The most important steps to take before you go freelance

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Launching a freelance career is a tempting prospect for lots of professionals – who wouldn’t want to control their workflow, hours and commitments without a manager or three hanging over your shoulder?

If you commit to freelancing, though, you shouldn’t just quit your job and launch right into self-employment – not if you want to succeed, anyway.

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Instead, make sure that you’ve prepared properly if you want this new phase of your career to go well. And you don’t have to look any further if you’re a bit lost on that front because we’ve covered the eight key areas you need to consider before you delve into self-employment.

That’s not the end of our freelance guidance. Here’s how to avoid the biggest freelance mistakes, and head here if you want to discover the ten things no one will ever tell you about freelancing.

Save some money 

Even if you launch into a freelance career with loads of well-paid work on your books it’s going to take a little while for that money to actually get to your bank account – large companies are notoriously bad at paying on time.

When you’ve not got a salary and you’ve not established a monthly churn of income thanks to consistent freelance business then having to wait for money to arrive can cause serious issues.

To combat this potential problem, make sure you’ve saved up a nest egg of money before you embark on freelance life. If you’ve got a cash cushion you can maintain your quality of life, invest in any equipment you need to kick-start your business and cover emergency costs.

Find an accountant, too 

Freelance finances can be dizzying if you’re used to having your tax sliced off your monthly paycheck without thinking about it. The situation can be even trickier when handling complex freelance tax returns.

If you want to stay on top of your financial situation, don’t flounder on your own – find an accountant before you launch this new career phase. Before you begin, they can guide you through the complex process of registering your business properly, and every year they can help you figure out how much tax you need to pay and how your expenses, bills and investments impact your payments.

By finding a good accountant before you start to freelance, you’ll save money, time and stress – they’ll pay for themselves.

Set up a website 

A big part of freelancing revolves around shouting about just how good you are at your job, and this brand-building should start before you launch your business.

Make sure you’ve got a clean, modern and clear website that advertises your services – include a portfolio, even if that includes work you’ve done for free or for family and friends. Alongside a website, ensure that your social media profiles are ready to go, and start posting on them before you launch your freelance enterprise. If you do that, any prospective clients will see an active profile with evidence or your expertise rather than an empty page.

Spread the word 

It’s not just about building a brand online, either. Let people at your existing workplace know that you’re leaving to go freelance – if you’ve got good relationships with those people and they need your services after you leave, there’s a good chance those established contacts will be among your first clients. And, even if you don’t get commissioned by those individuals, they could well recommend you to other contacts because they already know you and trust your skills.

Beyond that, attend local industry events and get some business cards printed, because you could form relationships while networking that lead to clients in the coming months.

Know your strengths 

Before you start to freelance you need to have a firm handle of what you can offer people, what you’re best at, and the areas that need more work or should be avoided.

If you identify these skills, potentially with a list or spreadsheet, you’ll be able to dial in on the services you can offer people and start to draw up a business plan. That’ll help you stay on-task and really concentrate on the skills that’ll attract clients and generate cash.

Have concrete goals 

Once you’ve figured out your skills and strengths, you can define firm goals that will help keep you focused. Whether it’s working for a particular client, earning a specific amount or attracting a set number of customers, if you have detailed, exact ambitions, you’re more likely to stay on task and concentrate on what’s important.

It’ll also help you do a better job of figuring out who you want your clients to be, and you’re likely to have better results with this approach than a more random method of doing business. 

Price yourself properly 

Before you launch a freelance business you need to work out your pricing strategy – from the amount you’re going to charge to how you’ll structure your fees.

Remember that, as you’re new on the scene, you’ll likely have to price yourself at the more affordable end of the scale while you build a reputation that can demand higher prices. Within that, though, there’s still wiggle room – research what other freelancers in your industry charge so you can figure out what you should charge, even if it’s a bit lower than those established names.

You should consider if you’ll charge an hourly or daily rate or if you want to get paid a flat fee for every piece of work you deliver, because every job and industry will have a different way of doing things. And, finally, make sure that your new pricing strategy is enough to support you and your family’s lifestyle.

Create a great working environment 

A move to freelance life usually means a move to permanent home working. And while many of us have become more familiar with working at home over the past couple of years, it can be a culture shock for anyone who must get the job done from home every single day.

To give yourself the best chance, dedicate a specific area to your work – whether it’s an office, a spare bedroom or any other part of the house. Make sure it’s tidy, clean and organized, without distractions, and use lights, plants and keepsakes to create an airy, welcoming environment. If you get the workplace right, you’ll be better-placed to find consistent productivity – and, in turn, freelance success.

How to work from home: everything you need for remote working.

Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.