It’s easy to imagine that when you throw off those employment shackles and go freelance, there will only be two major differences: you (probably) won’t ‘go to work’ every day and people will pay you directly for your work.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the changes are more numerous and profound. You need to think about work in a completely different way when you freelance. There’s a few (potentially harsh) realities you need to prepare for:
You Are Responsible For Your Own Health, Safety and Security.
From ergonomic desks to proper break times, personal safety to data protection, liability to sick days, disability pay to income protection – all things related to the health, safety and security of yourself, your work and your income are down to you.
Consider carefully what insurance you may need in your industry to protect yourself against disgruntled clients and think about what might happen if you couldn’t work for a long time – or at all.
You Need to Be Flexible.
Client expectations, type and frequency of communication, nature of the work, how much input and responsibility you have – all these things tend to change far more from project to project than they do when you’re in a clearly-defined role within a company. You’ll need to take these differences in your stride and adapt to your clients’ needs.
You’re Responsible for Your Own Finances.
You’ll need to keep track of your income and outgoings, file a tax return and ensure you keep money aside to pay any tax and National Insurance bills.
That neat little wage slip -and the security of knowing that whatever you owe HMRC has been paid to them on time – is gone for good.
You Won’t Have a Steady or Guaranteed Income.
Work and clients will come and go – and your income will fluctuate right along with them. You need to have an emergency fund.
Nobody Else Has Your Back.
Without colleagues or a boss, there’s nobody to collaborate with, nobody to ask for help and nobody to shift blame on to. There are supportive communities out there for freelancers, but you have to find them.
The work isn’t just THERE.
You need to find it – again and again and again. Attracting clients and securing work can often be difficult and time-consuming. Sometimes you’ll be spending time trying to secure next month’s work when you should be working on this month’s.
The Only Person Who Can Make You Work Hard and Hit Deadlines Is You.
With nobody to insist you turn up for work on time or ask where your work is, it’s up to you to motivate yourself, focus on your work, avoid distractions and get work done on time (and to a high standard). This can be more of a challenge than you may expect.