By Becky Wong
You have your idea. You have clear offerings and services. You are ready to start working as a freelancer. Before you arrange a meeting with your boss to hand in your notice or officially agree to start with your new clients, make sure you are fully prepared to start freelancing.
Although you can begin your life as a freelancer without all of these set up straight away, you will make life much easier, for you and your clients, if these ready to go! Have a look through this checklist below for 8 things you need before you start freelancing.
1. Client contract
Client Contract. Service Agreement. Whatever you want to call it, it is handy to have a template set up and ready to go before you agree on start dates with new clients. You will avoid scrambling to pull one together when a perfect opportunity presents at short notice. With a template ready, you can edit it as appropriate to fit with each new client or project.
Each contract will also be your shared bible for managing expectations between yourself and your client – laying out your agreed terms, the scope of work, ways of working, availability, preferred modes of communication.
If you are looking for some templates, check out Simply Docs, The Freelance Kit or Panda Docs. Save yourself time and energy in the future. Have a detailed service agreement ready to work from.
2. Professional insurance
Make sure you have the right professional insurance in place before you begin working. I have worked in operations for many years and, when it comes to any form of due diligence, I always tell clients that I am sure you will not need it but you do not want to be caught out if you do. The world has many things that are completely out of our control! So it is better to be prepared. Set yourself up with the right insurance. You will likely need Professional Indemnity Insurance and/or Professional Liability Insurance depending on what work you do. Many UK freelancers I know use Simply Business – I also use Simply Business myself!
While we are talking about due diligence! If you are based in the UK, you will need to declare yourself as self-employed to HMRC. Check with your local authorities if you are based elsewhere in the world to find out if and where you need to register self-employment in the same way.
3. Invoicing and accounts
As a new freelancer or if you have never handled financial or client accounts before, you may be brand new to creating or seeing an invoice! Don’t worry! It is more simple than it sounds. A quick search online will help you to find millions of simple invoice templates. Even Word Docs have a template you can use.
These days, with everything going digital, there is a big selection of online accounting tools available that not only help you to keep a clear track of your freelancing finances but also provide you with invoicing tools to automatically create, send and follow up on your invoices. Take a look at FreeAgent, Xero, or QuickBooks to name a few.
It is a legal requirement as a freelancer to keep financial records for up to 6 years. It will most likely not happen but you don’t want to have an administrative headache if you are randomly selected to be audited. Again, if you are based elsewhere in the world, check what your local legislations require and make sure you keep all necessary records up to date.
4. Contact details
How will your freelance clients contact you? You can use your existing contact details but, if you are like me, you prefer to keep work and personal life separate.
You can set up a new email address especially for your freelance business. You can also set up a business telephone number. You will not need a new device for this because there are services you can use such as Skype for Business (soon to be replaced with Microsoft Teams) or Twilio to set up call forwarding or even to receive voice or text messages.
You might add a contact form to your freelancer website if you are setting up a website from the start. (I have not included a website in this list because you do not need to have a website or online portfolio to start freelancing! You can get started without either of these!)
Having a clear idea in mind of your pricing will give you confidence when choosing who to work with and negotiating with new clients. Setting rates has long been a minefield for all freelancers! There are many things to take into consideration when setting your rates – how much experience you have, standard rates of similar freelancers, what are your ongoing running costs as a freelancer.
All of these will be very different for each of us. A good place to start is to talk to freelancers who are in the same field as you. Research the current going rates for similar freelancers. Also, KNOW YOUR WORTH. Do not feel you need to lower your rates to win any and all clients. Sometimes this will be the right thing to do, but there are many freelancers who are just starting out who accept being low-balled left, right and centre. Set your rates and clearly outline your terms to attract the right clients for you.
You should end up with a ballpark of bracket figures you can have as guidelines for when you are negotiating with potential clients. Your rates can vary from your lower-end rate to your higher-end rate depending on the full details of each client requirements.
I give the same advice to anyone thinking about becoming a digital nomad to anyone thinking about becoming a freelancer. Do not quit without any financial planning! Save up a chunk of money before you make the leap!
Nobody is truly an overnight success. Everyone saved up money for a long while or ran their business as a side hustle first alongside their full-time jobs. Some juggle multiple part-time jobs while launching their freelancer ventures rather than relying solely on freelancing straight away. Doing so will give you a safety net and save you from the pressures of needing everything to be a big success straight away.
Where you work has a huge impact on how well you work. Have a plan for where you will freelance from and make sure it is somewhere you know you will be productive and deliver your best work. Do you have a dedicated workspace at home? Is there a local coworking space you can join? Will you work from coffee shops nearby?
8. New clients
You’re all set! You’re ready! Now what? Let’s start pitching to clients! I’m not saying you should wait until all of these previous things are ready before you start pitching. You should definitely start pitching to new clients at the same time as setting yourself up as a freelancer. Your new client onboarding steps will be much more quick and enjoyable with all of these in place. Plus, you will create a wonderful experience for yourself and for your new clients from the get-go.
And where can you find your new clients? You will be surprised at where you can.
Your new client might be a friend of a friend. They could be someone you have worked with in the past. You might meet your new client at a networking event or through a membership community. Cast your net far and wide. Keep meeting new people who share your mission and values. You never know when your next client is right around the corner. (More on finding new clients on the Project Anywhere blog to come soon!)
Although many of these recommendations are UK-focused, the tips stand true no matter where you are registered! Remember to do your own research wherever you are based. These tips are all based on my own experiences and those of fellow freelancers I have spoken to. We are by no means experts. Do seek professional advice from an accountant or lawyer where needed for any specific legal queries you have surrounding freelancing!
You do not need to have every single one of these ready before you begin. The more of these you have ready before you do though will put you in a stronger position to do so. I will admit, I set many of these up along the way because I had not planned to become a freelancer at first. So my journey was a learn-as-I-go experience which led me to create Project Anywhere to share everything I have learned over the past few years to answer all of the questions you have and help you to get a head start right from the beginning.
I am more than happy to help anyone who is starting to explore freelancing and remote work so please do reach out to me on the website here or through any of the Project Anywhere social media channels. I am also always continuously learning, so if you have been freelancing for a while and can think of other things freelancers should have before they start do let me know!
We’d love to hear from you if you have any questions and if you have found this post or any of our content helpful to you.
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I’m often working on stories and blogs from cafes or co-working spaces while fueled by copious amounts of tea and coffee! 🙂 If you’d like to support Project Anywhere by buying me a cuppa you can do so by clicking on the button here. Thank you! Becky x