It’s that time of the year again. No one is quite sure what day it is, we’re all slumped on the sofa in a turkey overload, and we think we’ve watched every single festive film on Netflix. It’s been lovely to take some time away from work and relax. But now, the new year beckons.
Getting back to work after a break can feel a bit grim, especially when it’s January and the weather is bad, the days are short and there’s a new COVID wave to worry about. What might help freelancers settle back in is to think positively about the new year. It’s a chance for a fresh start, new ideas, and regaining some sense of purpose that might have waned as 2021 wore on. With this in mind, we’ve put together the freelancer’s ultimate guide to preparing for 2022. Start as you mean to go on, and 2022 could be your best year in freelancing yet.
Get ready for the self-assessment deadline
If you’re one of those super-organised types who has already filed your self-assessment tax return, then you can skip to the next section. If, like the rest of us, it’s a task you utterly dread and keep putting off, then, we’re sorry, but it is time to face the music. The deadline (as you’re probably all-too aware) is January 31st, and by this date, you need to have filed the return and paid any tax due to HMRC.
Bearing in mind that the HMRC helplines get very busy as the deadline approaches and that you might need to find passwords and data from previous years to fill in the return, we suggest this is a job that you tackle early in January. It’s never going to be the most enjoyable job in the world, but here are a few tips to help you get that return in with minimal stress:
- Before you do anything else, check that you have your ID numbers and passwords to hand and that you can access the system. If you need to request a reset of these they can take up to 10 days to come through.
- Gather all the important information together that you will need to fill in the return before you start. This might include invoices, receipts, bank statements and details of any SEISS or other COVID-related payments you’ve received.
- If in doubt about anything, seek professional advice. An accountant can support you to fill in your return or complete the form on your behalf. Though this will come at a cost, they may also be able to advise on ways you can save yourself money or tax relief that you might be entitled to.
- If you have a Dinghy policy, Freelancer Assist gives you access to a free tax helpline.
- Be kind to yourself – pop on some focus music, pour a hot brew and schedule a big treat for afterwards.
Consider what your aims are for 2022
Guess what? New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be unrealistic promises to go to the gym five times a week or spend less time on Facebook. This year, why not try making some New Year’s Resolutions for your business instead? January is a great time to take stock and assess what your goals are for your freelancing career. Over the past few months, we’ve taken a look at some of the most common strategic freelance aims, and put together some guides to help you achieve them.
Perhaps you want to:
- Grow your work – take on more projects and earn more money, or shift your freelancing from part-time side hustle to full-time job
- Specialise in a particular area, skill or sector – so that you can do more of what you love, focus on the projects you find most interesting, and command a higher fee because of your expertise
- Plan for an early retirement – make the most of the flexibility that freelance life brings and think long-term to achieve an elusive goal of finishing work early
- Gain more clients – expand your network and take on more clients to help your freelance business grow
These are just a few suggestions – what you want out of your freelance business in the long term is up to you, and sitting down to strategise and focus on the long-term is something we don’t often allow ourselves the time to do, always charging from one project to the next. Taking time to focus on the big picture shouldn’t be seen as a luxury – it’s a really good way to help you focus and plan. Enjoy this as a way to kickstart your freelance year.
Review your brand
One thing that is going to underpin everything you do in 2022 is your freelance brand. Your brand is what you put out into the world – how you want clients and potential clients to see you and your work. Branding takes in everything from your invoice template to your website. Stepping back to review what messages your communications and platforms are giving out can be a worthwhile exercise. If your business was a person, what attributes or qualities would they have? Now, how can you get this across in your marketing? Take a look at our blog on how to brand yourself as a freelancer.
Review your rates
Inflation continues to increase, SEISS payments have stopped and energy bills are sky high – if you haven’t reviewed your freelance rate in a while, now may be the time. Take a look at our blog for some ideas on how to review your rates fairly and make sure that you’re offering good value for clients without short-changing yourself and your expertise. Then comes the trickier bit – letting your clients know. Luckily, we’ve got a guide for that too! Remember that good clients will understand increases, particularly if you explain your underlying reasons, give them plenty of notice, and point out all the new skills and experience you’ve gained since you first started working for them.
Get your insurance sorted
January can be a stressful time as work accelerates again after the Christmas lull, and it’s hard to look after our mental health. One thing that you can do to alleviate some of the worry is to make sure that your freelance business is properly protected as you head into the new year. Dinghy offers all of the different types of business insurance that a freelancer might need, on a pay-monthly, flexible basis with no hidden fees or admin charges. Whether you want to protect your work and reputation with Professional Indemnity Insurance, make sure you’re taking care of others with Public Liability Insurance or insure your precious work gadgets with Business Equipment cover, we can take care of you and your freelance business so you’re not heading into 2022 alone. Visit our website for a quote – it’ll take just 30 seconds of this brand new year.