There comes a point in every freelancer’s life when it’s time to consider turning your side hustle into a full-time career. The idea can be daunting: leaving the relative safety of an office for the uncertain future of self-employment.
Truthfully, only once you’ve drummed up enough regular clients will you feel confident that your venture is sustainable. But, in order to achieve this, your passion should be stoked – not left to dwindle in the evenings or weekends that you have spare.
In 2018, there were 2 million freelancers operating in the UK alone. This has since risen by 31%, further demonstrating the appeal of working for oneself. The opportunity for success is there, especially if you’re working in an industry that you’re enthusiastic about – and have a few tips to hand.
To help, we’ve provided the below guide on enhancing your self-employment so that you can transform your passion project into a pay cheque.
Research the market
Initially, you need to be sure there are enough clients in need of your products and/or services. If your talents are in social media distribution and content creation, for example, be sure that you have a list of businesses that you know are looking for an outsourced social media manager. These businesses would need to be digital-savvy and actually benefit from a social presence to ensure the longevity of your relationship.
Locality may play a part too. Plenty of businesses will decide to hire a freelancer based on their proximity to them or their familiarity with the surrounding area. Returning to the example of a social media manager, there may be an argument to say that knowledge of local matters is necessary for you to be effective in your work. Representing a restaurant, for instance, would require you to have a knowledge of nearby competitors as well as the politics of that town or city’s food and drink scene.
What’s more, if you wish to increase prices at any stage or broaden your services, you may be expected to meet more frequently with your clients face to face. You should try to make your services as exhaustive as possible for this reason, so you’re able to upsell clients as your relationship progresses and you grow.
Ultimately, don’t give businesses a reason to go elsewhere (or choose to hire internal employees instead). Be sure that the services you offer are fully realised and indicative of market needs. If your hypothetical social media service doesn’t include a monthly analytics report or even a WhatsApp chat where ideas are shared between you and the client, then you aren’t competing effectively
Focus on generating business
Once you’ve fleshed out your offering, turn your attention to attracting clientele. It can be easy to get caught up in the financial minutiae of business ownership; however, you need to be sustaining your operation if you want to work for yourself long term. Start with outbound marketing in order to appeal to the widest possible audience.
For marketeers and creatives, freelancer platforms like Fiverr or PeoplePerHour are useful in picking up odd bits of work. But they require constant surveillance if you wish to only do jobs that befit your passion. Alternatively, tradespeople can advertise services on sites like Gumtree and then use word of mouth to increase awareness.
Networking is another avenue to explore – especially for those in professional service roles. This requires time, but if you meet regularly enough, you’ll be sure to rub shoulders with enough business owners and decision-makers that you’ll have an opportunity to pitch your services.
In addition, try to connect with (and make use of) intermediaries. All business contacts can offer some value. If they’re B2C, see if there’s any opportunity for cross-promotion. If they’re B2B, pitch your services as an extension of their own. As an incentive, any client of theirs could receive a discount on your services and they can earn a referral fee.
Know your expenses
Business expenses can be used by any sole trader. They were designed to stimulate growth in UK business and allow you to lower your tax liability – provided the purchase was made wholly for business purposes.
Simply put, knowing your expenses puts you in a better position to stay afloat. By streamlining your accounts, you’re giving yourself more room to focus on sustaining your business.
If you’d like to know where to start, expenses that are commonly claimed for among self-employed workers typically include:
- Stationery and office equipment purchases – If you run your own graphic design and printing business, this could help you secure the printer you need or cover ink and paper costs.
- Travel expenditure – Based in Manchester and have a client meeting in London? Claim part of the travel costs as business expenses. If you’re staying in a hotel, both your stay and any meals can be considered business expenditure.
- Vehicle costs – Whether it’s fuel costs or the purchase of a van for your trade, you can claim vehicle expenses under legitimate business reasons. If you purchase a car on finance, the instalments can similarly be claimed on
Keep all records
In order to be savvy with your expenses, you need to keep receipts and other records of your purchases. These records document the nature of your expenditure so you can effectively claim them back as part of the Self Assessment tax return process.
This requires a substantial amount of admin and general data entry towards the tax return deadline. So, log expenses as and when they occur to ensure that you have every piece of documentation necessary to prove the nature of said purchase should HMRC ask for it.
Admin is obviously not why you chose to turn your passion project into a career. Yet, when you’re required to file your annual Self Assessment tax return, poor storage of the relevant data will not make the process any easier. This, in turn, will restrict your earning capabilities leading up to the submission date.
That’s why we make logging expenses easy here at GoSimpleTax. No longer will you have to build a library of receipts – instead, you can instantly log expenditure ahead of the Self Assessment tax return deadline by taking photos. Income, too, can also be recorded to calculate the amount of tax you’ll owe in real-time.
In addition, our intuitive software will highlight areas where you may be able to reduce your tax liability. This will enable you to focus all your attention on generating business or researching new opportunities for service development.
If you need support in turning your passion project into a pay cheque, we’ll offer you an opportunity to try our software for 14 days. Get an edge over the competition and start your trial today.
Last modified: 21st October 2019