I’m in my third year of working for myself and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. My career has improved in leaps and bounds, I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I’m genuinely excited to start work every day.
If you want the freedom of managing your own workload and taking control of your own career progression then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend starting up on your own and seeing what steps you can take in your industry. However, there are definitely a few things you need to think about before you take the plunge, as it is a huge leap, so here are five things to consider before freelancing.
First and foremost, money has to be in the forefront of your mind. You might think that setting up your own business is all about creativity and achieving your dreams but the reality is you need to be making money for your business to survive.
Before you leave your current job save as much as possible so you have enough in the bank to cover you for a few months if it takes a little longer than expected to find your first clients. Work out exactly how much you need to live on per month and keep this in mind when deciding on your package price or hourly rate.
Moving forward, being your own boss means having a solid grasp on your finances and being sensible with money. When you have a salary you know exactly what you’re going to make each month but freelancing means you could be earning plenty one month, then half that amount the next month, so save as much as you can when the going is good – you’ll be grateful you did when times are a little leaner, I promise!
Overestimate how much tax and National Insurance you think you’ll need to pay and start putting it aside from the beginning – when April comes a-calling it’s a huge relief to know you have the money already saved so you can pay the balance off as soon as the tax year ends. No one wants to be scratching around in January trying to pull the money together. That said, I was that person in my first year of business so we’ve all been there.
2. Longterm Plans
Where do you want your career to go in six months? A year? Five years? It’s always a good idea to have some longterm plans in mind when you start freelancing. Knowing your personal mission statement will help you choose clients that are most suitable for your business and know when it’s time to change up what you’re doing so you can work on adding some new skills to your roster.
Personally, I’d like to do more auditing and strategising for brands in the future so I’ve been mindful to start offering these services over the last year. I keep my prices for these services relatively low so I can hone my skills and get the experience I need for the future. Never, ever stop learning and growing as a person and a business owner!
3. Consider Your Reputation
There are a million freelancers out there doing exactly what you do, so first impressions are crucial.
Be visible online but not too visible: remember that every potential client will probably look you up on social media. If your social media profiles are going to be public, keep them semi-professional. I’m still wholly myself on Twitter (forever tweeting pictures of food and my dog) but I stay away from topics that can be considered divisive: politics and religion being the main two. I’m not saying you should water yourself down but if you like debating current affairs online and are prone to drunk tweets on a Friday night then you might want to consider privatising your account and setting up a professional account that’s public.
4. Dedication and Motivation
If you work for yourself there’s nobody to crack the whip but yourself. People from all walks of life can work for themselves and be extremely successful but the one thing they’ll have in common is dedication and self-motivation. If you think working from home sounds like a great idea because you can stay in your PJs all day and wake up at 10am then it might not be for you.
I can’t speak for everybody, as every industry is different (I work in copywriting and digital marketing) but Monday-Friday I’m usually up at 6am, sitting at my desk by 8.30am and tend to log off at 5.30-6pm, so there’s no time for slacking off. Now I’m not going to pretend that I don’t take the odd morning off to meet a friend for coffee or hit the shops, as I definitely do this a couple of times a month, but on the whole I do exactly the same working hours as anybody else would…plus being on call 24/7 for certain clients.
I’m lucky that I love time management and work well under pressure, but if it’s something you struggle with then I’d definitely recommend taking a short course on time management or reading a couple of books to help you get into a productive routine – I haven’t read it myself but everybody raves about The Miracle Morning, which sounds particularly helpful for those who struggle in the mornings.
5. Cabin Fever
There are so many benefits to working from home (hello ten second commute!) but cabin fever is a definite downside. Living and working in the same space can be stressful and extroverts are particularly prone to suffering from working in solitude. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, take time every day to get out of the house and enjoy some fresh air. It might just be a quick walk around the block on your lunch break but it’ll clear your head and help you beat the mid-afternoon slump.
So that’s it for today! This is the first post in a planned series of posts about running your own business, so I really hope you found it helpful. If you have any questions about freelancing, working for yourself or getting your business up and running please let me know as I’m always happy to help!