A Mini Guide to Freelancing in Your Twenties
What is freelancing? Freelancing is a form of self-employment, where an individual sells their skills or services to several clients on a flexible basis.
You're not an employee of a company; you are your own boss.
Sound like something you'd be interested in?
Then keep reading!
There are currently over 2 million freelancers in the UK, and they contribute roughly £125 billion to the economy. The number of freelancers in their 20's in the UK increased by 3% in 2020.
This means that being a freelancer is becoming more and more popular as time goes by.
Read on to the bottom of this article to see real-time freelancing advice from the Twenties Legacy community members!
Responsibilities and Expenses
Your first step needs to be looking at all your responsibilities and current finances to see if freelancing is a viable option. You will need to look at:
Your rent/mortgage payments
Your outgoing expenses
Any direct debits you have
Any debt you're paying off
Calculate how much you will need to earn to cover these living expenses.
If it's not going to cover all your expenses, but you're set on the freelance lifestyle, consider only being a part-time freelancer until you build up your client base.
You will need a complete picture of your income and outgoings to know if you can make it work.
Freelancing takes a lot of time and effort, especially in the beginning.
Try a pro and con list if you've calculated all of this and still aren't sure!
Once you've decided that freelancing is a viable option for you, you'll need to determine your goals. To do this, ask yourself why do you want to be a freelancer? Is it to be in charge of your own time? To pick your own clients? To have a better work-life balance? Try writing down a list of reasons why. From this, you can work out your goals. For example, if you want to be a freelancer, so you can be in charge of your own time, your goal might be to only work a set number of hours/days a week.
Unique Skill Sets
You should build your freelance career around your skillset. Think about the skills you have that others might not. For example, if you were a builder, is there a niche you could market to? Are you especially good at building conservatories? Take time to list all the skills you have that make you unique. These skills could come from a previous job or even a hobby! Once you have an idea of your skills, you can properly market yourself to your clients. Marketing and your network are essential as a freelancer. Being sure of yourself and what you're good at will help you deal with clients who think you're not up to the job due to your age.
Part time vs. Full time
Over 200,000 freelancers in the UK have other jobs. As a freelancer, your income, especially initially, isn't stable. Unless you already have a large client base from your previous job, it is advisable to start as a part-time freelancer. It takes time to get to a point where you can financially rely solely on being freelance. But have no fear!
If you stick at it, it will pay off.
Plans are a great way to keep yourself in check.
Think of it as a list of goals and ways you will achieve these goals. This plan should include a target for how much income you need to make to maintain your lifestyle. It means thinking about:
how many clients do you need to take on
how much do you need to invoice each client
how many days are you going to work to achieve this
Deciding on your pricing can be difficult as a freelancer. Top Tip: If you're unsure about your pricing, join and chat with the community! There are many freelancers inside who would be happy to give you guidance. Remember, don't sell yourself short! In the beginning, you might have to work for a lower rate, but this doesn't mean you should be paid less than the minimum.
If you're undervaluing yourself, people will take advantage of that, so don't let them!
There are several different ways you can set your price:
Hourly: An hourly fee is just how it sounds; you get paid for how many hours you do. This means you'll need to keep track of how many hours you've worked on the project. It's mainly used for ongoing or short-term projects.
A fixed project fee: this fee is based on how much work there is to do. It's mainly used for short-term projects.
A value-based fee: This will be based on the value of the project to the client. It will be the highest rate you will receive, but it can be hard to sell to the client.
When invoicing clients, some will be better at paying than others. Don't let it slide. Keep sending notices that they owe you money. It's best to record all the work you've done, who has paid, and who still hasn't.
Having a portfolio is an essential part of freelancing. It gives clients examples of your past work, not only to see what you've done but also to build trust. As a freelancer, you might not have an established reputation yet. This is especially true when you're young, as people will often doubt your experience level. So, having a portfolio will show potential clients that you're capable of doing the service you're offering. Include projects you're proud of, as long as they relate to your service. For example, if you were a freelance wedding photographer, you wouldn't include pet photos. [haha].
The days of having a physical portfolio you carry around in a little briefcase are long gone. Instead, you can have your portfolio online. The best option is to create your own website to house your portfolio. With SquareSpace and Wix, it's easy to build your own website.
