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How freelancers are on the march

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Whether freelancing is at the heart of your dream for a more flexible future, or a bridge between more settled gigs, you’re in good company. Over 30% of workers in the US and 15% of workers in the UK are employed in the freelance economy. Increasingly professionals are choosing to freelance as a way to supplement their income, build their own businesses, gain independence, or make money while traveling.

Freelancing opportunities can encompass casual work to pick up a little extra cash or develop interests outside of the day job, as well as a much more substantial way to meet personal and professional goals. With concerns about the future of work in regard to automation in both the US and the UK, as well as pressures exerted by Brexit and some manufacturing moving offshore in both countries, many professionals are looking to take home more money now or position themselves for a more independent future by investing in building their own freelance consulting business. For businesses, the rise in freelancing means increased access to experienced, specialist talent and skills when they’re needed, without the pressure to shoehorn a new employee into a full-time role or expect existing employees with generalist backgrounds to handle expert tasks.

Your goals for the future will determine, at least in part, how you set up your freelancing work. Even if you’re just picking up work on the side, the best practice is to start with a little research and make sure you’ve got the right tools, systems and knowledge to benefit from any effort you put into building up your freelance work.

For those hoping to transition to a successful freelancing business as a full-time consultant, it’s critical to do your research and establish your freelancing work in a businesslike, professional manner from the start. You need to understand the applicable legislative and tax requirements of your area and ensure you comply with municipal, regional and national laws.

It is essential to use a disciplined system to record financial details from before day one, recording expenditures on equipment, branding/marketing and other expenses to offset taxes at the end of your trading year. Depending on your professional background, you may find the most effective way to ensure legislative compliance, tax and payment management is handled correctly is to outsource that element of your business. You can assemble a suite of apps, tools and consultants to supply your own freelancing business, or join an umbrella company to consolidate those sorts of overhead requirements. That will reduce the level and complexity of what you need to learn and manage.

To ensure you can earn a profit, review what equipment, supplies and other expenses are needed to successfully fulfill a client’s work before bidding on projects. Spend some time on a business and marketing plan to understand how you’re going to find, attract and keep work. Will you work with a platform or pursue your own work by pitching to clients directly? What payment options will you offer, and how will you collect on outstanding payments? How will you craft your professional identity and brand?

Getting started at freelancing can feel overwhelming, but a little research and preparation can position you well for increased income, greater freedom and flexibility, and a chance to build your own business to take advantage of the expanding freelance economy.