Fiona Thomas, author of Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss, chatted to Jess and Faye on the Freelance Corner podcast about how to start freelancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Spending more time at home this year might have allowed you more space to reflect — perhaps it’s even given you the opportunity to re-evaluate your way of working. Given the current economic climate and potential job instability, you might be considering going freelance for the first time. But how do you make it work in the midst of a pandemic?
Here are Fiona’s top tips for starting out as a freelancer during the pandemic:
1. Set your prices right
It’s common to encounter impostor syndrome when you start out as a freelancer, particularly when setting your prices. You may feel that you shouldn’t be charging a premium because your skills come naturally to you and you enjoy the work. However, as Fiona explained to Faye and Jess, the skill doesn’t come easily to others. That’s why someone is paying you to do the job. So, make sure to charge what you’re worth and have the confidence to stick with that figure during negotiations.
One technique that can help you set sensible prices is establishing a goal salary: what would you like to earn in a year? Once you’ve got a figure in mind, divide it by 10, not 12, to allow some leeway and time off for holiday and illness. This leaves you with a monthly goal which you can then divide up into a daily rate. Again, cut yourself some slack here — calculate a daily rate based on 15 days of work a month rather than 30, for example. Having done these calculations, you’ll feel much more confident stating your prices to clients and standing by them.
2. Diversify your income streams
One common mistake is relying on just one source of income as a freelancer. While it’s really exciting to secure your first client, make sure you start searching for the next one immediately. You should always be looking for a plan B, as clients can tend to drop freelancers at very short notice, especially during challenging economic periods like this one.
As well as searching out new clients, one great way to insulate your business against external shocks is to develop a passive income stream. This might mean publishing an e-book, selling online courses, or starting a podcast with a secured sponsor. Once established, these sources of income can be run alongside client work with little maintenance and they could prove a safety net if times get tough. Cultivating an online presence is key to the success of these projects, so make sure to work on growing an audience to which you can market your side hustles.
3. Find your community
Moving into self-employment can be great for your mental health in a number of ways, however, it can also breed feelings of isolation. While this affects some more than others, all freelancers could stand to benefit from joining a freelance community which suits them. There are lots of online groups to try out, with Freelance Corner’s Creative Freelancers UK being one of them.
One of the best parts of being friends with freelancers is the shared understanding of the challenges and most rewarding aspects of working for yourself. Partners or friends working in ‘normal’ jobs simply won’t understand the relief of getting sales or the frustrations of late payments. If you’re feeling isolated, take the plunge and reach out to others in online communities — they could be experiencing similar feelings.
4. Work on your business, not just in it
Set aside a chunk of time each week to work on your business. This might mean doing tax returns, accounts, market research, marketing, or PR. Client work should be a priority, however, it’s also crucial to work on pushing your business forward.
While it can be easy to look at your Monday to Friday as a free-for-all, this thinking will ultimately lead to squeezing in business-related tasks at the weekend or leaving them untouched. Instead, schedule proper time during your work week to ensure your business is firing on all cylinders.
5. Stay on top of your finances
Updating a record of your income and expenses (such as postage or web hosting costs) on a regular basis will ensure that you don’t miss out anything when it comes to submitting your tax return. Your method of recording doesn’t need to be fancy — an Excel spreadsheet does the job just fine — but the key part is to make sure you’re filling in your records consistently. Making a habit of updating them at the end of every month would be a great place to start.
Tune into the Freelance Corner podcast on your favourite podcast platform to hear more from Fiona, and protect your business with a Freelance Corner pack today. Also make sure to check out Fiona’s website and book, Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss.