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Considering going freelance? Here's what you need to know about being self-employed

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Welcome to Consult a Coach, our regular careers clinic for Bazaar readers. Send us your work dilemma, and we’ll ask our career agony aunt – the industry professional, executive coach and motivational speaker Jo Glynn-Smith – to answer it.

Here, Jo advises a reader who is considering going freelance.

Explore the Consult a Coach archive, full of careers-based advice. Got a question you'd like answered? Email us at consultacoach@harpersbazaar.co.uk

Dear Jo,

I’m hoping to have a baby with my partner in the next two years and I’m considering leaving my full-time job for freelance work, so that I have more flexibility and can juggle work with childcare.

What advice would you give someone who wants to work for themselves? From taxes to networking, I don’t know where to begin.

Thank you in advance,

Ayesha


Jo says...

Dear Ayesha,

Thanks for writing in with this question. Flexibility is often a priority once we start a family, so it’s worth being informed before you take the leap. Working as a freelancer is very different to being employed and there are both advantages and disadvantages – so let’s go through a few things you need to consider before you make your final decision.

1/ Do your research

Do some investigation around the type of freelancing you are considering. Who are your potential clients? Do you have enough contacts to get you started? What are the typical rates for freelancers in your industry? What’s the market like for this type of work right now? In short, is there a demand for what you do, who are your clients and what is your competition? If your findings are positive, then you can take the next steps.

2/ Consider your financial situation

Ask yourself the following questions: what are your financial commitments? How do you and your partner divide the responsibilities? What important benefits does your company provide that you may lose if you go freelance? Do you have savings to plug any earning gaps? It's a good idea to create a monthly budget so that you can see your outgoings and work out what you will need to earn as a minimum to cover your share. This will also help you set your fees more realistically; many people start out by setting rates that are too low in order to secure jobs, but then realise they can’t live on that income. Once you set your fees or rates it’s difficult to go back to the same client with an increase.

3/ Familiarise yourself with accounting

Tax and National Insurance is automatically deducted from your monthly pay when you are employed, but you will need to do a self-assessment once you go it alone. If this worries you, you might want to consider engaging an accountant to help; there are lots who support small businesses and don’t charge huge fees, so it’s worth asking around. They can also help you set up your invoicing system, if this isn’t something you’ve done before. You may also require liability insurance or comprehensive contracts for the type of work that you do.

4/ Make sure you’re comfortable with the lifestyle

How will you connect with and attract clients? Marketing yourself is critical to successful freelance work and it pays to be proactive, so think about how you are going to do this, especially before you have a baby. When you’ve had the baby, what childcare options might be available to you? The nature of freelance work is that is can be quite ad hoc, so flexibility is key – and you never want to be in a position where you have to turn work down because you can’t get childcare.

On the same note, think about how you will manage your time around your child’s routine, which will give you an indication of your work capacity. Friends who have been through what you are considering are the best source of information on how to manage this transition successfully, so listen to their advice. Finally, ignore anyone who says you can work and look after a child full time – you can’t, unless you are planning to open a crèche!

Reading this probably feels quite overwhelming, but don’t feel put off. As someone who has worked for myself for nearly four years, I can safely say that the first few years are the most challenging, but once you get used to the hustle and have built up a solid network of clients, the work comes more easily. Now, I am able to take a breath and enjoy the flexibility and variety that going it alone offers – and I’ve never looked back.

Good luck!

jo glynn smith
Courtesy of Jo Glynn-Smith

Jo Glynn-Smith is a transformation coach, speaker and personal-brand expert from London who works with leaders, entrepreneurs and businesses to help maximise their team or individual potential. Before becoming a coach, she spent most of her career in the fashion industry working at the highest level with some of the biggest global brands. You can follow Jo for more coaching tips and advice on Instagram (@jojoglynnsmith) or visit her website, joglynnsmith.com.


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