How to get into freelancing

Working from home – or just working when it suits you – is high up on the list of dream jobs: it’s flexible, portable, nets you skills and brings in extra cash to boot. Here’s how to get started!

What does freelancing involve?

Freelancing is a fairly broad game to get into but, essentially, it means you decide when to work, what you do, and how much you charge for it. If that sounds like running a business, that’s because there’s a lot of overlap! The main difference is that freelancers get paid by the hour or per project, while traders have to sell goods or turn a profit before they get their hands on the cash.

Working from home on a laptop

If you’re already working, freelancing from home can net you a second income in the evenings, at weekends or in your spare time. If you’re not, it’s one more way to bring in extra cash (and grab valuable CV skills at the same time). Unlike employed folk, you don’t get paid for not working – lunch breaks, sickness and holidays are all on your own dime – but don’t let that put you off! With a bit of planning (and patience), freelancing can pay your way and put you into profit.

Use the skills you’ve got

Everyone’s got saleable skills. If you need help unleashing yours, think of it as a pyramid and work your way down:

Work experience. Got skills in admin, social media, computing, accounts or HR? Whatever you do, there’s someone out there who’ll pay for your time or tuition. If you’re already employed, just check your contract for any issues about freelancing in a similar capacity first!

School and uni skills. If you’ve aced exams and personal statements, or have sporting prowess and in-depth subject knowledge, there may be kids (and their parents!) willing to pay for your insights. Don’t forget training you’ve done since school, too – there may be a way to make back your course costs.

Hobbies and home making. Play an instrument? Love walking dogs? Can you whip up a nativity costume out of a pillow case and sheer determination? Bingo!

Dogs looking forward to a walk

Grab a job title

This one’s not just about bragging rights: if you want to sell your services, you need to give folk a clear idea what exactly you’re offering and how you can help them. Think about:

  • What you’ll do. Get specific: write it out in just one or two sentences.
  • How much you’ll charge and how you’ll get paid. Work out an hourly rate which covers your time and costs, and leaves a little extra for profit.
  • Your availability. How flexible are you, will you travel, and can you work on-site if you need to?
  • Any kit, qualifications or insurance you need to get started. Unless you’ve got funds to burn, try to stick with stuff you’ve got to hand until you start making money.
  • Who you’ll work for: what kinds of businesses or individuals might need your skills and services?

Lady with £20 banknotes

Finding clients

Finding clients is the most challenging part of going freelance, and there are few shortcuts when you’re just starting out! Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make yourself known.

  • Pitch yourself to local businesses, councils, shops and service providers. Send an email or give ‘em a call and tell them how you can help them make money, save time, reach more people, sell stuff or whatever.
  • Get a LinkedIn profile: it’s like Facebook for job hunters! While you’re there, sign up for job alerts – you can include keywords in searches, such as [your skill] + “freelance”, or “working from home”.
  • Search job sites, but look for freelance or remote positions. You might have more hits with sites like gumtree (plus you can post an advertise your services for free, too).
  • Home-working sites like upwork, fivesquid and peopleperhour can be a hit-and-miss for wages, and high on competition, but check for yourself before writing them off!
  • If you’re offering a local service, like dog walking, cleaning or child minding, get the word out: think leaflets through doors, classified ads and notice boards.
  • If you’re offering tuition (languages, music, computing or even DIY and sewing skills), obviously advertise locally – but don’t forget you can run sessions online through video calling, messaging apps and email anywhere in the world. Look for forums, join groups or use social media to get the word out.
  • Whatever you’re doing, your own website, blog or a couple of social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or even Pinterest) can help you get noticed for nowt! You can even use them to offer paid lessons, downloads and subscriber content 24/7.

Keep an eye on your income

There’s no great rigmarole to going freelance: once you start, you just need to tell the tax office (HMRC) and that’s it!

That said, keep an eye on your cash flow (money coming in/going out of the business) as it’ll help you sort out what tax and National Insurance you owe, and any tax breaks your entitled to. Money you spend on your business (stationery, phone calls, kit, website or advertising costs) can lower your tax bill, too, so you’re not out of pocket or profit – keep records and receipts! There’s even a new allowance for occasional income, meaning you can earn up to £1,000 a year from odd jobs tax free. There’s tons more info right here: read it, get prepped and go get started!

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