What you need to know about going freelance
Are you an experienced professional, and do you want to work exciting and challenging projects, have a more flexible work-life and more autonomy over your personal finances? Then becoming a freelancer (also called contractor or simply being self-employed) may be the right choice for you. Especially if you consider yourself an expert within fields such as IT, Engineering, Finance, Management, Life Sciences, Business Development and Sales – these are some of the areas where we experience the biggest demand for external specialists, and where you can truly benefit financially and professionally from running a freelance business.
In Denmark it’s difficult to find accurate statistics on the number of freelancers, as they usually combine ‘atypical’ employment forms – such as freelancers, temp-workers, those who combine a part-time employment with freelance jobs or platform economy gigs. However, everything indicates that freelancing is on the rise. And the reason for this: The freedom. As a freelancer or contractor, you can independently choose your own projects and manage your own time.
There’s a lot of benefits to being self-employed but going freelance is a decision which should be made on an informed basis – because it’s not the right employment form for everyone. Below we will guide you through some of the most important things to consider on your path to becoming a freelancer.
Experience and expertise are requirements
When companies hire an external professional, recruiters and hiring managers expect a plug-and-play solution to some extent. So, while professional development is definitely a benefit of being a freelancer, it is not for new graduates or those who want to explore a completely new field or skill. You need to thoroughly consider whether you have the competencies and skill-set to become a consultant; can you work independently within your field, can you provide expert knowledge and expertise, and do you feel confident enough to draw on your network for references, referrals and support?
Driving your own business
This may be considered a positive or negative thing, depending on how you prefer to work. As a freelancer, you decide which companies you want to work for, how much and where you want to work, your hourly rate, and what kind of projects you want to work on. This also means that you are responsible for your own project acquisition and finding clients – which can be both a challenge and an exciting opportunity, based on your network, industry and mindset. However, a lot of people will prefer the structure of permanent employment, as well as a steady income and relations to colleagues.
Freelancing usually comes with a higher hourly pay, as you do not have to share profit with anyone. However, you also have to account for doing your own bookkeeping (or paying someone else to do it), periods without projects, and being responsible for your own pension, insurance, vacation pay and sick pay.
Balancing work and private life
When you’re starting out as a freelancer, it is important to consider whether you prefer being on-site or work from home – or a combination. And choose your projects based on this. It’s difficult to say what is most attractive to potential clients, as some companies will exclusively want freelancers who can work on-site, while your selection of projects may be much greater if you’re either willing to travel or work remote. This is really industry dependent.
It may seem trivial, but if you work a lot from home, be sure to implement some rules. You may benefit from specifying your working hours and sticking to them, or you may enjoy the flexibility of working at different times of the day – but ensure that clients only contact you within a specified time-slot, so that you always have some free-time which is completely undisturbed.
At Hays we have a lot of great resources on how to keep a great work-life balance and maintain your mental health. Because at times it can also be lonely to be self-employed – for many of us, our colleagues are a large part of our social life; and if you don't have someone to share the ups and downs with, it can make your path to become a freelancer full-time more difficult. No matter what your circumstances are, it's important to take care of your mental health in the process.
If you consider the above points an opportunity, we recommend you read the next chapters of our freelance guide: The step-by-step guide to becoming a freelancer and the biggest challenges to becoming self-employed. Here we will elaborate on some of the above, and give some good tips on how to decide on your hourly rate, how to manage your bookkeeping when you start a business, how to work with difficult clients and how to find projects.