Launching Yourself as a Freelancer

by Simon. Average Reading Time: about 3 minutes.

You’re an experienced designer or developer with aspirations to become a freelancer. Shrugging off the corporate cloak —”It’s cosy! It fits well! You’ve had it for years!” — is becoming more and more common.

Most creative people are unable to make a living from the sale of their work alone and therefore becoming self-employed as a freelancer enables you to manage your finances more effectively by earning additional money from short- or medium-term opportunities.

Graphic design, illustration, photography, journalism, writing, web design and development, training and copywriting are some of the sectors that use freelancers on a regular basis. Infact, many freelancers I know don’t simply work in one area. For example, my working month is a mixture of web development, writing and training and this is not uncommon among my peers as well.

There are numerous other considerations. Freelancers can, when the market is buoyant, choose their contract location and duration. They can also decide the length of their holidays (although this isn’t always the case). This greater freedom brings a major responsibility; you have to find work. This can be easy when many projects are underway, but can be difficult at other times. Furthermore, you will have to manage your own finances, which may perhaps involve dealing with an accountant, filling in payroll, tax and VAT forms etcetera.

In this four-part series, I share some thoughts on what you may want to consider when setting up and ‘going it alone’. The detail is UK-centric, but much of what I say is transferable to other regions.

The first in the series is setting up a business.

Register a Company

To be a serious freelancer, you can’t simply do work ‘cash-in-hand’. Instead you will need to set up a company through which you will work. This is not a complicated task and there are a number of companies out there who will do all the hard work for you, albeit for a small fee.

You can check Companies House for the availability of your company name and submit the company formation directly through them if you wish.

Get an Accountant

If you’re like me and can’t be bothered (or indeed don’t have the time) to sit down every month to compile accounts, process payroll and submit VAT returns, it is a good idea to get yourself a trustworthy accountant who specialises in freelancing matters. Ask friends for recommendations, since it can be daunting task finding someone who will work for you.

The Inland Revenue in the UK and the Internal Revenue Service in the US will always want their money and on time, so it is important that you manage submissions correctly.

Join the PCG

The Professional Contractors Group (PCG) is an organisation set up to support contractors and freelancers. For a small fee per year, you can gain access to a huge knowledge base of articles on your chosen topic and they also provide support if the Inland Revenue come calling.

Get Insurance

Many companies oblige their freelancers to get Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance, which may, in some instances, also include equipment, Public Liability and Employer’s Liability insurance.

You can get away without having this insurance, especially if the company you work for has a dedicated QA team, which will soon catch any shoddy work before it is released live. However, it is always best to cover your back.

If you’re a member of the PCG, they can offer advice and discounts on PI insurance. This is quite good since the insurance can be relatively pricey!

What’s Next

The next post in the series will focus on publicising you and your company. This involves creating a brand, blogging and using 3rd-party services.

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  • fatcat

    Hey Simon, nice intro to the world of freelancing… what’s your view on the year ahead? Work slowing or indifferent?

  • That’s a very difficult question to answer. I fear that times will get hard for Freelancers, especially those just starting out. There may be a delayed effect in the fallout since budgets have already been decided and initiatives signed-off, but I do know of companies who have already ended contracts early. Conversely I do know companies actively recruiting.

    It will all come down to whether the organisations employing freelancers can be cost efficient, therefore attractive to potential new business, and also whether freelancers are willing to take a pay cut to weather the storm.

    If you work in a market that is flooded with ‘talent’ and therefore competition, times will be very hard. It may be time to retrain and find a niche skill.

  • Invaluable advice for starting out in Freelance. A lot of these points i have thought about and some never given a thought like the insurance.

    Keep the posts coming I’m absorbing all the information and gaining confidence and knowledge along the way.


  • ReadWriteWeb has an interesting write-up around Start Up Inc. – What you need to know before starting a company:


  • Great advice for anyone looking to go freelance or set up their own company. I think the current global economy (do we hear about anything else?) makes it difficult to take that step but with information like this in bite size chunks really helps. I look forward to reading more.