Taking the leap: the first 3 steps towards being a full-time freelancer

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Going freelance can be very exciting, and for creative professionals it’s a lot more achievable than it is for many others. Most of the time, all you’ll need is a capable computer and the right software packages – and you may well have all that already. But that doesn’t mean going freelance is necessarily easy. On the contrary, there are a number of things you will need to do, prepare and consider before taking the leap if you want a realistic chance of success.

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    The following three steps should help you go a long way towards preparing for your career as your own boss:

    Get a place to work

    It is unlikely you will want to hire an office just to start your career as a full-time freelancer, so you will need another place to work. You may be planning to work from home, but while you can just sit down anywhere with your computer it is better to give it more thought. If you have a spare bedroom, garage or outbuilding that you can turn into a dedicated office, this will be ideal. Otherwise, try to choose the most distraction-free space you can, as even the most disciplined find it hard to get into “work mode” when they first start working at home. Think carefully about how you furnish your working space too. Don’t use a dining chair or any other seat you already have lying around – invest in an office chair and desk or you will find long working days get very uncomfortable.

    Plan where to find work

    Obviously, you can’t just turn freelance and expect work to come rolling in. You need to think very carefully about where and how you are going to find work, and what this entails. Do you have any contacts from your current job who may be able to help you? Will you be promoting your services online, and if so have you fully assessed what it takes to successfully market a website and how much this is likely to cost? It is definitely best to have a good idea of where your work will come from before you leave your current position. If you can reduce your hours at your current job, then you might want to try being a part-time freelancer before you take the plunge as a full-time one, so that you can start getting work lined up before you completely lose your current income.

    Know your obligations

    When you go freelance you don’t just stop being employed; you become self-employed and that means in the eyes of the law you are suddenly a business. Being a business comes with certain obligations. You will have to inform HMRC that you are self-employed and register for a self-assessment tax return (even if you are initially not making enough to pay tax, you will still need to register from the start). Tax and multiple kinds of National Insurance will of course be payable on your earnings. You may also need to obtain some kind of insurance, depending on factors like the industry in which you work, but most creative freelancers won’t necessarily need this unless they take on an employee.