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Making the leap: The iMG. guide to becoming a Freelancer

What's it like

What's it like being freelance? 

We have no doubt that you’re here because you want to have more freedom to do the work you love, be master of your own destiny, maybe earn some good money and hopefully work a bit less frantically than you do at your day job. That’s exactly what we (Rich and Dave) wanted when we started the Inspired Marketing Group at the end of 2020. We were fed up of working for ‘the man’ and missing out on time spent with our kids or the things we would much rather be doing with our time.

 

Seems we were just like a lot of freelancers, Research from IPSE in 2020 (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed) found that the overwhelming reasons people chose to go freelance were flexibility, autonomy and freedom. Indeed 88% of freelancers surveyed by IPSE said they were able to have more flexibility and greater control over their work, while 73% said they had a better work/life balance.

 

We knew before we made the leap to freelance that it was going to be tough, we knew we might not earn as much money as we used to straight away, but we knew it would be worth it in the long run if we could make it work.

 

But what is it actually like? Is it as good as it sounds from day one? Spoiler alert - nope, but how does the dream of becoming a freelance marketer work in practice? Let's take a look at some important areas in turn. 

The working hours of a freelancer 

The working hours of a marketing freelancer can be long or short. You can call the shots. Unlike a 9-5 job, you can set your own working times and work in the evenings, at weekends or around children's school pick up hours, or your fur-baby and their walking requirements! For many people, the benefits of having complete flexibility is a real asset and the appetite for that flexibility is growing. 

 

In 2021, requests for flexible working hours from employees in full time jobs jumped to an all-time high, with 86% of employees wanting to work flexibly in some way. For many, full time working isn't compatible with work life balance, and even the most generous employer may still not be able to allow you unlimited time off, the ability to attend your kid's sports day or simply a day off, whenever you want one. 

I never want to work in an office ever again. I’d find it hard to go back into employment. I love freelancing. I absolutely love it. And I've got a three year old daughter as well. So, to me it’s a lifestyle, and it's so important to have that flexibility - Kerry Leech, iMG. community member 

However, freelancing isn't a 'get out of jail free card' for hard work and attendance. As you start to freelance more and grow your reputation, you may work with bigger clients, and this means more money (hooray!) yet also more commitment.

 

The freelancers able to run their businesses effectively with a constant stream of clients are doing so because of their commitment to their clients. Freelancing is a service business which means giving a great service to your clients and depending on who this is – that task can be quite full on! 

 

Many clients keep set business hours themselves and therefore may require you to attend calls and project meetings at typical office times. There may still be the deadlines you have found in full time work, and your days may be closer to the standard working times of an office – and perhaps even work on evenings and weekends will be a reality.  

The work life balance is just something which is very much attractive in freelance, you can set your hours  and there's much more flexibility, whereas of course, when you're working full time, then the rules have to apply to everyone who's working there. The COVID situation that we've been through has really exposed some issues with full time employment. - Nouman Khalid, iMG. community member 

In fact, 64% of freelancers say they work more hours than they did when employed and almost half (49%) of those working more than 40 hours per week said they don’t take enough breaks, according to the study by IPSE. 

However, this is ultimately in your control. If you wish to never rise before 10am ever again or want to build in a non-negotiable 2 hour break every day to work out or spend time on your passions - this is completely possible with freelancing. It’s ultimately about controlling your own time and negotiating on an individual basis rather than a collective basis.

Getting a good reputation for being a great freelancer means delivering good quality work, on brief, on budget and above all on time.  Sometimes I might need to produce the impossible – a 2,000 word article over a weekend because there’s no way around it. People remember these moments – and if you can see them as a marketing opportunity and keep the balance in check, you’re onto a winner. - Elaine Keep, iMG. community member 

Is freelancing possible fully remote

It's not just possible for freelancing. Many businesses are now closing down their large bricks and mortar sites with neon logos above the doors because remote working, works, it’s cheaper for some businesses and ultimately the majority of workers want and demand it.

 

The question really goes back to what you want from your day. Some businesses you engage with will want their freelancers on site, others are happy with a remote situation…the simple answer is go and get what you want. You’re in control as a freelancer.

At iMG. any client we contract with knows that you are a remote worker, and if you were required in the office, it is not coming out of your pocket. COVID proved that remote working could work. Remote working does work. It’s been possible for years but Covid forced attitudes to catch up with technology. We fully support it as a feasible way of delivering great marketing support.” . - Richard Johnson, iMG. Co- founder

Being your own boss

You've probably had some dreadful bosses in your life, and the idea of being the boss of your dreams can be hard to pass up. Hungover day off? No problem! Margarita Tuesdays? Get the glasses! 

 

However, being your own boss comes with a huge range of responsibilities you may have never considered before. Stuff which would sit way outside of the normal remit of a marketer; like finance, sales, legal and compliance.

 

When you set up as a freelancer there are also costs and tasks that you need to consider which are all part of the parcel of running your own business. 

How much will you earn?

 

There is no short answer when it comes to how much you can earn as a marketing freelancer, but many marketing professionals dabble in freelance work when they realise that their skills are an asset. Taking the leap from a comfortable salary paid monthly with all your tax deductions to working solo is a real change and this is the number one question you will be asking yourself. 

 

The rate you can command depends on your clients, your skill set, what kind of work you do, and your network and abilities to get clients will all affect how quickly you can 'jump start' your marketing freelance career. 

 

Typical rates for a marketing freelancer

 

According to Reed:

  •  The average rate for a freelance content writer in the UK is £271 per day 

  • The average rate for a freelance social media manager is £287 per day. 

  • The average rate for a marketing video editor is £200 per day. 

  • The average rate for a freelance SEO consultant is £383 per day. 

 

These are just averages - with some professionals earning significantly more than this, and some less. 

 

You may not initially earn as much as you were in your previous job straight out of the gate - but there are definite upsides to freelancing such as the work life balance and varied clients you can work with. You can often negotiate better rates as you progress in your career and get more experience under your belt or do more hours. 

 

Don't forget that the world is your oyster! You can work with clients across the globe and your work experience is an asset. It's also never too late to start, 44 is currentlyt the average age of a marketing freelancer, according to the Marketing Freelancers’ Association.

Can you have a full time job and a side-line?

 

Many people freelance on the side to top up their salary, gain new skills or have a creative outlet, but things can soon get serious, and they pick up extra work that starts to really stack up!

 

While a small side-line is okay to test the waters, to get hired as a professional, you need to be operating as one. At some point, you need to cut off other work and commit to your freelance career. 

 

There’s also the tax issue (we know – it’s always about taxes!) You do not need to tell HMRC about income you’ve already paid tax on, for example wages. But you need to tell HMRC if you earned other income from freelance work. (Fun fact - this also includes items sold at car boot sales or online if you do it often enough!)

 

If this income takes you over your Personal Allowance, you’ll pay tax on it. £12,570, is the amount of income you do not have to pay tax on upto 6th April 2023.

 

As always, some bedtime reading of the HMRC guidelines is recommended!

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