A selection of guides and resources for freelancers
Being a freelancer isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding.
The following mega-guide to freelancing is put together by a freelancer with over 15 years experience freelancing, full-time freelance for the last 5 years.
We cover everything from starting up your business, banking and accounting, to marketing your business, setting up a website and a portfolio, and more.
Going Full Time Freelance
Before you make the jump to working freelance full time it is important to make sure you are well prepared.
Ideally it is great if you can build up a roster of clients with a steady income to make the transition easier.
It is also a good idea to save up some money to build up a war-chest you can dip into if the first few months/years are a little tight.
If you can create a website/portfolio and keep updating it in advance of going full time that should improve your chances of getting new clients.
Reading the rest of this guide should give you lots more things to think about.
The rules around bank accounts in the UK depend on your status as a sole trader or a limited company owner.
If you are a sole trader, you are legally allowed to just use your personal bank account, or set up an additional personal bank account and use that for business.
However if you decide to get a limited company then you need to get a business bank account, by law. Getting a business bank account is probably a good idea anyway, regardless of your tax/business arrangements – otherwise your personal accounts could quickly get messy – making things like budgeting and tax a headache.
Getting a business bank account can unfortunately traditionally be a bit of a pain-point. Many of the big banks can leave you waiting weeks to set up an account – which can be super annoying if your business is already off the ground and suppliers are trying to pay you.
Newer banks offering apps and APIs can be super-useful, as well as usually offering a far quicker sign-up process.
Getting a good accountant early on is one of the best things you can do as a freelancer.
An accountant can help you set up your business in the best way for you tax-wise, and make sure that you get off on the right foot with with company filings, bookkeeping and the software you use.
Ask for recommendations from peers and people you trust, check online and find a price point you are comfortable with – bearing in mind that cheapest is not always best.
Make sure that your accountant is familiar with the tools and industry that you work in.
Getting accounting software set up early on can make your bookkeeping so much smoother. Don’t leave it until a week before your accounts are due in – it will be a huge headache.
It might be worth speaking to your accountant before choosing your accounting software in case they have a recommendation, though you can always find an accountant that specialises in using your software.
Xero is one of the most popular choices for small businesses and freelancers.
The Xero website is a pleasure to use, and as you spend more time creating rules and feeding information into the system it just gets faster and faster to do your bookkeeping thanks to the Xero AI.
You can connect most UK based bank accounts direct to Xero so that they import the transactions, PayPal also.
Freshbooks is an accounting tool that is aimed at freelancers, offering functionality to help you run your time-tracking, invoicing and accounting.
QuickBooks is accounting software aimed at small businesses and self-employed people, with expense-tracking, automated bank transaction imports and other useful features.
Free Accounting Tools
We would recommend going with paid accounting software – as with most things you get what you pay for, but if you want to see what you can do for free/low cost check out the options below.
Wave is a free accounting platform based in the US, with support for UK users. Wave includes a range of financial tools for freelancers and small business owners such as invoicing, payments and payroll.
Invoicely is a free invoicing system for freelancers and small businesses.
Deciding How Much To Charge
Deciding how much to charge for your services is no easy task. It is important not to price yourself too low or too high, for obvious reasons.
A good piece of advice that helps a lot of people is to charge double what you initially think you are worth. A lot of people struggle for a long time on a lower rate – double it once they get a bit more experience – and realise they could have been charging double the whole time.
Speak to other freelancers in your industry and find out what they are charging, the structure they use – whether that is per hour, per day, per completed work or on ongoing.
It is important to factor in enough to allow for time spent on administration, invoicing and accounting, tax and other things that can eat into your profit.
Chasing Unpaid Invoices
As a freelancer, getting paid on time, or even sometimes just getting paid at all, unfortunately is not a given.
This is a big topic so we can’t cover all the ins and outs of debt collection, but there are a few quick tips that are worth knowing – such as making sure to use contracts, stipulating delivery times and payment terms, and interest arrangements for late payments.
If after sometime you are struggling to get payment from a client – there are a few potential routes to go down. You can consider small claims court, or speaking with a debt collector or solicitor that specialises in debt collection.
Setting up a Limited Company
Setting up a limited company is a route that a lot of freelancers in the UK go down, for a variety of reasons.
