The Top 5 Things to Do First as a Freelancer

5 minute read.

When I accepted voluntary redundancy in July, due to my 3 month notice period, I had some time and some breathing space to really think about what I wanted for my future before actually being made redundant on 1 November.

I am extremely lucky in that I have a very supportive husband who advised me to use that time to take a month off just for myself; to process what had happened, to grieve for a job that I loved and to get some rest and relaxation while I could. Which I did – it was glorious, I baked and watched loads of box sets whilst the kids were at nursery.

However, I knew I couldn’t sit around binging Schitt’s Creek forever, so in September, after deciding I wanted to go freelance, I started to put my plans in action. Here are the Top 5 Things I did First…

What kind of company are you going to be?

I have luck on my side as hubs works in accountancy and finance, so he was able to tell me what my options were, of which there were three:

  1. Sole Trader – you’re self-employed and run your own business as an individual. As a sole trader you keep your post-tax profits but are responsible for any losses your business makes.
  2. Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) – you officially work in partnership with at least one other person/company and you each share responsibility for the business’s expenses and losses. You share the profits once all parties have paid the tax on their share.
  3. Limited Company – if you want to be legally distinct from your company, a limited company keeps your business finances and liabilities separate from your personal finances. You need at least one director/shareholder and there are more rules.

I chose to set up as a Sole Trader and registered as such with HMRC, which was super easy to do. Now that I’m a few months into freelancing, I’ve got myself an accountant (not my husband) and they are currently arguing that I should change to a Limited Company. I’m still deciding, so watch this space!

What services are you going to offer?

For some, the answer to this will be clear. If you’re a specialist then obviously that will be the focus of your business. But what if you have quite a broad skills set? Are you going to be a jack-of-all-trades? Or are you going to focus on a particular area? A fellow freelancer also asked me if I wanted to be the kind of freelancer who ‘helicoptered’ into organisations needing temporary contract support e.g. covering someone’s mat leave. Only you can decide what’s right for you.

Choose what you are going to call yourself and buy your domain

I stuck with my name and added the word ‘consulting’. I did this because I’ve worked in the arts and cultural sector for 18 years and certainly within the Manchester area, I am known by industry colleagues. It was also much simpler than trying to think of a swanky creative name.

I had zero experience in building websites so I asked a chum who is into all things digital, where I should begin. They were incredibly helpful and gave me the run-down on all the service providers – I eventually settled on WordPress – and then they set me off building it. It may be quite a simple site, but I was so proud of myself once it was done.

Register with HMRC

Up until now, I have been employed so have had pretty much zero to do with HMRC directly – the accounts team took care of all that.  But I’m going to say it… tax does not have to be taxing! HMRC are a lovely and helpful bunch, and they had me registered as self-employed in a jiffy. You’ll be filing a tax return once a year so keep a record of everything you earn and what you spend on your business. You can offset some of your business expenses against the tax payable, so keep all your receipts! I decided to splash out on an accountant because time is precious and with two smalls running around at home, I’d rather someone else do my paperwork so I can spend time with my boys. I have however, appointed hubs as my in-house book keeper and, if required, invoice chaser.

Put Yourself Out There

I used to hate networking but it’s absolutely essential as a freelancer. Over the last few years, I have learned to embrace networking and honestly, I’ve had some of the best conversations with people I may not have otherwise met/talked to. These days, due to COVID-19, most networking is done over LinkedIn (the topic of my next blog post) or Zoom/Microsoft Teams/Google Hangout, whichever digital meeting room you’ve been invited to.

Have a presence. Tell people about yourself. Make yourself known. This could be on digital platforms like LinkedIn or it could be simply reaching out to old contacts to let them know you’re now freelance and available for work if they’d ever like a chat. It’s scary I know but you are your own champion. You need to put the time and effort in.

That’s it, my Top 5 Things I did first. I love a Top 5 or a Top 10 for that matter… maybe I’ll do a follow up post.

I’d love to hear from some of you. What are your tips for setting up as a freelancer? Please comment below so I know I’m not talking into the ether. And if any of you have any tips and tricks you’d like to share, I’m sure myself and others would appreciate them.

If you’d like to get in touch, please visit my website

And if you’d like to connect on LinkedIn, you can find me here

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