The number of freelancers is skyrocketing and 85% of graduates say they would consider freelance work as a career. Self-employment affords flexibility and freedom that a traditional office setting does not typically offer, allowing self-starters to thrive in a more independent environment.
There are many benefits to freelancing, but taking the plunge and working for yourself has its risks and challenges. Fortunately, there are a range of services that have been created specifically to help freelancers to lower their risk and work efficiently. Below, we’ve listed five simple steps that you can take to streamline your workflow and protect yourself as an individual contributor to the contractor economy.
What’s the one thing we couldn’t work without? Our gadgets, of course. Laptops, tablets, and mobile phones have given people the option to work flexibly and independently, yet few people consider the impact of a broken or lost laptop on their productivity. Lost, stolen, or damaged devices can cause missed deadlines, lost clients and tarnished reputations.
Most insurers will offer basic insurance as an add-on when buying other policies, but they often have hidden exclusions and long turnarounds for replacement that disrupt the way that freelancers use their devices. To ensure the least interruption to your workflow, seek an insurer that provides fast repair or replacement. InMyBag is a great option that provides specialist device insurance for freelancers and busy people.
Whilst freelancing, you have the sole responsibility for keeping your work safe. Lost work creates a strain on your own time and energy, resulting in a loss of productivity. Get in the habit of backing everything up in at least two places, making sure that at the end of each day, all of your work is duplicated.
Many rely on services like Dropbox and Google Drive to backup data, but if you lose files, it’s recommended to have a fully comprehensive backup.Backup software such as CrashPlan backs up your files and settings continually and automatically, ensuring a seamless transition to a new laptop in the case of data loss or device damage.
Tracking your billable hours is often one of the hardest disciplines for new freelancers. However, it is vital to be able to account for your working days when billing your clients.
Fortunately, there are a number of tools to help with this billing management. Harvest is one of the most popular systems, one that not only tracks your hours but also seamlessly handles client invoicing. Toggl provides a less comprehensive experience, but is inexpensive and provides user-friendly mobile apps. My Hours is another alternative with a great free version!
If you need time off at a typical 9-5 job, you have the cushion of the legal minimum sick day pay. Freelancers sacrifice this traditional safety blanket, working without income protection. Freelancers take 3 times fewer sick days than people in traditional employment, often persevering through illness and personal issues. Unfortunately, studies show that critical illness cover can cost up to £50 a month.
Freelancer-specific banks like Coconut plan to offer income protection services in the future. Be sure to do research on websites like the Money Advice Service, and choose the best policy for your work.
Before engaging with a client, make sure that you are both on the same page about all aspects of your arrangement. If you will work five days per month, make it clear when those days will be and what pieces of work they can expect to receive at certain key points. It’s important to manage client expectations on what can realistically be achieved in this time. This ensures clear lines of communication between you and your client, eliminating potential disagreements over timeline and work production.
The IPSE is the industry body for freelancers and has a good range of contract templates. If you do end up in an uncomfortable work situation or encounter a disagreement that needs exterior intervention, Lawbite offers freelancer-friendly legal advice.