Do you dream of a day with no commute?
Long for a life without office politics? Or wish you could find a better balance between your work and family life? Then freelancing could be the lifestyle change you’ve been looking for.
Freelancing is on the up, with technology, demand for specialist skills and the rise of co-working making it easier than ever to live the independent lifestyle. There are now 1.9m freelance workers across the UK, equivalent to six per cent of the workforce, and a massive 36 per cent increase since 2008.
The trend has also been driven by a shift in what people want from their career, with many now choosing freedom, flexibility and fulfilment over climbing the corporate ladder or a ‘job for life’. This is particularly true for women, many of whom are looking for a better way of balancing their career ambitions with personal goals, whether that’s to travel, pursue hobbies, or start a family.
Freelancing can offer a solution, giving you more control over where, how and when you work, so your personal life doesn’t have to play second fiddle. Many freelancers now work while travelling the world, pursuing a second career, or looking after the kids. In fact, one in
seven freelancers are now working mums, an incredible 70 per cent rise since 2008.
Demand for freelancers spans a range of industries and skillsets, with research by the IPSE (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) showing the independent workforce includes education, health and social work (21%), professional, scientific and technical industries (20%), arts, entertainment and recreation (12%) and Information and communication (10%), amongst others. So there could be more opportunities in your area than you think.
That’s not to say freelancing doesn’t have its challenges. You need to be a self-starter, disciplined and okay with a bit of extra admin at the end of the month. But most freelancers find it doesn’t take long to get into the groove and for the majority, the benefits far outweigh any downsides.
So if you’re ready to give it a try, here’s a few pieces of advice on making it a success:
• Check out the market – before you take the plunge, do some digging around the opportunities available in your area. Find out where your skills might be marketable and if you can, check out some existing freelancers in your sector. This will give you an idea of how and where to focus your efforts.
• Give yourself a buffer – it’s likely to take a few weeks or even months to build up your client-base and reputation as a freelancer. So make sure you’ve planned for the transition financially, or alternatively, look to take on some freelance projects while working in your existing job.
• Tap your network – you’ll be surprised by the contacts you’ve built up after a few years in the workplace, so make sure you maximise these. Social networks are a great place to start, so make sure your friends, colleagues and acquaintances know what you’re up to, in case they can throw any opportunities your way.
• Tech is your friend – the internet has revolutionised freelancing, with platforms that will link you to projects and clients relevant to your expertise. Just be careful with some of these, which can attract lower quality, low paid projects. Instead focus your efforts on sites such as The Work Crowd, which focus on high quality projects and clients.
• Find an ‘anchor client’ – while clients will inevitably come and go, many freelancers benefit from one or two long-term regular clients to give them a bit more security. This can also give you a ready-made network of ‘colleagues’ so you feel part of a team. While not essential, this can be a big help, particularly when you’re getting started.
• Target start-ups – start-up businesses are a huge market for freelancers, as they’re often in need of specialist expertise, but without the budget to hire a consultancy or make full-time hires. So make sure they’re on your hit list for new business.
• Planning your time – as a freelancer, good time management is crucial, to ensure you have enough work to pay the bills but won’t be overloaded. Remember, the goal is better work-life balance! So take time regularly to map out what you’ve committed to and when, planning your days and weeks accordingly.
• Don’t forget the pipeline – as well as focusing on the day-to-day, planning for the future is crucial, to avoid any unwelcome gaps in productivity – and more importantly, earnings! Even when you’re busy, factor in time to think about what you’ve got planned in the months ahead, taking action to drum up more work. Online platforms like The Work Crowd can be really useful, enabling you to say when you’re next available, helping you line up your next project without lifting a finger.
• The dreaded admin – With no more monthly pay-check, you need to stay on top of who owes you what and invoice your clients promptly. For more complex tax affairs, it’s worth hiring a good accountant – it will save you a lot of hassle in the long-run!
Alice Weightman is Founder and CEO of The Work Crowd, an online platform that connects quality freelancers with exciting projects in PR and marketing.