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‘Going freelance’ is a term that many office workers hear from colleagues and bosses alike. It is a term used interchangeably as an aspiration, a threat and sometimes even a joke – but it remains one of the more alluring ways to orient one’s professional career. The coronavirus pandemic appears to have had a limiting impact on the profile of freelance work in the UK, heralding as it did a shrink in the number of sole traders and self-employed businesses across the country.

But post-pandemic, with cloud collaboration and web communication tools more powerful than ever before, it is perhaps the easiest it has even been to ‘go freelance’ from a logistical perspective. It is also a uniquely rewarding approach to work within a niche or industry, allowing you to build an invaluable and indispensable network all of your own as you continue to develop your practice.

Not only do you more directly affirm your worth in your career of choice, but you also get to keep a much larger slice of the pie after each project – to say nothing of the freedom afforded by choosing your own daily and weekly schedule. However, a freelance career, whatever industry you aim to work in, is a path fraught with potential difficulties, missteps and pitfalls. What do you need to know about freelancing before you take the plunge yourself?

Save, Save, Save

Freelance work is not guaranteed, even if you are a niche worker in uniquely high demand. Industry conditions, or even national conditions, could change at a moment’s notice, and you could quickly find yourself without a key client you counted on. Even at the best of times, invoices can take time to clear – rendering money management vital. Before you go full-time freelance, make sure you have a good emergency buffer in your bank account to keep you liquid in difficult times.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Freelancing is just as much about promotion and networking as it is about providing quality work. Many freelancers work to the 50:50 rule, which stipulates that only 50% of your working time should be spent actively working on client projects or outstanding work. The other 50% of your time should be spent finding new clients.

This might sound like a disproportionate ratio, but that outreach time includes everything from networking and pitching to portfolio work and promotion – the latter of which is most often underutilised by new sole traders. A smart deck of business cards alone can go a long way to improving your networking results, while targeted digital ads can put your business in front of potential clients you wouldn’t otherwise find.

Take Help Outside Your Expertise

Lastly, but perhaps the most importantly of all: the term ‘sole trader’ is not one that should be taken literally. This is especially true for the newer freelancers amongst you. On one level, it can be extremely useful to receive advice and guidance from a more experienced freelancer in your field, who can help you navigate those awkward first years of growth.

On another level, there are some skills that will escape you, particularly as your business grows. Hiring external professionals to handle those skills – whether accounting, tax or even press – can help you refocus your attention where it needs to be.

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