20Jul

Become a freelancer

What to do to become a freelancer? Is it lots of paperwork to do? How to find work? Many questions people asked me and keep asking now and then. This article is an intro about how to become a freelancer from my experience.

I like sharing and talking about freelance business tips.

To set up the context, I am a freelance web developer, owner of a limited company. I do short contracts (a few days to a few months) in creative companies in London.

Why going freelancing?

When people hear “freelancer”, they think: own boss, money, free, work when you want, can take holidays anytime you want.
The reality is a bit different. Yes you are your own boss. That means no one is employing you unless you find clients. You can work when you want or rather when you have work. You can take as much holiday as you want, but a day off is a non paid day, so non paid holidays.
Holidays can also make you loose contract opportunities. When an agency hire you for a project, that means need you for the full time on this project.
The money is good but that’s because you have no job security. In most of my contracts the notice period is only one day. I had the surprise once to receive an email saying “Tomorrow will be your last day”.

On the plus side, everyday is a new challenge! You learn so much more than when in a permanent role. You meet lots of people, you can work with amazing agencies, and you can take time off when you want ;)

Is freelancing for you?

I heard some people saying “I will become a freelance too”, and for some of them I heard myself thinking “not sure if you can do it”. You need to be a social person, happy to meet te meet people. Your client is the company, the client of your client, also the recruiters you work with.
You need to bring some fresh energy to your new team, drag people up. Every day is like a first day at school mixed with a day of exam, it can be very tiring.
People expect you to be the expert and that’s why they hire you and pay you for.

Becoming a freelancer

How long do you see yourself doing it? Is it to find your ideal agency? Or to aim to employ people at some point?

Short term < 2 years

Umbrella companies are good for short-term, they will manage all your papers and take a part (lots) of your income in exchange. It’s good for short-term as you can just stop it at anytime.

Long term

Open a limited company. Choose a good name for your company. It has to be something quite generic as you never know how your business will evolve, maybe you will employ people, your skills might change and you will provide new services.

You don’t need much to open a company. There are packages online who will deliver all your business certificate for a small price (from £40) and you are “ready to go”. But in my opinion you better pay an accountant to know what you are doing and manage all your taxes safely. I first bought books and even follow an online training to know about my accountancy and after all I decided paying someone is worth. My accountant created my company without extra fees, they got a software to manage bookkeeping, contracts, invoices, they tell when how much and when to pay what, easy.

Do some reading

Those websites contains lots of nice articles
http://www.contractorcalculator.co.uk/Limited_Companies.aspx
http://www.contractoruk.com/contracts/

Get a killer CV and portfolio

I have been in the situation to look as some follow developer to hire for a company I worked for. Some had a great experience but a not so great portfolio so I ended up not to pick them on the list of people to interview. I am the first one with my portfolio not up-to-date but it’s a key thing, that’s the first place where people should end up when they write your name in google and their first impression of who you are and your work.

No need to say that a clear clean CV is primordial.

Also think about being active on the web, Twitter, LinkedIn, Behance, etc…

Define your day rate

First you need to know what your job title is. You can’t do everything.

Have a look at this benchmark for London price to give you an idea.

How yo find contracts

Networking

Going to networking event and conference, workshop to get contacts. Website like meetup.com are a great way to find them.

Online

There is a good number of platforms with job offers online. Make a list of the best one an apply.
To be honest, I don’t think I ever got a contract from applying online to an offer. For me it has been more a way to find recruiters (most of those offers are from recruitment agencies). It’s a bit like when you look for a property, the property you see is probably already gone, the estate agents will be in touch with you with other properties available.

Avoid to upload your CV online as you might end up spending your time on the phone with silly people who only use keywords to research profile and will send you irrelevant offers. Moreover, most of the time they just want to fill their database and you will never work with them.

I discovered a platform called Yunojuno.com where agency post job offers directly. No recruiters in between. It definitely worth a look, I haven’t got a contract from here yet (availability reasons) but I have been shortlisted a few times in the past for project offers.

If you want an invite to join YunoJuno.com, feel the form below:

Recruiters

They work with good companies, it’s the chance to work with the best agencies when you don’t have contacts or network. A few are good and the rest are terrible. You just need to find the good one you will work with.

Get the most of your business

Once you started, you should take the advantages of having your limited company. You can claim company expenses and be tax efficient in lots of ways. Have a look at this article

Hope this article help.

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