Forbes magazine reported that according to new research by the talent platform, Upwork, freelancers are likely to find themselves in more demand in the future. It stated that following Covid-19, 47% of hiring managers are now more likely to hire independent professionals.
The report, which looked at the hiring habits of 1,500 US hiring managers, also detailed that 73% of recruiters are continuing or increasing their use of independent professionals and that 59% of them agree that organisations that aren’t adopting a flexible workforce are falling behind. Not only this, but of those surveyed, 61% agree that bringing in outside skills from expert consultants helps keep current, full-time employees up to date with their skills.
Stats like this, alongside the remote working revelation that the globe is waking up to, have proved that life as a freelancer might be an attractive prospect after all.
But just what boxes do you need to tick to set yourself up as a successful freelancer?
Can you afford to go it alone?
As exciting and freeing as it is to ‘go it alone’ and set up as an independent consultant, it’s important to stop for a minute and take stock of all your responsibilities.
With a regular monthly salary and income, you have likely built up some liabilities – paying rent or a mortgage, direct debits for monthly bills – outgoings that tend to leave your account, pretty much as soon as you’ve been paid.
If you’re giving up a regular salary, make sure you have a complete picture of your income and outgoings, and minimise the risk of missed payments.
For added security, we’d recommend ensuring that you have enough savings to keep you afloat for at least three months before taking the plunge, whilst also scoping out what options you have for responsible financial help if you need it.
Check out this budget planner to see how you can manage a new income.
Get up and get dressed
Largely based at home, with no manager to report into and no work dress code, it can be hard to get into a routine that keeps you productive.
For some people freedom is great, especially if you’re a good self-motivator. But for many, complete flexibility can take a while to get used to.
Before starting off as your own boss, create a plan that sets up some goals and objectives for you to achieve in your first quarter. This can include billable hours, invoice targets and new business pipelines. These can be tweaked as you begin to find your feet, but at this stage you just need a plan in place, that will keep you on the straight and narrow.
Work out your value
This is probably the most important part of becoming a freelancer, working out how to survive. You need to consider what you’re going to charge as an independent consultant. This is usually based on flat project-based fees or a daily or hourly rate.
We recommend doing some research over this. Get a sense of what competitors are doing or what those looking for your skill or service are willing to pay. It will, of course, depend on your level of experience and what you can bring to a job or project, but there’s no point in charging rock-bottom rates to then not be able to pay your bills, or equally, inflate your costs and lose out on business due to this.
It’s also hugely important to build up a good reputation and win referrals. Do reasonably charged work, executed to brief, on time and to a high standard and we guarantee you’ll reap the rewards.
Check out this handy infographic for how to work out your hourly rate.
The admin and small print
Setting up alone, you’ll probably quickly miss the various departments you were used to. HR, finance, legal – the knowledgeable people in business who know what boxes to tick and I’s to dot.
There are some important things to consider when establishing yourself as freelancer including understanding the differences between registering as a sole trade or a limited company. Read up on what makes sense for your business, and don’t rush into a decision.
Ask the industry peers and networks around you and see what’s worked for them. Proteus’ Xchange which allows users to post, answer and engage with other professionals might be the perfect place for these type of burning questions.
It may also be worthwhile checking with your prospective clients, as they might well guide this decision too, depending on their procurement requirements.
You’ll also need to register for tax. This should be done as soon as you’re up and running. This is an essential step regardless of your business structure, and something you can manage online in most countries.
Lastly, consider what insurance you should take out. If you’re working from home, a typical home and contents insurance policy might not cover you for your business activities and equipment, so it makes sense to look at tailored business insurance that’ll support your fledgling business.
For help with the paperwork and additional support, check out IPSE – the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed.
Secure your first clients
Once you’re all set up, one of the hardest but most fulfilling things to do is secure that first client. Being able to market and sell your specialist skills and knowledge is all part of becoming a successful freelancer.
It’s important to have some idea of who your first clients might be, or where to find them, so we recommend doing some research to get to know your target market.
Marketing plays its part too, but word of mouth and smart networking can really help to get things moving.
In addition to these tactics, Marketplace can also help your freelance career. The digital tool connects you to projects, other professionals and companies, opening up opportunities you didn’t know existed.
On Marketplace, your freelance profile operates as a CV. Here you can share your key skills and interests that will make you attractive to potential employers.
Work with multiple companies from where you want to, when you want to. It is all under your control.