Neil Debenham

From the financial rewards to the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss, going freelance offers a diverse, exciting range of advantages.

With remote work becoming more commonplace and technology allowing freelancers to expand far beyond their areas, a growing number of professionals are breaking away from conventional employment to work as freelancers.

Transitioning from a traditional career to freelance work can be a smooth process, provided it’s done effectively. Below, business expert Neil Debenham shares six tips to consider if you’d like to launch your own freelance business in the near future.

Start by defining your services

One of the most common freelance mistakes is failing to clearly define the services you have to offer.

As an employee, this largely isn’t your responsibility. After all, your job listing likely included a list of responsibilities and services, with your employer defining your key tasks and priorities as part of your regular schedule.

When you’re a freelancer, this aspect of your work life is in your hands. Start by clearly defining the services you provide, the skills you have, your unique advantages and other factors that will help to differentiate you from other freelancers in the eyes of would-be clients.

Make sure you have a financial cushion

Freelancing can be an immensely financially rewarding career, at least when your business is going well. When business is slow, it’s easy for several days, weeks or months to slip by with little or no regular income.

Because of this, it’s important to have a financial cushion before you launch your career as a freelancer. Personal finance experts recommend a cash stash equal to six months of regular living expenses — as a freelancer, adding 50 to 75 per cent to this amount is a good idea.

Having a financial cushion not only reduces your stress level, but it can also prevent you from having to take on low-paid work out of necessity — a key source of work-related frustration for many freelancers.

Choose a business structure that’s suited to you

As a freelancer, your life becomes significantly easier — at least from a financial perspective — if you work within the correct business structure.

In the UK, freelancers have a variety of business structures to choose from, including registering as a sole trader or opening a limited company.

There’s no perfect business structure for everyone, although many freelancers should consider the use of a limited company. This business structure typically offers significant legal, marketing and tax benefits that can become valuable as your career develops.

Keep your branding simple and appropriate

It can be tempting to invest heavily in branding and marketing as you start your new adventure, either as a way to stand out from your competition or to make your freelancing business feel like it’s uniquely yours.

In general, it’s best to keep your branding simple, appropriate and easy to understand when you first begin your career. Your focus should be on communicating your services, skill set and value proposition — the three things that your prospective clients likely care about the most.

Tap into your existing professional network

The first three to six months of a freelance career are often the most difficult, primarily because you haven’t yet had a chance to build a network of regular clients.

To get things started as quickly as possible, try to tap into your existing professional network to find out who could benefit from your help. This could include your past employers, professional contacts, colleagues and other people you’ve met over the years.

Don’t feel afraid to reach out to someone you may not have contacted for a while. Often, a short and friendly email or quick phone call is all it takes to restart a professional relationship and give your freelancing career a significant amount of momentum.

Turn yourself into an industry authority

After you’ve established yourself and have a steady supply of incoming work, it’s a good idea to establish yourself as an authoritative, trusted voice within your industry.

Doing this has several benefits. The first is that standing out as a trusted figure in your field can be a fantastic way to generate recurring, long-term business. After all, clients are far more likely to trust an expert than a freelancer without a significant presence.

The second is that branding yourself as an authority may allow you to increase your fees, letting you earn more from your existing clients, concludes Neil Debenham.

You can turn yourself into an authority figure through blog posts, presentations at events in your industry, podcasts, television appearances and in countless other ways. Get creative and stand out — over the long term, it can pay off hugely for your career as a freelancer.

Neil Debenham