is it time to switch to a freelance career?

National Careers Week: How to Make the Switch to a Freelance Career

National Careers Week (NCW) in the UK is held every year to support young people with positive career choices. As a non-profit organisation, NCW promotes the importance of career education in schools and colleges across the country.

At PeoplePerHour, we think that young people deserve all the support they can get to make a good career choices from an early age. But, not all young people — or those in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond — are cut from the same cloth. Some are born for a freelance career and to take charge of their own destiny.

If you have an entrepreneurial heart, then it’s likely that you’re not satisfied working in your corporate job as a slave to your desk between the hours of nine and five. And, you may have even been thinking for months, or even years, about trading in all in and becoming a freelancer.

National Careers Week is the perfect time to consider your options. So to help you out, here are some of the things you need to think about before you ditch your 9-5 for the freelance life.

For a successful freelance career, recognise your top skills

Perhaps you’re an accountant, or a graphic designer. Or, maybe you’re an engineer, a coder or an architect who wants to break free from corporate life and go it alone. One of the first steps to becoming a freelancer is recognising the freelance skills you have and how you can market these skills to make money.

How to recognise your freelance skills:

  • When people come to me for advice, what do they typically ask?
  • What are the top three things I always do at work — what am I best at?
  • What do I enjoy doing and wish I could do more of?
  • Would I pay someone to do this [my skill] for me?

What to charge as a freelancer

Every freelancer needs to be sure they can support themselves financially before they make the leap. And, part of that is knowing what to charge. This is probably the number one question asked by every freelancer who has ever existed — even the seasoned freelancers who are already successful.

Everyone doubts their own rates: am I charging enough? Am I worth my own freelance rate? Should I lower my prices to get customers through the door? These are very common questions amongst new freelancers.

  1. You need to be honest with yourself about your skill. For example, you’re considering setting yourself up as a freelance graphic designer and you’ve had less than 12 months design experience. Or, you‘ve never designed for a commercial client before. If this is the case, then you’ll need to consider what a client might be willing to pay you against someone else with 20 years of experience and a huge portfolio.
  2. Do your research. Find out what other, more experienced freelancers are charging in your niche. A quick search of freelancers with similar skills on PeoplePerHour will give you a good indication.
  3. Don’t forget that as a freelancer you will have no sick pay or holiday pay from your employer. Plus, you will need to pay your own tax and national insurance contributions (if you’re in the UK), and all of your own expenses. And, there is a big difference between working hours and billable hours, so you will need to account for all of these things.

Is it the right time to start your freelance career?

Your hourly rates and affordability are major questions to ask yourself when you’re considering leaving your job and becoming a freelancer. But there are other considerations, too. Things like:

  • Do my family need me right now? Becoming a freelancer, especially in the early days means that you’re likely to be working more hours, not less, to establish yourself in your niche. Can your family cope with that change?
  • Is your job becoming untenable? Sometimes, the choice is actually taken away from you. If you truly hate your job to the point where it is affecting your mental or physical health, or you are facing imminent redundancy, perhaps it’s time to step things up a notch.
  • Do I have enough cash in the bank to build my business? If you have some savings, or you have someone who can support you for a while, then you may be in a better position to consider becoming a freelancer. Typically, you may need around six months money coming in while you step out on your own and start attracting a good, regular client base.
  • Are you due a bonus at work? If it’s annual bonus time at work, or you’re due some hefty commissions, it might be wise to get these into your bank account before ditching your job.

An online portfolio is essential for your freelance career

Before starting your freelance career, one of the things you’ll need to think about is building your online portfolio. It’s unlikely that clients will hire you without proof that you can do the work.

There are many websites that can help you to do this (hello, Google!) and, when you register with PeoplePerHour, you’ll be offered the chance to upload some of your best work and show it off to prospective buyers.

Do you have the right support network in place?

Being a freelancer can be lonely. Unlike working an employed job, rarely are there colleagues to bounce around ideas, and the buck really does stop with you! Most freelancers need a good support network — this could mean networking with others in a similar boat or even joining in on online discussions.

There’s also professional support to think about — help with your accounts, tax and IT. Before making the leap from the corporate office to your home office, make sure you know where to go to find help.

There is no doubt that becoming a freelancer and ditching the 9-5 is perhaps one of the best career moves you can make. And, with the right planning and support in place, you could go on to be more financially and emotionally secure in your new freelance life than you would have ever been in your employed job. But, it really is worth considering everything before making the leap to make sure it’s the right career decision for you.

Leave a comment and let us know how you made the transition to freelance career.

Libby is a seasoned freelance writer with a background in HR and careers advice. She manages the day-to-day social media and blog content for PeoplePerHour. When she’s not working, you can almost always find her spending as much time as possible with her two rescue dogs.
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