Going freelance and where you should start

So remote work is booming and the wild idea to go freelance popped into your head. You want to make the leap but have no idea where to start…

Profile image of Bryn Taylor

Jan 11, 2022

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5

 min read

Going freelance and where you should start

Don’t skimp on the research

Think about what you want to achieve by going freelance.

What are your goals? Is flexibility the numero uno? Are you trying to earn some more dollar? Or are you just sick-to-death of your commute?

Next, you need to find out if there’s a need for your skills. Is there freelance work out there for you? Look across job boards — what type of freelance work tends to get posted? Already know people freelancing in your industry? Then that's a good sign there’s work.

It’s going to vary across disciplines — but one thing's for sure. There is a ton of digital product design work out there. Like a lot. Plus most companies are set up to work remotely now which widens your opportunities.

Think low-commitment first

Avoid getting in too deep before you’ve figured out if freelancing is right for you. Don’t make decisions that send you down a fixed path early on. Reversible decisions are key.

At face value, it’s a big jump to make. You’re going from stability and a regular paycheck into the complete unknown. You don’t know how you’ll get work. You don’t know what you’ll work on. You don’t know when you’ll get paid.

Avoid getting in too deep before you’ve figured out if freelancing is right for you

You don’t know if you + freelancing = a match.

Minimise the risk where you can

There are many ways you can soften the jump and reduce the risk. You don’t want to be left in a sticky situation if you hate freelancing.

It doesn’t have to be a decision for the rest of your life. It gets much easier to make the jump when you come to terms with this. If it doesn’t work out? No worries, nothing lost. Backup plan: you get another permanent job.

Dip one toe into freelancing

How could you get a feel for freelancing before you leave your job? Could you take on a small freelance job alongside your current work?

Think about your tax setup

Tax setup is a big one and I’m not a good person to give you tax advice. Plus it’s different in every country. But as an example — in the UK there are three main options. You can be a sole trader, set up a limited company, or use an umbrella company.

Being a sole trader or using an umbrella company are lower-commitment options. Starting a limited company is a more formal and admin-heavy process.

Each option has its pros and cons. As a sole trader, you’ll need to file a yearly tax return. And through an umbrella company, you’ll pay a fee (around 6% of earnings). You could say it’s a small fee for the headaches it removes. Think about what makes the most sense in your scenario.

You need a deadline to work to

Without setting a date that you will start freelancing from — it’s way too easy to put off. Set a date in stone and work towards it.

As soon as you start speaking to people about jobs, they will ask when you’re available. So best to get ahead. And saying you don’t know when you’re available isn’t a great look.

Set a date in stone and work towards it

It could be a few weeks or a few months in the future. Think about what vital things need to be in place before you start. Then work backwards from that.

I gave myself 2 months. Which gave me a good bit of time off, and enough time to feel prepared for going freelance.

Start the conversation early

The best way to learn about freelancing is by speaking to people more experienced than you. This is all building your understanding of the market, what work is out there, and how freelancing works.

Three groups of people you should speak to.

Speak to recruiters

Great to understand typical day rates and how much work there is. If they don’t deal with freelancers themselves — they’ll be about to point you in the right direction.

Speak to other freelancers you know

Use your network. Ideally freelancers in your field. But still worth speaking to people in other fields. There will still be lots of overlap.

Luckily for me, my pals Simon and Zander went freelance months before me — so it was great to tap into their brains. Make use of Slack communities and your social media networks.

Speak to hiring managers

Reach out to people that work with freelancers. Informal coffee chats with hiring managers to get a gauge on what they look for.

Prep your portfolio

Yawn. I know. The worst part.

At this point, you understand the market you’re going into. And where you fit.

My advice here is to keep it really simple. It doesn't need to turn into a huge project. My platform of choice is Webflow. I love the fine-tuned control and flexibility it gives me. But you should use what tool works for you.

Right now, done is better than perfect.

Get out there and spread the word

You’ve gotta let people know you’re looking for work. Make it known. Get visible.

For me — updating my portfolio was a great way to kick this off. Thinking through how you want to frame yourself is a valuable process. And having something to share across social can be a good route to leads.