How to Go Freelance: 20 Tips to Help You Take The Leap


Is one of your 2020 aims to become your own boss? Or maybe you read our Why Going Freelance In 2020 Makes Total Sense post and wanted to find out more about becoming a freelancer?

Whatever your reasoning, we’re here to tell you how to go freelance with our 20 tips to implement in 2020. Read on to learn how you can start your business and achieve your objectives this year.

Person holding a pen and writing in an open notepad

#1. Always start by setting your goals

Setting yourself a professional goal should be the first step on your freelance journey. Think about what you want to achieve on your freelance path, and what you want it to do for you.

  • Are you looking to transition from full-time employment to becoming a freelancer?
  • Do you want to move into a whole new profession?
  • Are you looking to earn extra income on top of your day job?

Pick something that helps you get towards your ultimate goal. It should be clear and measurable so you can track your progress against it.

#2. Define your service

What do you want to sell? 

What skills do you have? 

What are your strengths? 

Is there a demand for what you offer?

These are all things that need to be considered when you choose your service. This choice is going to dictate what industry you’re going to be entering, and the type of clients you’ll be seeking out.

With that in mind, find your niche and start to plan how you’re going to stand out against your competitors. 

#3. Make sure you have a financial buffer

One of the biggest changes of going from a full-time role to freelance is your pay. In a full-time position, you’re guaranteed a regular work schedule and reliable income. 

The life of a freelancer, especially in the early days, won’t be consistent. You might have some slow days before picking up a large job that’ll tide you over for a few weeks. 

It’s essential to have money saved up to cover yourself until work begins to pick up again.

#4. Don’t let your branding stress you out

Don’t panic. While you’ll need to give your business an identity, it doesn’t need to be overly complex. Just something that will differentiate you from your competition.

The essentials? Name. Logo. Business cards. Letterheads. A brand promise or vision.

You don’t have to do it all on your own. Get feedback from your family and friends, enlist help from contacts or hire a freelancer to cover any things that you might struggle to do (e.g. creating a logo).

It might seem odd to work on your branding before you’ve worked out the more technical aspects, but you’ll need a logo to set up a business account, so we’d recommend getting your brand built pretty early on.

#5. Consider opening a business account

Now that you’re your own boss and running your own business, it’s best to set up a business bank account separate from your personal accounts. This is to keep all your invoices and payments in order, not to mention keeping things clear and easy when it comes to the dreaded end of tax year.

#6. Don’t expect the government to know you’re going freelance

You might know that you’re self-employed, but that doesn’t mean the government will. Register as self-employed with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and don’t forget to register as either a sole trader or a limited company.. 

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#7. Get the right equipment that you need, not that you want

You may need to dip into your financial buffer to buy the necessary tools for the service that you’re providing. 

If it’s something that you already do, you’ll probably already have the equipment you need. If you need to purchase some hardware, make sure it’s absolutely essential to your work. Do your research into securing the most appropriate and quality equipment, as it should last you for years to come and can save your repair costs further down the line.

Always keep any invoices and receipts for your business expenses, as you’ll be able to claim back tax from these things now that you’re self-employed.

#8. Download the right software 

For those of you looking to go into a creative career – designers, developers, videographers, etc – you’ll need to download the relevant software to help you produce your work.

Like you did if you invested in new equipment, carefully consider what you really need and what you can do without. Start out with the essentials and you can always add to your collection later.

There are also plenty of other tools out there that can help you with time management, admin and project management. Check out our list of the 8 best pieces of productivity software here.

#9. Don’t overcomplicate your website

It’s essential to have a space where your prospective clients can view your work, discover your services and contact you from. This is where your website comes in.

A beautifully-designed but comprehensive site that’s easy to navigate is what you should be aiming for. Here, you can develop brand colours in line with your logo, show off your brand culture and showcase your business’ goals.

Take a look at other freelancers’ websites to get a feel for what information you’ll need and how they present it. 

Keeping a blog can also really boost your online presence and build up your authority. It can position you as an expert and prove to potential clients that you really know your craft too.

#10. Show off your best work in a portfolio

One thing we’d definitely suggest you include on your blog is a portfolio. It’s a chance to show off your skills and feature case studies of past work that you’ve done. 

Using lots of visual and impactful content is the best way to illustrate exactly what you can do. Before and after examples are really effective too, especially when accompanied by a brief description of how you achieved the end result. And statistics (if applicable) can highlight how successful your work was. 

