This year, I’ve passed my ninth year in freelancing. Over that time, I’ve heard a lot of myths about going freelance.
Some are comical – “don’t you just watch Jeremy Kyle all day?” (I’d rather poke my eyes out than watch that coffee-breathed anger management-candidate, ta).
Some are understandable – “Isn’t it hard to find new clients?” (yes, it can be, but I love a challenge – and the thought of having to go back into an office and see my productivity half is all the motivation I need”)
Some are just shocking “Do freelancers work for free?”. No. The mortgage company doesn’t suddenly give you a pass on payments because you work for yourself.
So, I thought it was time to bust some myths.
Freelancing doesn’t give job security
Given the amount of redundancies we’ve seen over the last decade, you’d think the old concept of job security would have seen a shake up. Job security in reality is about 30 days for most people – the length of your notice period.
The beauty of freelancing is that you can negotiate your own contract with clients, so you can include a notice period with them (for ongoing contracts, for fixed contracts you can take deposits and regular payments). If you have multiple clients, you’re actually spreading the risk, instead of having all your eggs in one basket.
It takes work to keep your client pipeline topped up (I have a guide for how to do that here), but freelance work can be more flexible, more fun and more lucrative.
Freelancers don’t earn much
More than once, I’ve come across people who believe freelancing is working for free. NOPE. Well, unless you count the times when people are hoodwinked into working for free for ‘exposure’.
In fact, I know quite a few freelancers who now earn more (after tax) than they did in their full time jobs. If you work hard, and you don’t become restricted by the money = time approach, the sky is the limit.
That said, it’s also important to note that not everyone who is a freelancer is motivated by money. In fact, money is often 3rd or 4th on the list, behind passion, flexibility and having control.
Working from home is lonely
Sometimes it is. Sometimes you have a tricky day with a client, and all you want to do is let off steam with a colleague. Sometimes you’ll see photos on Instagram of people out for Friday drinks. Sometimes you’ll engage the postman in a conversation that’s uncomfortably long.
But being freelance doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Firstly, come join the Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group, as quite a few meet-ups are organised (along with the usual daily chit chat). I also spotted someone organising Friday night drinks in London, so you can still have a social life when you’re self-employed! Co-working is another option, where you work alongside others, but on your own business. You can even try Jelly, monthly co-working meetups, if you don’t fancy the commitment of booking a desk. Try organising weekly Skype calls with another freelancer too – I check in with Daire Paddy every Tuesday morning.
I’ll have to deal with lots of finances and accounts!
You will have to deal with your finances and accounts. But it’s not as scary as you think! Each January, you’ll need to complete your Self-Assessment form. A lot of the accounts tools online, like Freeagent, will automatically fill a lot of this in for you.
You’ll need to keep a check of your expenses. most of mine are online, so I keep my receipt emails in a sub-folder and I use Wave which imports my bank transfers so I can match them to my business transactions. Put away 25% of your earnings for your tax and NI, and you should end up with a little left over after you’ve paid your bill. Finally, don’t be scared to ask for help. You may want to hire a bookkeeper or accountant in your first year, and HMRC are actually really happy to help if you call them (as long as it’s not late January).
It’s really complicated to start up
The most common thing I hear from new freelancers is “I don’t know where to start!”. That’s why I’ve put together The Freelance Lifestash. The Freelance Lifestash is packed full of tools, resources, templates and tips to get you started and building your freelance business – including The 30 Day Freelance Lifestyle course, which takes you through the first 30 days of starting your freelance business. The Freelance Lifestash is only £20 a month, with new and exclusive resources added each month – interviews with experts, new templates, tool walkthroughs to make your freelance life easier.