As well as looking professional, having a limited company should in theory mean you pay less personal tax, and creates a separate entity that means you are not liable for any debts personally – as you would be if you were a sole trader.
The best place to start is to speak to your accountant and get their advice.
Your accountant will also be able to help you fill in all the paperwork required to set up a limited company.
Finding jobs when you are freelancing can be a never ending game of cat and mouse – in that ideally you need to be working to pay the bills – but also you need to do a certain amount of sales (and admin!) to keep the clients coming in.
The best place to find clients can depend on your skill and market. Most freelancers in the UK avoid traditional ‘freelancing job’ sites like Upwork because they are a race to the bottom in terms of price and quality – you will end up competing with people around the world for very low prices and work with clients that are often unreliable.
Most experienced freelancers will tell you that you need to network and find your own clients, building up a steady client-base. Easier said than done… though we will talk through some of the ways you can do this if you read on.
Website / Portfolio
Setting up a website / portfolio is essential for almost all freelancers.
Whatever way you choose to create a website – even if it is just something basic to start with – it will go a long way.
Ideally you want to create a good SEO-friendly website on a domain name (.co.uk or .uk).
Create a page for each service you offer and explain your services in detail, including how people can go about contacting you.
SEO / Local SEO
As well as making sure that your website is SEO-friendly, you should submit your website and busines details to Google My Business, Bing Local and other local search engines.
You should also look for other websites and services that appear in local searches for your particular profession and make sure that you are listed there.
That might include specific niche websites or local / national business directions – make sure you list your company in detail.
As you get more experienced in business you quickly realise how important networking is.
Networking on various levels is important, with your peers, friends and colleagues – but most important usually is learning how to network with local and national business owners in whatever network you find most success in.
There are tens of thousands of different business networks and meet-ups physically around the UK and online.
A lot of local networking groups involve getting up super early for breakfast networking meetings – if that is your thing you may find some work at groups like this.
The best social media platform for your service will depend on your specific service, but generally speaking it is always a good idea to sign up to LinkedIn if you are running any kind of service that interacts with other business people.
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all fairly useful – you don”t have to sign up for all of them, it is up to you.
If you are a graphic designer or creative you might want to sign up to sites like Ello, Behance and Dribbble.
If you use your personal social profiles for business purposes you should consider what you post as it could be seen by clients.
If you need stock photos for your creative projects there are 20+ sites that have a decent selection of free public domain stock photos.
We are also building a collection of stock photos of freelancers & creatives that you can use for your marketing.
Working from home is a good place to start – it is free – and as long as you can get a suitable workspace and internet connection you should be good to go.
If you want to work from a different location for a while you can try coffeeshops, libraries or other locations around you.
Working from a co-working space is an option that can have a lot of benefits – you can meet other like-minded freelancers, business and startup owners.
Whilst freelancing it is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance – if you work from home you should try to get outside regularly and meet up with people.
Becoming a Digital Nomad
One great thing about becoming a freelancer is that if your job allows it you can potentially travel around the world.
Being a digital nomad can be an amazing thing to do, but it is not for everyone – you may have commitments that make it hard.
However if you do have the opportunity to do so it can be very rewarding, you can work from coffeeshops, airbnbs and coworking spaces all over the world.
Will it have an impact on your clients? That depends on your clients and line of work. If you are lucky you can find a range of freelancing clients that are happy with your remote location or simply don’t care as long as you produce good work and answer their messages promptly.
Working with Freelancers
Whether you are a freelancer yourself or not, you may have opportunity to work with freelancers – so we thought we would put together a bit of advice on best practices for working with freelancers.
There are numerous benefits to working with freelancers: you can work with talented, experienced individuals, often at a price that is very competitive compared to agency prices or the value you would get from paying the same to an agency.
Not working with an agency means that the freelancer you work with probably doesn’t have a sales person, account manager, finance team and similar – so give them a little bit more time – patience may be required with some aspects.
Freelancers may often have to concentrate deeply on specific tasks, or may have multiple clients, sometimes with urgent needs or with the requirement to work in-house, so don’t be offended if it takes a little while to hear back from an email or you get through to someone’s voicemail.
Guide created by FreelanceJobs.org.uk – visit our homepage to browse the latest jobs for freelancers in the UK.
Last updated December 22nd 2018.