into independent work, do some research on your chosen market and devise a business plan outlining your ambitions and how you hope to achieve them.

When it comes to distinguishing yourself from the competition, the key is to show an employer that you have something unique and special to offer, which will deliver value for their business. Every application you make should be tailored to the employer and project in question, showing how your experience and expertise reflect the nature and goals of the organisation.

Hard work

Anybody thinking that freelancing is an easy option offering plenty of time off and leisurely working from home should think again. If you want to make a success of yourself as an independent professional, hard work, discipline and determination are essential.

Many freelancers indeed work from home, but this can sometimes be more difficult than working in a traditional office environment. Domestic distractions surround you, and there will be no co-workers or colleagues around to keep you motivated and focused.

If you expect your new career path to include a fair amount of homeworking, make sure you take vital steps such as setting up a dedicated workspace in your home and getting yourself organised with daily schedules and timetables.

You must also be prepared to put in some hard work when it comes to applying for and honouring contracts. All freelancers have to deal with rejection from prospective employers, but rather than letting it damage your morale, find out why your application failed and make the necessary changes to increase your chances of success next time.

When committing to contracts, be realistic about the amount of work you will be able to complete in a set period. Being ambitious is all well and good, but giving yourself too much to do will compromise the overall quality of your work and missed deadlines will taint client relationships.

New responsibilities

Workers making a move from regular employment to freelancing should prepare themselves for the new responsibilities that come with independent working.

Where once you had managers providing support and making sure your work was up to scratch, now the pressure of fulfilling your professional obligations on time and to a good standard rests entirely on your shoulders.

For many people – usually, those who thrive under pressure – being their own boss is one of the most exciting and fulfilling parts of freelancing.

It is essential to be aware of the financial, legal and administrative considerations that come with working for yourself – staying in compliance with income tax laws, for instance.

Freelancers who want to liberate themselves from such concerns and focus solely on work can sign up to an umbrella company like our sister company SmartWork, which effectively makes you a pay-as-you-earn worker, with all necessary tax deductions made at source.

Another option is operating through a limited company, which brings extra responsibilities. An accountant like us can help significantly reduce the administrative burden, but some aspects of running the business daily will rely on you putting the time in. In return, you’ll enjoy financial advantages such as higher tax efficiency and the ability to reclaim a broader range of expenses.

Diverse opportunities

The diverse range of professional opportunities and career experiences on offer to freelancers is a hugely appealing aspect of this sort of work.

In traditional employment, moving from one sector to another might mean having to start all over again at the bottom of the career ladder. Freelancing, on the other hand, gives you the freedom to choose from a range of prospects offering different opportunities in different fields.

It’s a good idea to start by specialising in one area to build up your experience and reputation as a freelancer. As you move forward in your career, an eclectic CV will reflect positively on you, showing that you have a desirable set of core skills.

Freedom and flexibility

Such is the freedom and flexibility offered by freelance work that once you have experienced it, it is unlikely you will want to return to regular employment.

Earlier this year, IPSE marked International Women’s Day by speaking to female freelancers about the impact the career choice has had on their lives.

Lyndsey Miles, an independent e-commerce consultant who plans website strategies for her clients, said she had always felt dissatisfied with permanent employment because of the constraints of being based in an office, with someone else in charge. “I will never go back, and I know so many other freelancers who would never go back,” she said. “My husband has also just gone freelance after seeing the lifestyle it has given me.”

According to Julie Stewart, chairman of IPSE, being your own boss is the best thing about independent working: “You’re in charge of your time, the work you choose, and how to achieve a more effective work/life balance, so it’s unsurprising that more and more people are going freelance,” she said.

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