Going it Alone: Planning for a New Freelance Career

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There are many reasons why a person decides to give up working for others and instead chooses to embark on a career as a self-employed freelancer or contractor. It might be that they have become disenchanted with the job they are doing; perhaps the hours they are obliged to work no longer fit in with their lifestyle, or they may have reached the point where what was previously a hobby has evolved into a potential money earner. More individuals than ever are taking the plunge by turning their backs on mundane 9 to 5 jobs and embarking on an exciting, potentially profitable and life-changing new career.

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Before doing anything too drastic, there are several questions that should be asked and some useful pieces of advice to consider. It may seem obvious, but what work is it exactly that’s planned, and will it at least pay the household bills? It is important to be as certain as possible that an income will be generated that is capable of matching the present level of salary, maybe not immediately, but certainly within a couple of years.

Before setting up a new venture it is necessary to pause long enough to decide whether administrative tasks such as dealing with self-employment PAYE (tax withholding), billing to customers and cash flow control will be carried out, or whether an umbrella company will be employed to do it. Administration can be time-consuming, taking an individual away from their prime purpose, which is to grow their business. What’s more, by outsourcing these tasks they can be sure all IRS tax returns, payments and accounts will be completed correctly and on time.

Here are just a few of the most popular and in-demand freelancing careers:

  • Writing and editing – proofreading existing documents, articles and books, writing technical documents and manuals and articles for websites/blogs.
  • Web development – providing applications development and technical support; producing and testing software, and implementing new and existing IT systems.
  • Social media – publishing and managing content for blogs and media platforms and writing content for social media sites.
  • Accounting – reconciliation of bank and general accounts, financial reporting, tax returns, bookkeeping and assisting with year-end audits.
  • Graphic design – creating and developing brand strategies and designing websites, games and applications.

Of course, there are many other options, including teaching and arts related careers such as painting and photography.

There may be some confusion regarding the difference between a freelancer and a contractor. In most cases a contractor works exclusively for an employer for a predetermined period of time. A freelancer, on the other hand, frequently works for several clients simultaneously. In addition, a contractor is paid via their employer, rather than the client; freelancers are paid directly.

Though an individual will be eager to start selling, they should not make the mistake of undervaluing themselves; they should not promise delivery dates they cannot meet, and they should always agree a price in writing and ensure the customer signs the contract. They should take the time to network by attending local business forums and seminars, and use social networking sites to sell their business.

Finally, if the going gets tough, as it is almost sure to from time to time, they shouldn’t forget why they took the self-employment route.

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