How to work freelance

How to work freelance

There are many reasons to become self-employed and work as a freelancer. From extra income to fulfilling passion projects, freelancing affords you the freedom to work on your own terms. If you’re considering a future in freelancing, kick-start your career by reading our guide to freelancing below. 

Take a one-off freelance gig

Until you delve into the world of freelancing, you won’t know if it’s the right fit for you. Your initial step should be to take your first freelance job. Whether it’s designing a new pottery website or translating copy into French, try it out first.

Approaching freelancing this way will help you decide if you enjoy this method of working and wish to pursue it further. A one-off project will also introduce you to tasks you may not be used to in your day-to-day role, including: 

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Find a mentor

Developing a professional relationship with an experienced freelancer means receiving first-hand expertise. While most blogs offer generic advice, a mentor can dive deeper into your circumstances. 

Let’s say you’re an illustrator and a single dad; a good mentor can give you the best advice specific to your situation. From teaching you to get paid what you’re worth, working smarter, to finding the perfect work-life balance, getting a mentor could be the key to building a successful freelance career.

You can find mentors in your network, at freelancer meetups and on tailored mentorship programs like mentorsme and enterprising women.

Freelance while working full time

With your first freelancing experience under your belt, it could be time to up the frequency. That could mean juggling several freelance gigs alongside your full-time job. 

Depending on the industry you’re in, the availability of freelance jobs can be impossible to predict, especially if you’re new to the field. Freelancing while working full time will give you real insights, including salary expectations and seasonal demand in your industry. 

Another reason you’ll want to ‘try before you commit’ is the safety net of a monthly income. While freelancing sounds excellent, you don’t want to leave your job only to discover that freelance gigs are few and far between.

Invest in freelancer equipment

Working freelance often means you can set up shop from anywhere. That could be your favourite coffee shop, a library or a beach resort. That said, there’s some essential equipment you’ll need to freelance effectively. You should have:

  • A comfortable desk and chair. 

Good quality furniture is a top priority for working effectively.

  • Reliable broadband. 

Stay connected to the web and your clients.

  • A ‘MiFi’ portal. 

A mobile WiFi hub is essential for working outdoors. You can also tether your laptop connection to your smartphone if you have a large enough data allowance.

  • A free video conferencing app. 

Speak to collaborators and share your screen with clients for a free video calling app.

  • An extra monitor. 

From coders to proofreaders, work more efficiently by using an additional screen.

  • Noise-cancelling headphones. 

A must for important meetings, pitches and times you need to focus.

  • A battery pack. 

Never miss deadlines or updates by being out of juice.

Build your freelancer network

How to become a freelancer

As you become more established as a freelancer, there’s more you can do in between projects.

First of all, you’ll want a place to showcase your work to potential clients. Thanks to online ‘website builders’, you don’t need to spend a lot or have coding skills to do this. Platforms like Squaresquare and Cargo offer affordable portfolio templates for everyone, from photographers to writers.

Secondly, you should let people know you’re seeking work. Joining and participating in freelancer networks on Facebook and Twitter is a great way of building contacts and getting work. Try to find specific groups that might need your service. If you’re a Polish-speaking psychotherapist in the UK, for instance, then Polish expat community groups are a great place to start.

Next, you may want to join freelancer platforms. Although often expensive to use (for both freelancers and businesses alike), platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are two popular networks that can help you get freelance gigs locally and overseas. 

Having a prominent presence online is your way of casting a wide net and telling companies you’re available for projects. 

Are you a business looking for international freelancers? Look no further. Read the Azimo guides on: 

Do freelancers pay tax?

Yes, and unlike full-time employment, you’ll be responsible for completing your own tax forms, including an annual tax return. Your first step in paying your taxes is to register with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as a sole trader or limited company. 

Most freelancers register themselves as sole traders as they are self-employed and the sole owner of their businesses. However, you could register as a limited company, i.e. an organisation you set up to run your business. 

Depending on the nature of your work, one may be more suitable than the other. For more details on sole traders and limited companies and which is right for you, visit gov.uk’s pages about working for yourself and registering your business with Companies House

Become a full-time freelancer 

A successful freelance career can take years to forge. That’s because you’ll need time to earn a reputation for consistently meeting deadlines and delivering top-quality work.

Once you have a steady stream of work coming in, it might be time to pluck up your courage, leave behind the nine-to-five and become a full-time freelancer. 

While you’ll have your own preferences, the table below shows some of the factors you’ll need to consider when comparing freelance and permanent jobs. 

Employed rolesFreelance roles
Job securityNo real job security
Office environment and hoursFreedom to work anywhere
Daily commutingLittle to no commuting
Lots of socialising and networkingCan be isolating
Easier to predict earningsImpossible to predict income 
Lots of benefits like gym discounts, free coffee and cycle to work schemesNo real job-related benefits
Paid holidays and statutory sick payNo paid holidays
Fixed salariesUnlimited earning potential

State pensions for the self-employed

Working freelance also means you’ll be responsible for making contributions to your pension. Most self-employed people and freelancers use personal pension providers like Legal and General, PensionBee and AJ Bell for their savings. 

With a personal pension, you choose where you want your contributions to be invested from a range of funds offered by the provider. The provider will claim tax relief at the basic rate of tax on your behalf and add it to your pension savings.

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