Becoming a Freelancer

working-freelanceOne of the biggest changes in the job markets in recent years has been the rise of the freelancer. Nearly five million people in the UK are now registered as a freelancer in one profession or another and this number looks set to continue. There are a lot of positives to being your own boss but there are also a few points to remember to keep your view of the potential career realistic.

The good stuff

If you are in a job where you dread Sunday night because Monday morning follows it or you are sick of your time being dominated by office politics then you are likely one of the growing group of people who have instead become freelancers. While working practices are changing, many companies still have old fashioned ideas and approaches that care little for the health and mental well being of their staff – so these staff are another group considering a change of direction.

The biggest benefits for many people are the flexibility of working hours, the ability to work at home or where you want and the lack of a tyrannical boss. You do need a certain mind-set to work under these conditions – self-discipline for one and an ability to motivate yourself is another.

Setting yourself up

There are a few steps to take to set yourself up as a freelancer once you know what kind of work you are going to do. First you need to register as self-employed with HMRC. They will advise you about paying tax and your National Insurance with the tax year running from 6h April to 5th April the next year.

From day one, make sure you keep accurate records of all the money you make and your outgoings. It is often well worth getting a professional accountant with expert IR35 knowledge to help with this as not only will they ensure you pay your taxes correctly and don’t get into trouble, they will also see if you are entitled to any tax breaks or other expenses you can claim for. They will also advise if you need to register for VAT (usually if your annual turnover is over £83,000) and if you should be a limited company or just a sole trader.

Part of keeping accurate records involves having a business bank account so this is another important step. Most banks offer special business accounts with debit cards and other basic features with many offering free banking for a period of a year or two. Insurance may also be needed depending on what you do and if you have any business premises.

Finding work

It can be a bit terrifying when you realise that if you don’t get work, you don’t get paid and that a week off paid is a thing of the past. But if you get yourself organised, have a portfolio or a CV that will attract attention and make use of the various freelance websites that are available to help you find work, it can be surprisingly how quickly it all starts to come together and you join the ranks of the happily self-employed.

Want a Better Job? Go On Holiday

It may sound a crazy idea that going on holiday could lead to you finding a better job but there is method in the apparent madness. Because what we discuss here isn’t just a week in Spain on the beach but a holiday with a purpose. It might be a charity challenge, a volunteering project or even a series of trips during a gap year to do different things around the world. But all of these can lead to you getting a better job and also be more employable.

The Gap Year

More and more students are coming around to the benefits of a gap year while studying at college or university. A gap year that is well used can add significantly to a resume when the right kinds of trips and holidays are listed. According to the founder of the website, the gap year is about demonstrating focus, showcasing abilities and finding a life path that will lead them to both financial and emotional happiness.

Australia is a popular choice for a gap year – it is similar enough to Britain in some ways yet offers completely different experiences. Travelling around the country is a great thing to do but the gap year isn’t all about sunshine and beaches. It may mean getting involved with a conservation project that later involves moving to another location.

Another option for the gap year is to pick up real life skills that will complement academic studies and put the student ahead in the job application stakes. For those wanting to work with kids, for example, working as an Au Pair is an option. Or volunteering with an inner city project helping disadvantaged kids gives a glimpse at a different set of issues.

Short Breaks

Even a shorter break of a week or two can be turned into something beneficial with charity challenges being top of the list. These are organised events that raise money for a charity through undertaking a challenge. One of the most popular is climbing Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Other challenges could be to trek through the Grand Canyon or to climb to the base camp of Mount Everest. These challenges can be life changing, giving people a great self of accomplishment and self-confidence as well as looking impressive on a resume.

Another option for a short break is a volunteering trip. This offers the chance to work on a project that you are passionate about and always looks impressive when interviewing for a job. For example, working with the wildlife conservation community in South Africa or in the giant panda conversation project in Chengdu, China are great examples. Volunteer teaching assignments in places such as the Amazon or other parts of Brazil are a very fulfilling way of giving something back to a community and having an amazing experience. There are even companies who offer special packages just like a normal holiday that include working on a project while you are in country so you know you will be travelling and working with a legitimate organisation.

Whatever you choose, and wherever you go, with a bit of forethought and planning you could make sure that your excursion is not only the trip of a lifetime, but also something that will enhance your CV and make you a much more desirable candidate when you come back and start looking for a job.