Displaying work that you’ve done for any well-known or reputable clients is absolutely the type of content you want in your portfolio. 

#11. Be smart about your prices

When it comes to setting a price for your hard work, it can be easy to simply pull a figure out of the air. Really, you need to consider how much you need to cover your expenses. Your level of experience will also inform your rates.

Depending on the type of work you do, it’ll make sense to charge by the hour or day, or by project.

Cost based on a time scale can cause clients to cut corners in order to save money, whereas scoping out the time and resources needed to complete a job and putting a set fee on that will avoid these issues.

#12. Create a contract template

You won’t have to go far to find some client horror stories (late payment, under payment, no payment, etc), so we highly recommend you get confirmation of any job you take on in writing. 

Create a detailed contract template that clearly outlines your cost and rates, project details, deliverables, schedule, payment and any other terms and conditions. 

It’ll give you and the client a clear understanding of what you’ll be producing for them.

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#13. Decide where you’re going to work

The beauty of freelancing is the freedom to be able to work wherever you want, but the two most popular options are working from home, or renting an office space.

Working from home gives you the flexibility to manage any home responsibilities you might have. You’ll be working in the comfort of your own space and won’t have any commuting expenses, though you may see your household bills increase.

Renting office space, or hotdesking, gives you access to special facilities that could really benefit your business. And you’ll likely be working around like-minded individuals. The downside is that continuously renting out space can be expensive for anyone starting out in the world of freelance. A good compromise is to rent out space on a non-permanent basis, for example, for client meetings and big projects. 

#14. Identify your target clients

As prepared as you are, you won’t get any work without clients. It can be daunting when you’re looking for your first few jobs, but persistence is key. 

To help, look into the type of clients you’d like to work with and do your research into who currently works for them and the type of content that they create. Pitch a job to them showing off your skills and what you can bring to their business.

Over time, you’ll get a good sense of your preferred client, and can be more selective about the work that you take on. Working on jobs that suit you can help to better your skill set and improve the quality of your content.

#15. Market yourself

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get your name out there, but marketing yourself online is also a must.

Set up social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other sites you think will help you to connect with potential clients. Actively posting examples of your work and engaging with businesses will help you to build up a strong online profile.

Social media is also a good way to prospect a potential client. More and more companies are posting job adverts online as they know it’s a great way of connecting with freelancers and employees.

Always include your professional email address or number in your social bio so that businesses can easily contact you.

#16. Network, network, network

Networking is also another way of putting yourself in front of the right people. It also allows you to hand out your shiny, new business cards.

Attend as many relevant industry events as you can. You might learn something new, and you’ll be able to introduce your work to businesses in person.  

We recommend adding your new connections on your social channels to widen your pool of contacts.

#17. Ask for testimonials

Once you start to build up your portfolio of work, always ask your client for a testimonial if the project was a success. 

References from clients are rare and can be difficult to obtain, but once you have it, it’s invaluable. Positive testimonials build trust and assurance that can really help to bring on new clients.

Think about how many times you’ve read a review of something before you’ve bought it. The same principle applies to your business.

#18. Be your own bookkeeper

Unfortunately, when you go freelance, you’re also picking up the responsibilities of accountant, admin and marketer to name a few.

While it’s definitely beneficial to hire your own accountant, you may not have the funds to initially. Being your own bookkeeper means keeping track of all your invoices and payments, and filing these correctly.

There’s plenty of software online that can help you to balance your books and monitor your income and outgoings.

#19. Don’t give up

As a freelancer, the highs of working where you want and when you want unfortunately come with lows too. 

When you become self-employed, perseverance is crucial. You won’t be able to rely on others to get your through tough spots, so don’t despair and use any free time to better your business. Hone your craft, create some content, do some client research.

#20. Enjoy yourself

No matter how difficult things get, always bear in mind the reason why you wanted to go freelance in the first place. Keep reflecting on your goals and how you’re going to get there. 

Being a freelancer can be hugely rewarding, so make sure you savor all of your wins, no matter how small they are.

For more about going freelance, you can read David Nuff’s inspiring success story on the Toptal blog.

Are you a freelancer looking for a space to boost your productivity? Use.Space is a dynamic co-working office with different spaces that are perfect for start-ups to mature businesses.  Find out about our memberships here

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