How to Become a Freelancer in today's market 2016 | UK

The prospect of working for yourself has undoubtedly run through your head. Flexible hours, being your own boss, managing your own workload – imagining your life as a freelancer can make being self-employed seem like a dream.

Dreaming is always nice, but working out how to become a freelance photographer, graphic designer, illustrator, or creative professional of any other kind, and actually taking the step of going solo is difficult and one that many are too afraid to take.

To help you make the jump with confidence, we’ve put together an ultimate guide taking you through everything about how to become a freelancer – from how to find your first client to how to build your success into an empire. We’ve also compiled a list of over 50 of the best freelance resources to help you set up and run your business as simply and effectively as possible.


THE FREELANCE REVOLUTION

 

As companies become more trusting of outsourcing projects and realise the benefits of scaling back on in-house employees, the opportunity for freelancers is growing. In 2015, the UK has over 1.8 million people working in freelance roles across all sectors. This upward trend in the freelance market is being welcomed by millions of skilled individuals worldwide for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The ability to set their own timetable
  • The opportunity to work from home
  • The possibility of earning more money
  • The option to take holidays at any time
  • The chance to work while travelling
  • The prospect of working for clients from around the world
  • The potential to work on a greater variety of projects
  • The free time to work on personal projects

     

To find out whether you’re more suited for a career as an in-house employee or a career as a freelance creative professional, check out our blog post on the pros and cons of working as a freelance graphic designer. Although this article is specifically related to graphic designers, the main points are applicable to anyone with an interest in the creative industries.

If you decide that freelance is for you, good choice! As the statistics below will demonstrate further, there’s never been a better time to go alone.

THE GLOBAL PICTURE

The global freelance economy is on the rise and shows no sign of stopping any time soon. The US is often seen as leading the way in the trend with Freelancers Union claiming that 34% of the country’s workforce is now freelancing.

Similarly, in the UK, freelancing is becoming more popular every day, especially among graduates, and the figures from many other European countries tell a similar story:

Freelancing in the UK

  • 14% more freelancers in the UK now than a decade ago
  • 1.4 million freelancers across all sectors
  • Design and multimedia professionals make up 24% of this number (336,000)
  • 78% of the UK public think that freelancing and flexible working help promote a good work/life balance
  • 72% of the UK public think freelancing has a positive effect on family life
  • In 2013 the number of businesses hiring freelancers online increased by 46%
  • The average hourly rate for freelancers also increased by 6.7% in 2013

(Source)

Freelancing for UK graduates

  • 87% students with first- or second-class degrees see freelancing as a lucrative career option
  • This compares to 77% of graduates with lower-class degrees
  • 21% of graduates with first-class honours say they have already chosen to work as a freelancer
  • 29% of all graduates say freelancing is part of their career strategy for the next five years
  • 69% of all graduates feel that independent work offers a better work-life balance

(Source)

Freelancing around Europe

  • Across Europe, freelancers make up 22% of workers in arts and entertainment
  • Freelancers make up the fastest growing group in the EU labour market, increasing from just under 6.2 million in 2004 to 8.9 million in 2013
  • Spain and Slovakia both have freelance rates at 13%
  • Italy leads the way with a freelance rate of 21%

Percentage growth of freelancers by country from 2004 to 2013:

  • Netherlands – 93%
  • Poland – 88%
  • France – 85%
  • UK – 63%
  • Finland – 56%
  • Belgium – 53%
  • Spain – 51%
  • Germany – 43%
  • Italy – 12%

(Source)

If the above has got you thinking seriously about getting the ball rolling as a freelancer, then you need to know what to do next. Read on…

GET EDUCATED

 

You’ll find it much easier to secure work if you have a degree in a subject related to the area you want to work in. Potential clients will respect your qualification and be more likely to use your services. Studying towards a degree will also give you a good grounding in your discipline and help you to plan and organise your workload better. You’ll also be likely to meet fellow creatives from around the world who could be vital in progressing your career in the future.

Studying online

Studying a relevant degree course online offers a fantastic opportunity to experience what life is like as a modern freelance designer. With communication key to your career success, taking part in online forums, working and uploading to deadlines, and pitching projects to your tutors and fellow students from a distance will help you develop desirable skills. The flexibility of studying to deadlines according to your own schedule will also give you a valuable insight into what your working life will be like as a freelance creative.

Study while you work

Another great thing about working as a freelancer is that you can use the flexibility of your schedule to fit in further study, particularly if you study online. By managing your workload, you can take short courses to brush up on skills or even advance your existing qualification to a master’s degree. A master’s degree will often lead to better opportunities and will entitle you to charge a higher rate for your services.

COMPILE A PORTFOLIO

Your portfolio will be crucial to securing work. With a substandard portfolio you will be unlikely to attract much interest. Studying on a degree course is the best way to create a body of work that showcases the best you have to offer. Having your course tutors and peers give you advice and feedback on your work is incredibly helpful, and graduates tend to have more professional portfolios, with a higher standard of work than non-graduates.

You should also have a large presence online with your portfolio displayed to relevant audiences in various places. For more advice on this, read our guide to creating an online portfolio.