What they don’t tell you about life as a freelancer

When we first say to friends and colleagues that we plan to go freelance, we’re often met with a barrage of scare stories, tales of things that could go wrong, and negative forecasts about how difficult and stressful it’s going to be. But surely it can’t all be bad? There seem to be quite a few freelancers out there and some of them must be doing ok, making a living and enjoying their new found freedom. There must be some secrets to success that you only know if you’re in the know. Here are a few nuggets that don’t get talked about as often…

Doing your tax return is really quite easy

One of the biggest worries – and something that no doubt puts some people off going freelance altogether – is being in charge of your own tax affairs and filing your own tax return each year. Frankly it all sounds like too much trouble, especially if you haven’t really got a head for figures. Well, here’s a thing they never tell you – it’s actually quite a doddle. Ok, it’s never gonna be your favourite pastime, but with simple apps like Quickbooks and Xero to help you keep on top of things, it really needn’t be the scariest thing in the world either.

Business headshots for LinkedIn

Photo credit: Nicole for Hey Tuesday, London

Lots of help is available

When you first start life as a freelance professional, you feel like you’re on your own – it’s you against the big bad world and you’ve got to fend for yourself now with no company behind you or boss to fight your corner. Well, if you dig around you’ll find it’s actually not like that at all. They never tell you that there’s actually quite a lot of help and support out there for people just like you. For example check out  Eagle Labs for coworking, development and support, Virgin Startup for loans and Mentorsme to find a business mentor.

Small actions can be big winners

What if you have no savings to help you get started? That means you won’t be able to invest in things like marketing, new equipment, stationery and office supplies to get you going. Well here’s a thing – many small businesses and freelancers start out with next to no budget at all. The key is to maximise your use of the small things and to do them really well – for example LinkedIn and networking. It only takes one carefully timed and well thought out approach on LinkedIn and you’ve got your first meeting with a prospective client in the diary. And there are loads of free or low cost business networking events out there – check out Meetup and Eventbrite.

Business headshots for LinkedIn

Photo credit: Nicole for Hey Tuesday, London

Work-life balance is king

A widely held perception is that if you go freelance you won’t be as well off. You’ll give up your nice salary package, paid holidays, work pension and other perks and you’ll end up scraping a living and never taking any holidays. Well, the truth is that the modern workplace is in a state of flux. Flexible working and many of the perks associated with being self-employed are now at the top of most employees’ list of demands. Employers are finding that work-life balance is equally as important as financial reward when attracting staff. So by going freelance you’ll actually be going with the trend in modern working. Forget the security of the 9-5, your flexible way of life will actually be what most people aspire to.

Motivation is easier than you think

Another typical worry when you start out as a freelancer is that once you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, you’ll return to your student ways and spend all day watching Homes Under the Hammer whilst eating Fruit Loops in your pyjamas. You’ll get to the end of the month and realise you haven’t earned any money. Well actually, you’ll find that far from struggling with motivation, it’ll be easy when you enjoy what you’re doing and are master of your own destiny. There’s no greater motivator than a successful project that you did all by yourself, from scratch.  

Wise words by Lauren and cool photos by Nicole.