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WHAT IF I CAN’T GET A JOB? How to get started as a freelancer


Intro Ideally you will walk out of university with a shiny new degree and a promising career ahead of you in your dream job as a popstar, astronaut or zookeeper. Granted, you don’t need a degree to be a popstar, it was just an example. In reality you will more likely be looking at a bottom rung job in the career ladder. and that dark student loan debt cloud will follow you around.

Becoming a freelancer is something that is becoming more common. As it is becoming harder and harder to get a job, in any field. And competition is tough in the creative industries.

Freelancing can be seen as a last resort opportunity to try and get things going. In fact most creatives begin their careers by freelancing or have experienced this type of worki at one point in their lives. Here is a guide on nearly everything about freelancing you need to know to get going or workout if freelancing is a career path you want to venture down.


The problem is that most people work their way up to their perfect job, so to start with you’ll probably just be looking for whoever will employ you, and give you a decent salary. Is freelancing less reliable than a paid job? Honestly, no job is secure, and nothing is permanent. So if you feel like you’ll be considering freelancing in the future it is always good to start out by working freelance on the side of a job which has a more reliable income. Start gradually, rather than throwing yourself in the deep end.

You do have to work harder to ensure there is money in the bank. - But You get to be your own boss, work your own hours, and take control of your future.

Try to have enough savings for about 6 months before you quit your job and go freelancing full. Staying in a job whilst building up your freelance business is also a perfect way to find clients who may be interested in working with you directly.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” - Confucious


Steps for setting up: Step 1: Pick a name for your business website, you can check it isn’t taken by going to www.123-reg.co.uk - It’s useful to add in the service you offer to your domain name

Make sure it’s professional and inoffensive, you’re not allowed to have any sensitive word in your business name, legally.

Step 2 Decide if you’re going to be a sole trader, a limited company, or a partnership Definitions: Sole Trader: The company is owned and run by an individual -If you’re a sole trader you must check to make sure that your company name is as unique as possible, check online searches and in phone directories. Limited Company: The liability of members of the compnay is limited to what they have invested or guarunteed to the company. if you’re a limited company you must check that your chosen name is unique and available via ‘Companies House’ where you can see if anyone else has your company name. Partnership: Two or more people share management and business profits Then tell Inland Revenue

Step 3

Make yourself a beautiful website, and spam every possible social media site with everything you do. Get your friends to share your stuff too!

Make sure you have some branding for your company, a logo, colour scheme, font style are all important aspects to consider. Then you can get some stationery sorted, including letter heads, business cards and compliments slips.


Step 4

Set up a business bank account. Before you approach a bank, you will need - a logo on a a letter head - Your business name and address - Photo ID and proof of address - And if you’re a limited company a few more additional documents.

After you’ve set up a business account: Set up a financial record-keeping system. -keep records of all your invoices and payments at the end of every month. -file them properly, it’s easy on the computer, you can just save them as the date and clients name. -it will be super easy to access them this way.

The boring stuff Get an accountant - when it comes to organising taxes they will be a life saver. Sorting your taxes for the end of the financial year… -Print all your invoices -Put all of your bank statements together -Include reciepts -Payments -Any other business costs or overheads - place your logo and business name on all official documents and stationery -

Register yourself as self employed with HM Revenue and Customs

-If you’re a sole trader you have to pay income tax and national insurance contributions. -If you’re a limited company, you must tell HM Revenue and Customs if it’s liable for corporation tax and pay any that is due. - file your company tax return on time as well.

- You can just get your accountant to sort all this out for you!

If you’re expecting more than a £70k turnover a year then you need to register for VAT, which you can then claim back off items for your business that include VAT.


You will have to sacrifice your spare time to build up your own business There is no easy way to start out as a free lancer alone, be prepared to work very hard, especially in the early days and you’ll soon be able to leave your job.

You will have to sacrifice your spare time to build up your own business. Theres no easy way to start out as a free lancer alone, be prepared to work very hard, especially in the early days and you’ll soon be able to leave your job. In the economic climate freelancers actually tend to benefit while everyone else is struggling.

Stay on top of the trends in your industry, Figure out which trends affect your directly, and which ones you can use to your advantage.

Keep an eye on emerging trends. You can then establish yourself in a niche area and get more clients.

Simply because you offer value, and as a freelancer you will be much more flexible with your time.

Eventually you will get to decide who you want to work with

- If you’re good, you’ll always be busy It’s always good to gather up as much experience as you can, sticking at your job can get you more experience and skills, if you’re feeling confident already, go for it!


Money is the most important aspect of freelancing, there will always be thing you have to pay for, bills, mortgage, food.

If you’ve established your target customer and have a decent client base you should be fine. Always be looking for the next project, focus on marketing and go to networking opportunities.

Friends are a great source of support and they can help to spread the word about your business to people in their social and professional circle.

If you are going to work from home then contact your local authority, you might need to pay business rates. Working from home can also have implications on your mortgage and home insurance


You will have to be your own boss,

accountant and everything else it takes to maintain a successful business.

Stay organised and be disciplined, and keep a good balance between work and life.

You will be working alone mostly, apart from when you go for interviews to pitch your services or to meet partners you can collaborate with, so it is important that you have supportive people around you, and if you’re used to working with people around consider sharing an office or rent a desk.

Make sure you stick to your targets, you need to be accountable as theres not going to be anyone around to monitor your progress. You’ll need self discipline to run your business, work ethics are importat to stick to though

If you’re working at home it can seem tempting to sleep longer in the mornings, which is unproductive because it will turn all your waking hours into working ones. If you stick to office working hours you’re more likely to be successful. get to spend more time doing other things rather than getting stuck in traffic on the way home.

You can work extra hours where you need to and on the flip side if you get your work done in less time, no one’s forcing you to stay in the office

Clients are most likely to contact you during office

hours, so keep yourself available


You will be interacting with clients...

and they will expect you to be professional in your communications with them. Your client is your boss and you have to treat them like one and be as helpful as possible. Clients will stick with you and your business if you show them that you are committed to what they require and go out of your way to help them.

In freelancing, the same as any other job you will at times have to deal with unreasonable demands and rejections, you will be hearing from the client directly. Just keep your emotions in check, as clients are your life line and you can’t afford to get offended.

Learning to negotiate is important with clients for your sake, as in freelancing you don’t get a monthly salary, your earning reflect off your business rates, and there aren’t any perks. There is nothing wrong with starting out with low rates. you can do a bit of market research and see what other people are charging who are providing similar services to you. It is wise to steadily raise them as you gain a reputation for yourself. It should keep inline with your skill set, so that you feel you deserve higher pay. Quote a rate that is higher for new clients compared to present clients and work your way up as your get more projects.


This booklet is part of the How to guides for real life series designed and created by


How to be a freelancer