Top Things You Should and Shouldn’t Do as a Freelancer
Freelancing can be a great experience, especially as it allows individuals to be their own bosses and have the rewarding career they always envisioned. However, there are some dos and don’ts that you need to keep in mind, as that can make all the difference.
Having worked for so many years as contractor accountants, we understand that contracting and freelancing can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be challenging. Below, we’re taking a look at what you should and shouldn’t do during your self-employed career in order to achieve the success you’re after.
Which Things Should You Do as a Freelancer?
Set Realistic Quotes
Always take into consideration how long it will take you to complete a job or project (as a general rule, work takes longer than what we initially expect), as well as the expenses you are likely to incur, and the level of experience required. As a self-employed individual, you have to pay for your own equipment and utilities, so it’s crucial you keep this all in mind before setting prices as a contractor or freelancer.
Contractors’ insurance is one of the most important things you can get as a self-employed individual. It awards you protection in the event of disputes with clients, for instance, which not only take up a lot of your time, but it can also be costly. Taking the risk out of contracting and freelancing may be impossible, but insurance will help you to protect your livelihood if anything happens. In addition, many clients will not sign a contract with you if you don’t have adequate cover in place.
Depending on what you do, you may need professional indemnity insurance, public liability insurance or both.
Part of being a freelancer or contractor is forging stronger working relationships with other professionals, clients and partners. You can do this by building trust, which can be achieved by being organised, being on time, listening to clients, being honest, and dedicating the full attention a project deserves, for example.
Work on Building Your Presence
Be it online or in person, it’s crucial that freelancers attend events that could lead to forging new business relationships, such as meet-ups, launches, trade shows, and more. It’s also vital that you work on your social media presence, which can help you to promote your business.
Offer to Expand on the Project
Have you considered discussing with your client how something could be improved or expanded upon? If you believe there is more work involved that you’d be perfect for, don’t hesitate to talk about it with the customer – as a freelancer or contractor, it doesn’t pay to be shy.
Require a Down Payment
Unfortunately, dealing with late payments is part of being a freelancer or contractor; however, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do until after the project is finished and you find yourself chasing your client for what they owe you. Many freelancers request that, before any work is done, their client makes a down payment on a gig – if they are unable to make this payment due to lack of funds, for instance, then you should reconsider whether working for them is the right choice, since it’s also likely you won’t get paid on time, if at all.
Communicate Clearly and Often
Another thing that freelancers should do is to keep in constant – and clear – contact with their clients. This communication should also be swift and professional and include updates about the project. Your clients will appreciate being kept in the loop and it will also be easier for you to receive feedback on your work. This means that you can make changes as you go along and don’t have to wonder whether the client will be happy with the completed project.
Research Potential Clients
If you’ve never worked with a certain individual or company, you should always do some research on them. Whether asking questions to people they previously worked with, Googling them and their business, or research them on LinkedIn, there are several ways for you to get the information you’re after. This can help you to choose the right clients for you.
Make Sure You Have Time for a Project
You should only take on a project if you have time to work on it. Evaluate your client’s needs and figure out whether you can actually accept the gig considering the time it will take you to complete it. So, if you want the project, make sure you have the availability for it.
Update Your LinkedIn Profile
Make sure that your profile, portfolio and website are always up to date as well. By doing so, potential clients can easily find you and determine if your previous work and your skillset are exactly what they require for their project.
It’s not enough to do a great job once; as a freelancer, you have to do it consistently. This way, it’s more likely that your name will come up in conversation when a potential client asks, ‘Do you know who can do this job?’ You also want to be consistent with your marketing efforts; this means posting frequently on LinkedIn or social media.
Diversify Your Income Sources
Both freelancers and contractors shouldn’t ‘put all eggs in one basket’. Different sources of income can ensure you’re protected in the event of late payments, not being paid at all and even a period of unemployment. While it’s important for you to only take on projects that you can tackle and devote your full attention to, it’s also important to work on several assignments at once so you don’t have to rely on just one income source.
Appoint an Experienced Accountant for Freelancers and Contractors
Another thing you should do is to hire a specialist accountant that works with contractors and freelancers; by doing so, not only are you saving precious time, but you’ll be less stressed too. After all, after working hard all day, the last thing you want is to worry about your tax returns and whether they’ve been filled out properly.
An accountant will also help you to keep as much money as possible. Specialist accountants such as Gorilla know all there is to know about taxes and HMRC rules, so they can help you to ensure you account for every allowance and expense.
