Be ready for self-employment.

The fallout of the pandemic has left many people across the United Kingdom unemployed. If you're one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19, you will already be looking into your options. Whilst the obvious step is to start applying for another full-time role, there could be another path you haven't considered. Now may be the time to go freelance.

Self-employment isn't the anomaly it once was. 4.8 million Brits were self-employed in 2017, according to a report from the Office of National Statistics. That's more than 15 per cent of the country's overall workforce. Thanks to technological leaps and changes in the way businesses operate (hello, remote work!), that number is set to rise in the years to come.

But, if you've ever toyed with the notion of going it alone, there are some things you should know first. Let's take a look at the things you should consider and remember before you begin freelancing.

You must register as self-employed

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, or so the old saying goes. Yes, if you become self-employed, you will still have to pay taxes to HMRC. For that reason, registering with HMRC as self-employed is a must. Whilst you can do this at any point before the end of the financial year (i.e. the beginning of April), it's wise to do it sooner rather than later.

Fortunately enough, you can set up as a sole trader on the government website quickly and easily. You simply need to provide basic details about yourself, the type of work you do and when you started trading as a self-employed worker. The system is easy to use, so you should have no problem navigating it from the start.

You must manage your money well

As we've already covered, when you go self-employed, you will still be responsible for paying your own taxes each year. That means that you need to be a pro when it comes to money management.

The way you pay your taxes will change, so it's essential to know what to expect. When you work for an employer and get your salary, your taxes are automatically deducted ‒ you never see that money and you never miss it.

On the other hand, when you work for yourself, you need to save the cash for your taxes and pay it once a year by completing your self-assessment online. When you complete your self-assessment, you will need to pay your income tax, national insurance contribution and any student loan payments. As a general rule, it's prudent to save a quarter of your income. If you have saved in advance, you should have no problem covering all of the above.

If you're worried about managing your finances, one of the smartest things you can do is find an accountant to help you navigate these waters. You can check the Local Directory to find an accountant in your area. Be sure to specify that you are a sole trader and need advice on managing your money earned through this career structure. Whilst you will have to pay a small fee for the accountant's time, they will be able to make the whole process simple.

Finding clients is a job in itself

Now that you've dealt with the financial side of things, you'll need to get out there and find some clients. Your work and income depend entirely on your ability to find clients and maintain relationships, so don't overlook the importance of networking and putting yourself out there. Of course, how you get new leads will depend on the type of work you do and the business sector that you are in.

LinkedIn is a smart place to start when looking for clients. First things first, you need to create a LinkedIn profile if you don't already have one. Within your profile headline, be sure to write that you are a freelancer and currently looking for new opportunities. For instance, your headline may read 'Freelance designer currently seeking new projects'. Populate your profile with your work and education history. You should also include a link to your portfolio or previous work for potential clients to browse.

It goes without saying that you shouldn't rely entirely on the internet to get clients. Face-to-face networking should also play a role in finding work, so you can attend networking sessions in your area. Whilst this approach is unlikely to bag you clients immediately, it will help to get your name out there. 

Similarly, you should speak to your professional network and ask for project recommendations.

Prioritise your work-life balance

When you get rolling and start landing your first projects, it will feel like a real rush! However, you should beware the dreaded self-employed burnout. In 2019, a government report revealed that more than 600,000 British workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. It's hard to overstate the impact a hectic job can have on a person's life. What's more, when you work for yourself, you may find it hard to switch off at the end of the working day. Since you are responsible for every aspect of your business, it's hard to detach yourself from your working life.

Despite this fact, creating a healthy work-life balance is a must. You need to prioritise your health and well-being. Luckily, there are a few things you can do that will help you along the way:

Set regular working hours

You may not like to work nine-to-five, but the good news is that now that you're the boss, you get to set your own working hours. Whilst you don't have to go with the traditional hours, you should pick times that work for you and stick to them. Dedicating a confined slot of time to work each day will help you manage your time.

Consider getting an office

If you struggle to switch off when the working day is done, you may want to consider getting an office space. Having somewhere specific to go means that you have separation between your work life and your home life. Of course, amid COVID-19, heading to an office may not be ideal. In that case, you can set up a home office in a spare room or even a corner of your home.

Avoid looking at emails after work

Delete the email app on your smartphone. Really! If you're guilty of looking at your emails after your set work hours, you need to change your ways. This habit can have a negative impact on your well-being, according to research from Lehigh University. Maintaining a work-life balance means not being on call to your clients 24/7. Getting back to them within a day is perfectly acceptable.

Start some new hobbies

All work and no play makes for a burnt-out freelancer. When the working day is over, you need to relax by doing something fun that will take your mind off work. In addition to a new career path, now could be the perfect time to start a new hobby. Ideally, you want to pick something that doesn't involve a computer screen. You could try activities like walking, cycling, dancing or even some kind of craft. Find out what suits you!

Transitioning to freelance work

If you're considering going self-employed, there's a whole lot to think about. However, there are countless benefits to this move. You will have autonomy over your time and the freedom to work from anywhere you please. Why not start researching freelance gigs in your area now and see what you can find? Choosing to go it alone is a huge step, but it might just be the best one you ever make.

Looking for freelance work? Get a free CV review to make sure your CV is up to the job.

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