Going self employed is something many of us dream about. The idea of setting your own hours, being your own boss, and generally having much more flexibility about where you work, what work you do, and when you do it.
While being a digital nomad might not be the exact career move you're after, taking the plunge into freelancing and learning how to be self-employed might be - which is where Sarah Hughes, a freelance jingle writer on Fiverr who has always been self employed comes in. Here, the freelancing master reveals six questions you should ask yourself before you quit the day job in favour of creating your dream role.
Have you got the right support system in place?
Freelancing can be infamously lonely, not least because you're not contracted to go into an office every day and sit with colleagues. While this might sounds like the dream in theory, in practice it can feel isolating. "Working on your own can get a little lonely, so it’s important to have a support network of people who might have some spare time to hangout with you during the day. Understanding friends and family are also key - your working hours differ from the 9-5 (that’s one of the great things about the role) but sometimes that means you might be working during the evening or on the weekend."
Are you ready to be financially self-sufficient?
When you work for a big company, many of the more complicated financial things are covered. For example, you pay tax before your salary lands in your bank account, and you're automatically signed up to a work pension scheme. When you're self employed, this isn't the case. "As a freelancer, you have to take responsibility for doing your taxes," Sarah explains. "Always try and fill out your tax return in good time and deduct taxes from your own wages as you go. This will allow you to save the correct amount and won’t give you a nasty surprise at the end of the financial year.
"Likewise, you now have to look after your own pension because there isn't a big corporation doing it for you. I'd recommend putting savings aside specifically for your pension each month, as the company would do for you. Being organised is a huge part of both tax returns and pensions, as you’re responsible for finding out what you owe rather than someone deducting it automatically. If you are struggling with understanding the process of tax returns then give HMRC a ring, as they are always willing to help guide you in the right direction."
Do you have any savings?
As well as the lack of financial guidance, going freelance also means waving goodbye to paid sick days and annual leave. While you'll now be able to have as much time off as you'd like - and work from anywhere - you won't be paid for the time you're not working, which could do damage to your bank account. "I think the best advice for people starting out is to save before you jump into the world of self-employment. There will be quiet periods at the start as it takes time to build your income, reputation and of course, get return customers, and if you get ill, as this acts as the sick pay you would get from a regular employer. While there'a no ceiling for how much you can earn in a month working freelance (as long as you’re prepared to put the hours in), it's completely about finding a balance and ensuring you take breaks when you need them, while also making sure a holiday is financially viable."
If you already have enough employers in place that will give you work, great! If you don't, Sarah advises having a brilliant portfolio to show off from the get-go, and being willing to put in extra hard work at the beginning. "As a freelancer, your reputation is everything, so when you start out you may have to do a little more to show off your skillset and build your credibility. There are various ways of creating contacts as a freelancer; the first of these is using social media ads and looking out for requests, or enquiries about services that match your skill set.
"As you begin to hone your skills and build a reputation, the work tends to come to you. The key part of your job then is to choose which opportunities you think have the most potential for you, and to throw your hat in the ring for projects you're keen to work on."
Does your skill set lend itself to being a freelancer?
While working from home is appealing, it's worth taking a proper look at your CV and seeing if it's genuinely a viable career move for you. "The number of digital freelancers is increasing thanks to the emergence of freelance platforms such as Fiverr, that easily facilitate work. Creative industries such as design, music and audio, as well as the programming and tech space are brilliant for offering roles to self employed people.
"But just make sure your industry is! Freelancers can get work as long as there are companies that are willing to take on non-permanent staff and have the means of hosting you digitally."
Are you self-motivated enough?
"Being self employed makes you a business owner, accountant and manager all rolled into one," Sarah says. "You have to take responsibility for meeting your own deadlines and client expectations." This means being constantly on top of your workload, deadlines and emails, as well as chasing invoices and new work. "There will be quiet periods when you're starting out, so it’s important to remember that all businesses have periods of ebbs and flows. Staying committed and dedicated to your work will help you out the other side.
"It takes a lot of self discipline, but the freedom and flexible hours are excellent. "