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Realities of Freelancing – The Ups and the Downs!

By Daniel Fallows, Managing Director at Gorilla Accounting, 

Many people dream of becoming a freelancer and many succeed. But the path to success can be challenging at times, so it’s important that you know whether freelancing is right for you before taking the leap. Of course, there are countless benefits to making the change to self-employment, which is why this an increasingly popular option.

In this article, Daniel Fallows, Managing Director at expert contractor accountants, Gorilla Accounting, takes a look at the realities of freelancing – as well as some ‘dos and don’ts’ – that you should be aware of.

Manage your Time Effectively

This is a crucial part of freelancing. Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s crucial that you develop this skill in order to better manage your work and clients as well. Not having a boss means you have to self-motivate too. To stay productive and focused, you need structure and a schedule, so you must push through procrastination to get things done.

Your organisation skills should be on point too. Keeping track of multiple projects is essential, and so is staying on top of industry news, networking and sending out CVs. So, you must find the time to coordinate all the moving parts involved in being your own boss.

But don’t worry – teething problems are normal at the start, but freelancers usually fall into a routine pretty quickly and things become much smoother. Being able to work for yourself is a thrilling prospect that offers a wealth of benefits, so you’ll soon find your rhythm.

Don’t Undersell Yourself

This is especially true for freelancers who are just starting out. Underselling yourself is common in the first few months of going freelance, as you will inevitably want to get some experience under your belt and get your foot in the door at with a few businesses. Whilst it’s important to find the right rate for you over time, it’s essential that you don’t give your services away for pocket change, as you’ll quickly earn a reputation for offering high-levels of service, at a low hourly rate.

When it comes to figuring out your hourly rate,  you should start by working out how much you need for your monthly expenses, such as bills and childcare, and think about how many hours you are going to work. Divide the money by the hours and you’ll reach the number you need to earn to survive. But, if you want to profit, you’ll have to set higher rates. Find out how much your take home pay could be by using our tax calculator.

When you’re your own boss, you can make a lot more money, so work out the industry average and be aware of your skills and experience, as these can help you determine how much to charge.

Stay Motivated

When you’re self-employed, you don’t have the accountability that permanent employment offers. Freelancers can create their own schedule, so you’re not stuck to a 9-to-5 if this more traditional structure doesn’t work for you – however, this flexibility can make it harder to maintain productivity and to stay motivated to hit goals and project targets.

Many people who become self-employed struggle to find that balance, since they are no longer guided by ‘normal’ work hours or by a supervisor telling them what to do, so it’s important to stay self-disciplined.

So, to stay driven, take regular breaks and holidays or re-evaluate the way you work. This is the beauty of self-employment – you can do what you want. If you feel like you need to take a few days off or you just want to work mornings, you can make that decision. Once you find the right schedule for you, it’s easier to stay motivated too.

Get Stuck In!

Freelancers often need to adopt a ‘jack of all trades’ attitude. Alongside your projects, you have other responsibilities, such as ensuring constant communication with clients, managing your social media accounts, finding more work and advertising your services.

There are only so many hours in a day, so you must learn all these new skills while still delivering work to your clients. On top of this, you still have admin tasks to do, including your taxes and accounts.

While it may seem daunting to be in charge of everything, this also means that you have absolute control over your career and day-to-day routines. There is no one telling you what to do or stopping you from doing things your way, so this is a positive point for most freelancers.

You Won’t get Every Job

While being rejected is tough, it’s part and parcel of the working world – whether you are a freelancer or not.

If you’re hesitating to become a freelancer because of fear of rejection, consider that you can just as easily miss out on a job opportunity with traditional employment. You’ll have to interview for a job and, if your potential employers don’t feel like you’re a fit in the company, you’ll be rejected.

Learning to handle rejection is a key skill but it’s something that most people develop over the years, so don’t let this be the reason you don’t pursue your dreams.

Make Hay while the Sun Shines

Another vital part of working for yourself is dealing with job uncertainty. You may be swamped with work one month only to find yourself with little to do the next.

However, there are many ways to handle this uncertainty and to ensure you don’t run out of work. For instance, freelancers shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket; make sure that you have several projects going at once so that you don’t have to worry if you lose one source of revenue.

Also, put some money aside every month to cover you should work dry up for any reason. Every worker, self-employed or in traditional employment, should build up their savings, so this is something you must do regardless.

Another way to deal with uncertainty is by choosing the right type of clients for you. This means saying ‘no’ to some, which can be scary at the start. However, by doing this, you can be confident that you’re able to deliver the work you promised, and your clients are more likely to be satisfied with you and seek your services again.

Maintain a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Many freelancers find it difficult to switch off because they don’t have set schedules, or they feel bad taking a break when there is so much to do. Working too much or nonstop may be sustainable for a while, but that won’t last long. One day, you’ll find yourself tired and stressed, the opposite of what you want when freelancing.

So, to avoid this, make sure that you have the right balance between professional and personal life. Enjoy some downtime, take up a hobby, exercise, spend time with loved ones. All of these things and more are crucial for your wellbeing, so recognise the early signs of burnout in order to prevent exhaustion from setting in. In short, do things that take your mind off work.

Keep in Touch

One thing to consider is that freelancing can be lonely. You don’t have co-workers to chat to through the day, for example, which can become isolating after a while. Many people who are now working from home because of the pandemic have reported mental health challenges due to spending so much time alone – when you become self-employed, it’s important that you find a way to prevent this.

Contacting peers and colleagues is crucial, as is communicating with clients often and, of course, keeping in touch with friends and family. If possible, take your laptop or paperwork to a public space, like a café, and work from there so that you can be surrounded by people.

This may be a little more difficult to do at the moment, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind when things return to normal.

Know When to Say No

Another reality of freelance work is having to deal with clients who want you to lower your fees, who don’t pay on time, who want you to redo the whole project, who can be a little rude, and more. Some freelancers, especially at the start of their career, may feel like this is normal and acceptable, and may not realise they are free to say ‘no’.

This is a huge benefit of being a freelancer. You have control over all aspects of your job, including who you work with. When traditionally employed, you may not have the chance to choose your clients, but that all changes once you’re your own boss.

So, if you’re not happy with a client, you don’t have to work with them. This control is a big part of what draws people to freelancing, since they can set their own rules and have a happier work life.

Have a Separate Workspace

When you’re a freelancer, you can work from anywhere. For this reason, it’s tempting to work from bed or to stay in your pyjamas all day. However, you’ll want to avoid blurring the lines between professional and personal life, as it can take you out of the work mindset. We associated bed with sleep and pyjamas (or lounge wear) with relaxation, which is the opposite of what you want.

Create a designated workspace, be it at home or a small rented space, so that you can get into the right frame of mind.

Gorilla Accounting are expert, technology-led accountants for freelancers and have many years of experience helping self-employed individuals maximise their profits.

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