January 21, 2021

Tips for starting out as a freelancer

Written by Martin Baxter

Is it “new year, new career” for you? Perhaps your job has been put at risk by the pandemic, or maybe you’re just craving the independence, excitement and freedom of freelance life. Whatever the reasons that led you here, welcome to the club! Freelance life is exhilarating, varied, exhausting and sometimes just a little bit scary, especially when you’re first starting out. And although you might be going your own way, you’re not alone – you’re joining almost 2.2 million other people in the UK, contributing £162billion to the economy each year. This blog offers up our top tips for people who are new to the freelancing family.

Network and spread the word

You’re freelance now – congratulations! It’s a big step and one that you should celebrate. Let people know the news of your new venture on social media and start to build up a base of contacts in your industry or area of specialism. Reach out to people that you have worked with in previous jobs and let them know you’ve gone freelance and are available for hire; they already know the quality of your work, so you’ll be an obvious choice next time they have a project that they need to outsource. LinkedIn and email approaches are a good way to do this, and have led lots of our freelancers into regular work.

In-person networking events like local biz groups and trade conferences are obviously on the back burner for now, but many of these have moved online, so do some research and sign up for some events that will put you in contact with potential clients. Industry and interest groups on social media can also be a good way to meet like-minded clients and collaborators. Networking is hard in an era of social distancing, but luckily social media means there are ways to get creative about getting the word out about what you have to offer.

Find your first clients

If you’re struggling to find clients, online freelancing platforms can be a good stop gap. Freelancer marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, and People Per Hour offer huge numbers of clients and jobs in virtually every area and specialism. Jobs advertised on these platforms can be low-paid, so it’s not necessarily a long-term solution, but it can be useful to build up a portfolio of work and a client base if you are starting completely from scratch. If you do use these platforms, try to avoid working for less than minimum wage, and focus your efforts on gigs that might lead to longer-term client relationships or those that will expand your CV and impress in your portfolio.

Make sure you have a contract ready to go

A freelancing contract is where you lay out the terms and conditions that determine the working relationship between you and the client. It’s a good idea to have a template contract drawn up where you can edit the specific details to tailor it to each assignment. You can find examples online, though it’s always a good idea to seek legal advice and get your contract checked over by an expert before sending anything out to clients. Contracts should include details like a

description of the work you’ll be doing, timescale for completion including any deadlines, and details of your fees and how they should be paid. Have a contract ready then you’ll be able to accept work quickly without delay – clients love a quick “yes”.

Get insured

You’re not ready to start off on that first project until you’re backed by proper business insurance. Many freelancers don’t realise that producing work for other people comes with significant professional and financial risk if you’re not covered. When you’re an employee, your company shoulders the legal responsibility, and has business insurance to cover the things that can go wrong. As a freelancer, you’re out on your own. There are different types of business insurance to cover different risks:

● Professional indemnity insurance: covers you if you make a mistake in your work that causes the client harm – e.g. if you infringe copyright law by using someone else’s photograph in a website you design.

● Public liability insurance: covers you if someone else is harmed or their property is damaged in the course of your work – e.g. if you are working in a cafe and someone trips over your laptop cable.

● Business equipment insurance: covers loss of or damage to your work laptop, phone or other business equipment like cameras or musical instruments.

Claims from incidents like these can run into thousands or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, not money that freelancers are likely to have lying around. Investing in business insurance takes away this financial risk, and provides assurance to you and the client, making you a risk-free hire. Dinghy insurance is tailored specifically to freelancers.

With Dinghy you can pause your cover when you’re not working – very useful when you’re just starting out and you might have gaps between clients. Every Dinghy policy also includes Freelancer Assist which will help you chase unpaid invoices, guide you through tax investigations and provide legal advice on our helpline, so you’ll be supported every step of the way on your journey into freelancing. You can get a quick quote on our website, and then that’s your very first bit of freelancer admin ticked off the list. Good luck, newbie – you got this!

About Martin Baxter

Read more blog posts by Martin Baxter


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