Just send us an enquiry if you wish to learn more about how we can help you.
What Should You Avoid Doing as a Freelancer?
Avoid Becoming a Hermit
Working for yourself typically means working by yourself too. While being alone all day can certainly help you to keep focused on the project, since distractions are less common, it can also be harmful. After all, people are social and need the company of others, at least from time to time, and it’s also important for your career that you make connections with other professionals.
Don’t Work for Free
It may seem obvious that freelancers shouldn’t work for free, but the truth is that many end up doing just that in order to impress their clients and keep them coming back for more – however, if that work is free, then it’s crucial to question the value of keeping that client on. Exposure can only get you so far, as it doesn’t guarantee a positive impact on your career or earnings. Exposure is considered a perk, but not payment, so always charge for any work you do.
Never Undersell Yourself
This also means that you don’t want to undersell yourself either. Having the confidence to pursue work and clients is a key feature for anyone who wishes to become a freelancer, and it requires you to value yourself. Don’t forget that you have something to offer, so value your work accordingly and your clients will too.
Don’t Get Distracted
If you’re self-employed, you understand how easy it can be to get distracted by little things or everyday moments. Be it that TV show you’ve been wanting to binge-watch or even some household chores that are piling up, it’s important to compartmentalise and keep focused on the job at hand. The rest will still be there waiting for you when you’re done for the day. Being disciplined is one of the most challenging things for self-employed individuals, but it’s also essential for success.
A great way to become more disciplined if you work at home and seem to get distracted easily is to treat every day like a normal workday: start working at 9am, take a few breaks during the day, including for lunch, and then finish work at 5pm.
Don’t Stop Learning
One of the worst things you can do as a freelancer or contractor is to stagnate. As a self-employed individual, you need to improve your craft and keep learning no matter what. You may think that you don’t have time to develop your skills or learn new ones, but it’s important that you make the time. After all, the market is constantly changing so, by having the right mindset, you are always up to date with these changes.
Stop Yourself From Always Saying ‘Yes’
It can be tempting to accept all gigs, especially when work is scarce or when you’re trying to make a name for yourself in your industry sector. However, it’s also important to be discerning. Some gigs won’t be the right fit for you and your career or you may not want to work with a certain client; take the time to figure out whether or not you should actually accept a project or if it’s best to search elsewhere.
Don’t Work All the Time
Why did you become a freelancer? It’s highly likely that your answer will be along the lines of ‘I wanted to be my own boss’, ‘I want to work my own hours’ or ‘I enjoy the freedom to choose my work’. If this is your case, don’t lose sight of this freelancing perk and enjoy some downtime. Unwind at the end of the day, take as many breaks as you see fit, ‘switch off’ once you finished all of your tasks for the day and don’t feel guilty about going on holiday with your family and friends.
Everyone needs time off work, but it can be difficult for freelancers to do so. When you feel bad about taking time for yourself, just keep in mind that, if you’re exhausted, you won’t be able to do the job to the best of your abilities – it’s better to stop, recharge batteries and return to the project the next day when you’re feeling refreshed.
Don’t Give Up
It can take time to reach your goals and get to where you want to be. For this reason, you shouldn’t give up if you’re still not entirely satisfied with your freelancing career. It’s fine to give yourself deadlines and goals to achieve, but it’s also important not to feel demoralised when things don’t happen exactly the way you envisioned. Only quit if you’re one hundred per cent sure that is what you want to do; otherwise, being persistent and determined can help you to achieve your objectives.
Never Lose track of Your Incomings and Outgoings
Without a dedicated accountant, it can be difficult to stay on top of your earnings and expenses. However, you need to be aware of everything you do as a freelancer or contractor, especially when it’s time to submit your tax returns.
Don’t Do Everything Yourself
As a freelancer or contractor, you already have your hands full. From researching and finding new clients, to juggling different projects and having to promote your business, the last thing you want is to add another thing to your day-to-day. As sole trader accountants, we handle the financial side of your freelancing business, so you don’t have to; no more worrying about whether you’ve filled out your VAT returns properly or whether you’re paying the right amount of tax.
Your full-time job requires your full attention, so don’t do it a disservice by spreading yourself thin.
We provide expert accounting for contractors here at Gorilla. Our many years of experience allows us to offer you the best services possible and our professional team members will be on hand to give you specialist advice whenever you need it. Additionally, we have a contractor tax calculator at your disposal which can help you to figure out your take-home pay.
Just get in touch today and enjoy all the benefits of having a dedicated accountant.