How do I get started?
Many freelancers start by leaving their current job and then continuing to do it on a freelance basis. This is common practice in the dot com sector. It’s what happened to Brett Morris who worked as a sub-editor at Virgin Net. He volunteered for a redundancy package worth around £2,500 – and then went back to work in the same office on the same day as a freelance writer!
As a freelancer, he checks in at the beginning of each week to see how much work there is for him, and can take as many or as few hours as he likes. There has always been plenty of freelance work available for him – perhaps even too much. “It’s almost getting a little frustrating,” jokes Morris.
If you’re a freelancer, you’re going to be self-employed – so you need to adhere to all the usual rules and regulations of self employment. This means informing HM Revenue and Customs of your revised tax status, arranging to pay class 2 National Insurance contributions for the self employed and registering for VAT if you expect your turnover to exceed £73,000 a year.
The easiest way to attend to the formalities and set up properly is to call the Helpline for the Newly Self-employed on 08459 154515. You can register as self-employed straightaway, and get free one-on-one advice and a free Starting Up in Business guide.
How much does it cost to start?
Most freelancers work from home so the start-up costs are minimal – a bedroom converted to an office, with a desk, computer and internet access, a telephone and an answering machine plus a fax machine. You’ll also need business stationery and business cards for advertising yourself to clients. You may wish to produce brochures about your services too. Exchange & Mart is often the cheapest way of sourcing what you need.
“As a rule of thumb, you’re looking at £1,000-1,500 to set yourself up properly,” estimates Avril Harper. “A computer with internet access is essential these days. You need email to look professional to clients. It’s also important that you have separate lines for your phone, fax and internet access so you can be contacted easily at all times. Nothing looks more amateurish than having to switch your phone to a fax line whilst your client waits to send a fax to you.”
You may have some tools of your particular trade to buy as well. A freelance music teacher needs instruments and a freelance children’s entertainer requires costumes and props. For many freelancers such as PR consultants, writers and proofreaders, there are few other expenses. Sometimes, freelancers are asked to work on the client’s premises so that they are close to where the action is.
The payment will often be the same whether you work on-site or off. You need to budget carefully though. You may minimise some of your working costs (calls, use of computers etc) by using the client’s facilities. But you need to budget for your travelling time and expenses to see whether it is as profitable to work on-site. Often, you can negotiate a compromise – one day on site and one day at home, for example.