National Freelancers Day: How to become a freelancer?


freelance day getty 300x225 National Freelancers Day: How to become a freelancer?Today is National Freelancers Day, which highlights the opportunities that freelancing and becoming self-employed can offer to individuals, organisations and the economy. Our recent research, The Boox Report, highlights that the self-employed sector offers £202bn to the UK economy each year, which is more than the manufacturing and construction sectors combined.

People often ask me whether they should start their own business in the current economic climate.  I always believe the best way to approach the subject is with a mix of cold hard facts and personal opinion. On one hand, unemployment fell by 49,000 to 2.51 million in the three months to September, taking the jobless rate to 7.8% from 7.9%. On the other is the fact that Sir Mervyn King has said that the economy has barely grown over the past two years and indicated that recovery would be subdued and on the whole job creation appears to be slowing.

One of my favourite films is ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’. I remind people of the scene in which our brave heroes clomp coconuts together to simulate horseback riding. Horses and their care can be pricey, so production history notes that this joke was born out of the need to roll tape and stay out of the red, highlighting that ‘innovation’ can come when facing financial hardship.  The Boox Report highlights that almost 25% of those who are currently in self-employment signed up because of redundancy or a major life changing event. I believe we are seeing real momentum and a desire to succeed in the face of adversity. Do I think that it is difficult to get into the working world at the moment? Yes, but there are a number of options open to you including freelancing or becoming self-employed.

It might sound obvious, but when you become self-employed you firstly need to find work. Ensure your CV or work portfolio is correctly formatted and up to date. This is your foot in the door, and your chance to make an immediate impression with future clients. I would then suggest contacting recruitment agencies, both regional and national, to highlight your skills and availability. You should then consider setting up your own website or blog relevant to your industry sector.

Next you need to decide how you get paid. According to The Boox Report, most self-employed people stipulate 30 day payment terms. You need to be tough when it comes to getting paid as many companies will look to keep a hold of their cash for as long as possible. Freelancing and being self-employed is certainly not for the faint hearted and mild-mannered!

It is good practice to complete a list of pros and cons for becoming self-employed.  This found 70% of the self-driven workforce earn over the UK’s £26,093 average with the average self-employed salary hitting an astonishing £50,820 per year. On the flipside, one in four freelancers don’t take any annual leave whatsoever. The work/life balance for the self-employed is not necessarily a desirable one, which is one of the main reasons for the financial trade off.

50% of self-employed bankers have a degree and a further 44% hold a professional qualification. This means that the self-employed have to be confident in their execution of the task in hand. You need to be financially secure on a week to week basis and so need your abilities to shine through from the beginning. It is also important to quickly build a strong contact base as nobody will be delivering business to their front door.

As one might expect from a thriving sector of the economy, freelancers are well educated with both men and women revealing similar levels of qualification. Overall 31% have a professional qualification with only 4% having no qualifications at all. Nearly one in four (23%), are educated to undergraduate level and 20% hold a postgraduate degree.

The frequency of work is also something to be aware of before becoming self-employed. Dr John Glen, senior lecturer in Economics at Cranfield School of Management talks about the projectisation of work — the way in which work/employment is becoming led by shorter projects. He says this is driving a preference within businesses to hire contract workers and has led to freelancers and self-employed workers becoming an economic powerhouse.

It’s not overly difficult or complicated to set up your own business. It is however, a legal process which could also involve the need for you to have the responsibility of having a business bank account. Your decision needs careful thought as to which route you should take. It is therefore wise to get advice either from your colleagues / peers, or straight from an accountant.

Follow the hashtag #NFD2012 to keep up to date with all of the latest news around National Freelancers Day and to find more information about what self-employed life is really like, download a free copy of The Boox Report at

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  • creggancowboy

    How does one get an NUJ freelance card?

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