Freelance Jobs

Did you know that almost five million people in the UK are self employed? The number is ever growing – and particularly among parents. In most cases, parents turn to self employment and freelancing to give them more flexibility and, ideally, more time with their children. Here you can find more about how to get a freelance job, what it's really like to be a freelancer and legal issues to consider.

Freelance careers

This article explores freelancing as a form of self employment, how to become a freelancer and where to find freelance work.

What is freelancing?

Freelancing is a special form of self employment, where instead of working for a single employer, you work on a contract basis for a number of different companies. Freelancers often have a number of years’ experience, which means you can command good rates of pay.

Typical freelance jobs

There are freelance opportunities in a vast range of jobs, but some are more common than others.

The most prevalent jobs are in the corporate functions that you find in every large business: marketing, IT, finance, HR, recruitment, communications and project management.

There are also many roles in creative positions such as graphic design, social media, web content and design and copywriting. There are also freelance environmental jobs and sales roles.

Home based freelance jobs

Some freelance jobs enable you to work from home, while in others you’ll be expected to work at your employer’s office. This depends on the type of work you do and the kind of contract you have with them. Search here for home based freelance jobs on workingmums.

How to become a freelancer

The biggest challenges when setting out as a freelancer are finding steady work and ensuring you have sufficient funds to get through any quiet periods.

Many people opt for freelancing after being made redundant, as the redundancy payment can provide the backup you need to cover times where you’re waiting for work to come in.

It’s easy to set up your own business: you simply need to register with HMRC as self-employed, and register the name of your company with Companies House. But it can take longer to establish yourself as a freelancer and find regular work.

You’ll also need to think about what equipment you need to start freelancing. For many it’s just a question of a good laptop, phone and a place to work, but others may need specialist software, service subscriptions and even private office space.

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Finding work as a freelancer

Before you embark on your freelance career, you should be certain that you have some strong sources of future work. How you secure this will depend on your chosen field to some extent, but many freelancers find that their contracts come through their existing network – including colleagues, partners and suppliers from former jobs.

If you’re seeking contract work, the usual job boards can be a good source of work. This works particularly well if you can provide interim cover while someone is on sabbatical or maternity leave.

Or, if you provide services like copywriting, legal consultancy or marketing support you could find part-time, home-based contracts through sites like workingmums. There are other websites that specialise in freelance job postings too, so it’s worth seeking those out.

It may be, however, that you need to build a freelance brand and market yourself so that you can stand out from the ever growing crowd of freelancers. Doing this should enable you to achieve a steadier stream of work from a range of clients. Also you will need to think about how to secure your next freelance job or contract.

The challenges of freelancing

Freelancing certainly has its appeal – you’re your own boss, you’re likely to be better paid for fewer working hours, and you have more control over your career. But there are a number of challenges that it’s important to consider.

We’ve already mentioned the irregularity of your income, and the importance of having funds to fall back on.

You should also bear in mind the impact of leaving employment: most self employed people don’t get the same level of maternity pay, for example, and you would lose employment benefits such as private healthcare, childcare vouchers etc. Consider too whether you need to apply for a mortgage in the short-term: self employed people have considerably less choice in mortgages and you usually need a couple of years’ strong accounts for a loan to be approved.

The legal side

It’s important that you protect yourself with a clear contract with your client – you may wish to seek legal advice in drawing these up. You may also need to buy insurance: professional indemnity cover, for example, or public liability insurance depending on what you’re providing.

The financials

Don’t forget that as a freelancer you’ll be responsible for managing all the accounts for your business. You need to produce and chase invoices for your clients, and keep clear records of all the money coming in and going out of the company.

The most important part is filing your tax return at the end of the year. It’s not too complicated a process once you have some good systems in place, but many freelancers choose to appoint an accountant to manage this on their behalf.

Getting the balance right

Many freelancers will tell you that it’s very hard to turn work down, which can at times mean that you’re overstretched. Approach this very carefully. You may feel that if you turn something down that client won’t ask again – but if you take the work on without sufficient time to devote to it, that could damage your client relationship too.

Sometimes an effective solution is to delay – you might not be able to do the job straight away, but would have capacity in a few weeks’ time. This can often buy you the time you need to complete other contracts or projects first.

It’s also important to set yourself some ground rules about when and how you work. Some people find that they’re easily distracted when working at home and need discipline to stay focused. Others find it hard to resist the temptation to work after hours and at weekends – creating realistic boundaries is an important step.

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