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7 Tips for Becoming a Professional Freelancer

The idea of going freelance and starting your own business is an enticing one, working for yourself, rolling out of bed, sitting at a Pinterest-worthy desk lined with perfectly organized files… However, the fact of the matter is, at the beginning, it can feel like an uphill struggle, with the rules, regulations and the initial start-up costs.
Freelancing can take many forms. Some people do it full-time and others do it alongside other part-time or full-time jobs. One of the benefits is that you can freelance to suit your life. Freelance can be freeing and full of variety, and you can make the most of it by setting yourself up for success from the start.

1. Get your admin in order

It can be great fun picking out the website template you might use or how you’re going to decorate your desk, but before all that happens you need to tick some major admin boxes. You’ll have to decide whether to set yourself up as a sole trader, or a limited company, register with the CRO and ROS. Tax law is complicated the world over, and as a general rule you should seek the advice of a tax specialist in the jurisdiction where you'll need to pay taxes, they'll also likely be able to incorporate a company for you if that will be the best option. To find an accountant in Ireland you might want to try the Chartered Accountants Ireland website's Member Search, preferably in the town or city that you work and/or reside.

2. Decide on your hours

If you’re coupling freelance work with another job, make sure you’re dedicating a reasonable number of hours to your freelance projects without neglecting the time you need for essentials like sleeping, eating and exercise. Plan your work week so you have at least one full day of rest, otherwise you’re going to burn out. Don’t push yourself to work overtime if you can help it. It’s not a great habit to get into and you need to ensure that you are taking care of you mental and physical well-being.

3. Budget, Budget, Budget!

Excel is your new best friend, or whatever spreadsheet software that you prefer. You will need to decide how much your work, and more importantly your time, is worth. You will have to assign value to many aspects of your business, balancing overheads, fees and of course ensuring a liveable wage.

4. Pick your workplace

A lot of freelance work will probably begin in the comfort of using a laptop in bed at all hours. Keeping this up isn’t sustainable and can have negative effects on your health. It’s too easy to be connected all the time with a smartphone in your pocket, so you’ll need to learn to switch off from work and switch off from your personal life when you need to. The line between these two things can blur if you have no one to answer to but yourself, and most of your work happens at home. It takes practice to separate work and personal life. Even a public library can be great pseudo-workplace unless you need something more permanent or with the necessary facilities, co-working spaces can fill that void, providing an alternative workspace for all your freelancing needs at times that suit you.

5. Write up a project plan or manifesto.

This could be a list of words that describe who you are as a business and what you have to offer, or it could be a timeline of everything you hope to achieve in the week, month or year. Use this document to shape your day-to-day decisions and the direction of your work. You’ll soon realise if what you’re producing and what you might have planned don’t quite line up.

6. Treat each day as if you were going to an office

To get you into a productive mindset you need remove homeliness from wherever you’re getting work done. Get showered, brush your teeth, put on a fresh outfit and try to leave the house a couple of times during the day to stretch your legs and get some air. This mode of preparation will set you up for optimum productivity and help to separate your personal life from your professional one. Developing a healthy routine starts with some good habits.

7. Learn to love being alone, but remember to seek support

Most of the time you will feel like you’re flying solo. Frankly, you will have to practice getting comfortable and confident in your own abilities, however, you shouldn’t neglect the power of networking and reaching out to other people who might be in the same position as you. Chances are, they’re feeling a lot of the things you’re feeling. Social media can be a great place to look for professionals and businesses you admire and attending local events or workshops can be another way to enter your industry community. Ask questions, be friendly and keep an open mind.