How to become a freelancer

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, there are many considerations and steps to take before getting started. These range from deciding on your company type to how you’re going to attract and win work. We’ve listed some ideas to help get you in the right mindset and take your first steps, as well as some helpful tools and tips you can utilise once you’re up and running.

Define your skills and expertise

The first step is deciding what you want to offer as a freelancer. It may be helpful to write down a list of skills, experience and any relevant education or qualifications you hold. Having this down as a reference may help you to identify the type of projects, work and clients you want to work with.

Determine your target market

After you have an idea about the type of work you want to offer, you’ll need to scope out the type of individuals or businesses that would pay for you to provide related services. You may be able to target entire industries, specific companies, or a group of people based on related demographics. Understanding your market will help you focus your marketing efforts in areas that are more likely to produce results.

Decide your business type

As a freelancer, you can operate as a sole trader or register your business publicly. It’s up to you which you choose, and there are pros and cons to each. We’ve created some guides on some of the options below that you can use to learn more:

  1. How to set up as a sole trader
  2. How to set up as a limited company

Build a marketable portfolio

Having references to previous work or your skills is essential for anyone who wants to become a freelancer. If you do not have examples of past work, consider taking the time to create dummy examples of what you can offer. Your portfolio will help to back up marketing efforts as they act as a demonstration of your skills. There are several ways to store and share your portfolio, such as on your website, on social websites such as Instagram, or as files in a publicly accessible location.

Set your rates and charges

While you may consider charging for work on a case-by-case basis depending on who the client is and the type of work you’ll be doing, it’s helpful to have a rate in mind. Deviating from this rate may not be a problem, as some opportunities are worth more than the fee itself. If you’re unsure of how much you should be charging, consider your level of expertise, the demand for your skills, and how much others in your industry are charging. 

Market yourself

It doesn’t matter if you’re the most skilled freelancer in your industry, if potential clients and customers can’t find you, you won’t be able to attract business. How you market yourself is a personal decision, and many avenues may prove fruitful or unsuccessful for you. When you’re first starting, it may be worth trying out many different options to grasp which yield the best results. Some examples of ways you can market yourself include:

  1. Organic social media - Posting regularly to your social media channels may attract the attention of potential customers and clients. Some examples include Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
  2. Paid social media - Organic social media may only get you so far, and paying to push your content in-front of your target customers could be the difference between getting lost in the noise and noticed. 
  3. Google advertising - If you have your own website, Google Ads can help you to target people who are searching for the services you offer. For example, if a company searches  ‘social media freelancer’, you can place an advert in the search results to help them find you.
  4. Networking events - Visiting networking events may help you to find business directly, but it also offers you the chance to expand your network. Having a strong network can prove fruitful in the long term, and building industry connections can be helpful in many other ways too.
  5. Freelancing websites - There are many websites that allow you to list your services for businesses to find. Some examples include Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, PeoplePerHour and FlexJobs.

Organise your workload

Being organised is essential. You’re responsible for managing your own time, projects, workloads and prioritising what to do when. You should consider using project management tools to help visually represent and manage your day-to-day jobs. Many of these tools offer free versions to help you get organised without incurring costs.

Setting your standards & representing yourself

As a freelancer, you are your business, and how you represent yourself is directly linked to how your business is viewed. Keep your standards high and only produce work you’re proud of. Combine this with effective communication with your clients, and you’re setting yourself up to succeed.

Tips for when you start freelancing

Once you’re up and running, it’s important to remember some of the points we’ve raised above that are aimed at helping you get started. Your work as a freelancer never stops, so starting as you mean to go on will help you remain structured and keep to the goals you set for yourself when starting out. Here are some tips to help you after you’re up and running as a freelancer:

  1. Set boundaries - While freelancing, the boundaries between work and life may blur. Having the flexibility to work around your schedule can be a big positive, but it may also make it difficult to set time aside for yourself. Ensure you’re taking breaks, set specific working hours when possible, and give yourself a holiday every once in a while.
  2. Stay organised - It may sound obvious, but once your workload begins to increase and you’re juggling multiple projects and clients, being organised becomes increasingly important.
  3. Be proactive about finding work - After winning clients and getting busy, it can become easy to ignore the marketing efforts that found you work in the first place. Always consider future prospects and where your next job will come from.
  4. Managing your finances - You’re responsible for managing your own finances, and depending on your business type, this may include filing company accounts and submitting personal tax returns. If this isn’t something you’re interested in, or you find the time it takes detrimental, you could consider using a freelancer yourself to outsource the work.
  5. Continue to grow your network - As you win work and connect with more individuals and businesses, continue to engage with them across social channels and in person. Building on already-established relationships may be easier than creating new ones.
  6. Be flexible - Despite all your best efforts to plan and structure your routine, being a freelancer inherently involves flexibility. There may be times when you’re asked to do work you’re inexperienced with, or you work with clients in varying time zones. As a general rule, be as open and flexible as possible, especially in the early stages when your business grows.

What are some useful tools for freelancers to use?

Software and tools can save you countless hours and help you manage your business more effectively. The smoother the operation, the easier it will be to focus your time on what matters most. We’ve listed some tools that freelancers can use to improve the day-to-day running of their business:

  1. Project management software - Such as Asana, Trello, Monday, ClickUp and Basecamp can help you manage your tasks and working calendar. If you’re collaborating with other team members, you can share the visibility of tasks and make it easier to work together.
  2. Time tracking - Such as Toggl, Harvest and FreshBooks. These tools can be useful if you’re charging by the hour or you want to track how long certain tasks take you so that you can improve how you bill for them in the future.
  3. Communication - Your clients will likely use varying communication tools, so having them downloaded and becoming familiar with them will help avoid any awkward technological issues in the future. Some popular tools include the likes of Slack, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
  4. Productivity apps - There are many apps that aim to help you stay productive instead of getting distracted. Whether there’s a specific website that you find it difficult to stay away from or you’re prone to picking up your phone, examples include tools such as Freedom and Forest.
  5. File storage and sharing - You’ll likely need to send and receive files throughout your career, and emails won’t work for large files or keeping documents secure. Tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox and WeTransfer all make it easy to do.

How UK Postbox can help freelancers

While we can’t help you with the work you’ll complete as a freelancer, we do offer a service utilised by many professional individuals and businesses across the world.

Our virtual business address and online mail management platform is a multi-purpose solution that equips you with an address you can use for your business, as well as software to receive, send and manage all business post. Here’s some more information:

  1. Virtual business addresses - Your company will need an address at some point in time. Whether that’s for receiving mail, for use on your website and emails, for receiving post, or when registering your business. You have several options, such as using your home address or an office, but these options may not offer you much privacy or be expensive solutions.
  2. Online mail management - Our platform allows you to manage your business mail from our platform or app. When mail is sent to your virtual address, we’ll receive it and scan it into an online account for you to view. You can store, destroy and respond to mail using the same system. In short, you can manage all business mail remotely.
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Donna Chester