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How to successfully set up as a freelancer

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© Artem Medvediev Dave Chaplin, CEO and founder of ContractorCalculator , and author of The Contractors’ Handbook – Third Edition, shares his advice on how to set up as a freelancer in the current economic climate We are living and working in unprecedented times. The economy is still reeling from the impact of COVID-19 and many jobs have been lost. For anyone finding themselves out of work right in the current climate, now might be just the right time to take the plunge and embark on a freelance career. Many businesses are likely to be taking a cautious approach to hiring permanent staff so for those risk-averse businesses, access to key skills that freelancers can offer presents a viable alternative to hiring someone permanently. For those with an in-demand set of skills, now could be the right time to set up as a freelancer. Whilst deciding upon a business model, registering with HMRC and enlisting an accountant are important tasks to focus on, here Chaplin shares his advice on setting a contract rate, marketing yourself and finding work. How much to charge Setting a contract rate is a careful balancing act. You want to establish a competitive rate that rewards you for your efforts without pricing yourself out of the market. There are useful sites online that share the standard rates that specific skills command. However, while these sites provide useful guidelines, they don’t account for the combination of skills or the level of experience required. Therefore, you should create a baseline rate based on your current salary, assess the results from your research, and ask around. Otherwise, lack of clarity over your market value could leave you vulnerable. Ask other contractors. ‘Human intelligence’ is a good source of information. Talk to as many colleagues and friends as you can, but do so discretely, especially if you’re currently permanently employed. Existing freelancers and contractors, as well as permanent employees who have worked with freelancers, understand the work and recognise the value of specific skills. If you can, speak to an experienced freelancer who has similar skills and experience to your own. Market conditions can also significantly impact freelancer demand. Browsing contract advertisements online can therefore help you create a clearer picture of the rates you should command in the current climate. And even if you end up undercharging for your first client, rest assured that you aren’t the only person who has done this. It’s more important to secure that first client. Marketing yourself Your CV and LinkedIn profile have one purpose: getting an agent or client to speak to you on the phone with a view to lining up a client meeting. These profiles are the key marketing tools you must use to be shortlisted for a possible contract. Think of them as offline and online sales brochures to market yourself with. To ensure sustained success in your freelance career, both your CV and LinkedIn profile require special attention. Design both as though you were creating an ‘elevator […]

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