Have you ever considered going freelance? Of the UK’s 1.88 millionfreelancers, 40% are women and the vast majority of those who started out recently are new mothers.** The benefits are numerous.Being your own boss means you can work how you want, when you want – and freelancers’ job satisfaction is generally extremely high as a result. Before you take the plunge, though, there are a few things you need to know:
You can base your workload around what’s going on at home, perhaps slowing down in the school holidays and taking on more work in term time. If you need to drop the work and pick up the children at short notice, that’s OK too; it’s all about flexibility.
Whether it’s your personal or professional connections, there are people around you who know you’ve got the skills to get the job done. So as a starting point, why not find out whether they can put you in touch with your first clients, or even give you a project themselves? Social media is useful too; LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are all free, effective ways of putting your name out there.
If you’ve spent your entire working life in a vibrant office environment, the transition to a solo office or coffee shop could seem like a big one. But it’s easily overcome; digital communities such as Workingmums and LinkedIn groups allow users from all over theworld to connect. Workhubs such as Club Workspace, meanwhile, allow the self-employed to come together to network, share ideas and learn from each other.
Meanwhile, IPSE’s own Women in Freelancing network is on hand to support the growing number of freelance women. We organise regular events, allowing freelance women to meet the experts and like-minded small business owners.
If you have the technical skills, entering the IT industry, for example, could be a very attractive proposition. Because it’s a sector dominated by males, many IT departments are taking steps to promote more women – and it’s been suggested that working as a female in a male-dominated environment can actually give you a competitive advantage.
Conventional employees are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay, which is 90% of average earnings for six weeks then £138.18 for 33 weeks. But the self-employed receive £138.18 for 39 weeks – meaning they miss the six when employees receive almost average earnings. This can make a big impact on finances and so you need to be prepared. Hiring an accountant is always a smart move, as they’ll ensure you’re complying with HMRC regulations and maximising your take-home pay.
The Government-commissioned self-employment review, due to report back very soon, is exploring ways to make the system fairer. And, fortunately, freelancers can earn significantly more than their employee counterparts on average, so it soon balances out.
As with every life decision, there are many things you need to think about before starting your own business. But it’s unlikely to be a decision you’ll regret.
*Caroline Martell is a marketing executive at IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, is the representative body for freelancers across the UK. **Figures correct as of October 2016.You can find out more at www.ipse.co.uk.