Why in the World Would Anyone Want to Become a Freelancer?

The rat race. The nine-to-five. The daily grind. Every day millions of us get up and go to work for someone else. But are we happy? The majority work as an employee for a company because it's seen as the safest way to earn a living, but this could be set to change. Today, more people in the UK are self-employed than ever before. Why has this happened? And what possessed so many people to turn to freelancing or to start their own business. Here's what some real freelancers, business owners and industry experts had to say on the topic.

Hannah Martin

Hannah Martin was a full-time copywriter and a single mum living and working in London. After taking maternity leave she returned to full-time work when her son was four months old. With her daily commute, Hanna's working days were 14-hours long and her son was mostly raised by an au pair.

 

Financially, she knew she had to stick with her job. But she yearned for a better quality of life. When she finally turned freelance she didn't really have a plan, just some notion of working two weeks on, two weeks off. When she left her job she had nothing to go to, and it felt like she was jumping off a cliff. Yet she is still convinced it was the right thing to do.

 

Hanna claims that initially, it was fear that made her try so hard to find freelance work. She went on to become co-founder of the Talented Ladies Club, a magazine style website that gives working mums tips and advice on how to find flexible work, become a freelancer, or start their own business.

 

Martine Warburton

Martine studied design at university and while she was doing her course she discovered that what she really wanted to do was travel. Despite her itchy feet she completed the course and was lucky enough to get a few interviews based on her degree. But Martine felt uncomfortable about leaving university and going straight into a steady job. Instead, she became a freelancer and took a one-month rolling contract with a digital agency. This meant she could earn money but it left her enough time to indulge her globe-trotting passion. Today, Martine is Creative Director at her own company, Purée Design Ltd.

 

Benedict Dellot

Benedict is a Senior Researcher at RSA. He predicts that if current trends continue, the number of people in self-employment could soon outnumber the size of the public sector workforce. This means that the self-employed could become a political force to be reckoned with. Basically, the government needs to start acknowledging and paying attention to people who work for themselves. In practice that could mean looking at giving the self-employed access to pensions, income protection insurance, access to mortgages and all the other areas they struggle with.

 

Andy Chamberlain

Public Affairs Manager, IPSE, Andy Chamberlain thinks that the self-employed are certainly under-represented by the government. In Westminster and in Whitehall. Andy has been calling for better recognition of the self-employed in official statistics. The Office of National Statistics does, in fact, collect data on the self-employed, but Andy would like them to dig deeper and look at what pressures there are on freelance incomes, and what their needs might be.

 

Questions, questions

Whether you are forced into self-employment or make the change by choice, it can be a daunting prospect for anyone. For those used to working for someone else the idea of going it alone and running your own business poses many tricky questions. How do you find work? How much do you charge? And how do you adapt to working from home?

 

Hannah Martin

To be a freelancer you first need someone to hire you, says Hannah, which is why for her, understanding your target market is crucial. Find out who needs your services and what problem do they have that you are going to solve. Also, what makes you really good at solving that problem? If you know your target market and your USP (unique selling points) then you will really know which product or service you are offering and then you're ready to talk to potential clients.

 

Martine Warburton

Finding work as a freelancer can be really daunting. Especially when you are starting out. It's all about contacts and although we'd prefer not to believe it, who you know can play an important role in your freelance career. Which is why it's really important to get to networking events, to get your face and name known in your niche or industry. Then, when you have made your first few contacts, to keep that conversation going.

 

Jo Petty, Freelance Copywriter and Content Consultant

Jo says that talking to other freelancers really helped her. They are not your competition she says and they can be invaluable when it comes to knowing how much to charge. In the beginning, you'll be scared to charge too much because you worry you'll scare the client away. But you should always ask the fair market price.

 

An emerging global community

What we've seen from this boom in self-employment is an emerging global community. Locally, business groups offer help and support to new enterprises, while freelancers around the world share their hints and tips online. In fact, the sheer amount of information out there can be overwhelming. But there are places you can go for help and support, and to find work. You don't have to sit on your own in your bedroom feeling like you have no friends and talking to the cat.

 

Co-working spaces are great for getting out of the house and meeting people in your field and in other fields. You might even find yourself passing on work to your freelancing colleagues. And maybe they'll return the favour.

 

Possibly the biggest resource for freelancers is social media. Not only is it a way of keeping in touch with people and a way of reaching out, it's a fantastic Help Centre. If you have a question about anything, hit social media and you can guarantee you'll get an answer within minutes.

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