Going freelance - working for yourself

You don’t have to work for someone else when you graduate; instead have you considered working for yourself as a freelancer?

Find out if self-employment and freelancing are for you. What does it involve? How can you build a successful career by working for yourself? 

Reasons to work freelance

You can’t find a full-time job 
More and more students are turning to self-employment as a short term measure whilst they look for full-time employment. You may wish to combine freelance work with part-time salaried contracts as part of a portfolio of work.

Your chosen career requires you to work freelance
Opportunities are often found by offering your services on a freelance basis rather than applying for advertised vacancies. The growth of social media and the internet is making it easier to set up and operate on a freelance basis, enabling networking and virtual, online working.

You want to be your own boss
You might choose to work freelance so that you can enjoy a more independent style of working with the freedom to make your own decisions, manage your time and work in your own way.

You see it as a stepping stone to building your own business
Many successful businesses start with the seed of an idea and start up on a freelance or micro basis. Do you have a business idea you want to test?

Whatever your motivation for working freelance, set yourself short and long term goals. See this stage of your career as an opportunity to develop valuable skills for your CV, to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and as a way to build contacts. Short term freelance contracts can open doors to all sorts of opportunities to get your career on track.

Is freelancing right for me?

Working freelance allows you to create a work life based on your skills, talents and what interests you. To be successful you need a good idea and the ability to deliver a quality service or product to customers. You must be self-motivated, prepared to work hard and able to handle the element of risk which goes with freelance working. It helps if you are passionate about what you are doing and not just in it for financial reward.

Other skills and qualities you need:

  • Initiative and imagination
  • Determination and persistence
  • Belief and confidence in yourself and your ideas
  • Ability to deal with set-backs and handle uncertainty
  • Good time management and organisational skills
  • Ability to market and promote yourself effectively

Test your enterprise potential by taking the free online Get2 enterprise test

How to get started?

So you are inspired to give it a go; where do you start?

Define your offer - Do you have a skill that you could make money from? Do you have a talent you could exploit? Have you been paid for a one off project or piece of work? Be clear about the value of your offer to the customer.

Research the idea - Make sure that you get objective feedback from real customers. Who will buy your product or service? What is the market situation and who are your competitors?

Get good advice - Find yourself a mentor, either a trained business advisor or someone who is a successful freelancer. Contact Careers Network's B-Enterprising Team.

Join a network - Being a freelancer can be isolating, so share your journey with others in a similar situation. This will help you to build contacts, share ideas and solve problems. Is there a LinkedIn group relevant to your sector? Is there potential to work in partnership and collaborate with others?

Plan effectively and get organised - Be clear about your objectives and how you will achieve them. In the early stages, good cash flow is vital and this requires you to know in detail what you will earn or spend, and when. Work out what you need to charge to make a profit and keep your initial start-up costs under control. Sort out your workspace and set up efficient administration systems.

Try your idea and build a potential customer list - Write a potential customer list and build your networks. Who will want to buy your service? Create a prototype, do product trials, find someone willing to try your service and make a first sale.

Stay legal - Ensure that you have all of the necessary tax, financial, intellectual property and insurance requirements in place. Take a look at the HM Revenue and Customs website about self-employment. Consult an accountant and lawyer for further advice.

Get help with your freelancing idea by contacting our B-Enterprising team at benterprising@contacts.bham.ac.uk. You can attend freelancing events on campus and there are advice appointments available if you need help with your idea.

Need more inspiration or information to help you to get started?