It will give you a new skill (website creation) and will have a much more professional feel.
However, if you don't want a website, many platforms are available to host your portfolio.
Platforms such as clippings.me or Carbonmade are free and easy to use.
Building your personal brand
I know so many freelancers that have 10s of clients, all from their personal brand. It takes time and dedication, but the pay-off is so worth it. Before I incorporated a company, I landed all of my first clients off of LinkedIn when I was freelancing.Be authentic, consistent, inspirational and educational.Make others want to follow you and learn more about what you do, and how you can help them. Building your brand on LinkedIn has undoubtedly been the best thing I did to receive inbound clients.
Before you go on the hunt for clients, you need to decide who your ideal clients are. Make a list of the type of people you would want as clients. But don't overthink it! Start with a general list and work your way down into specifics. You want it to be so specific you can see an image of the client in your head. If you were an antique dealer, you might decide that your ideal client would be women in their 50's who like end tables. However, you need to be realistic.
Would this client need your help?
Could they afford you?
When you've decided on your ideal client, it's time to think about how you can market yourself to them. What problems do they have that you can solve? You will need to explain how you can help them. Can you make their life easier or make them more money long term? Answering these questions is essential as clients will ask why they should hire YOU over someone else. Your next step is finding these clients.
You can use several platforms to find clients at the beginning of your freelance career, such as Fiverr, Bark or Upwork. They are great for building your experience and portfolio. However, you won't make a great deal of money on these platforms, to begin with. Another way to find clients is by looking online. Sometimes people advertise on LinkedIn that they are looking for freelancers to take on specific projects. Go in search of clients, don't wait for them to come to you! You might already have a network built up from previous jobs, ask around to see if anyone is looking for a freelancer. When you start talking to potential clients, have a pitch prepared.
This will make you seem more confident and hopefully stop you from freezing up when they ask a question. Be patient. Building connections takes time. Just keep at it, and don't give up!
Registering as Self-Employed
You will need to let HMRC know that you are now operating as a freelancer when you're up and running. This means filling out a form online. You will have to decide whether you are a sole trader or a limited company. As a sole trader you are trading on your own, you don't have any partners or shareholders (which is the freelancer option). A limited company has a director and shareholders. For a more in-depth read about sole traders vs a limited company, check out this article by Simply Business. Always seek professional advice when making this decision; this could be from an accountant. There are many accountants in the community group who you can get this advice from.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Freelance Work
There are pros and cons to every job, and freelancing is no exception.
Some of the disadvantages to being a freelancer are:
Being in charge of yourself can be stressful, and you are your own boss!
Being a freelancer in your 20's means you'll face a lot of rejection from clients due to your age.
There's no sick pay.
You have to handle your own taxes and invoices.
This last one can be avoided by getting an accountant, but this can be expensive.
However, I think the advantages of going freelance outweigh the disadvantages.
You can make your own schedule, work when you want to!
You can work from home or anywhere you want.
It can be enriching when you get into your stride.
You're in charge of your own income.
I strongly recommend making your own pro's and con's list to see if freelancing is the right path for you.
My Top Tips
Freelancing can mean you’ll be working from home. Depending on your personality, this can be really good or unproductive. I suggest you stick to a routine similar to when you worked in an office. Get up at a specific time every day and have a particular time for lunch. This could mean getting up at 9am every day and having lunch at 12. It’s up to you! Have an area in your home dedicated for work, don’t sit there to eat your lunch or to sit on your phone. Read this productivity blog.
Being a freelancer isn’t easy, so I’ve compiled a checklist of tools that will help you on your self-employment journey. Read this blog to find out the top tools you should use as a freelancer.
Top tips from the community!!
Izzy Prior from Spark Social Media - “Collaboration > Competition
Community is precious - build on it, nurture your relationships, you never know who is going to refer you business.”
Emily Ware from Emily Ware.com
“Remember to build a network of people who do things you can’t e.g. accountants, lawyers, graphic designers etc.”
Chris Southerland Jr. from Try Hard Capital
I find reading to help more than anything. I 100x my income since I started reading!
Also, finding mentors to help you avoid a lot of mistakes is crucial.
Use Twitter for a personal brand!