How to start a freelance business in the UK

Filed by team twago on September 16, 2014

Everything you need to start your freelancing career…

Starting a freelance business can be daunting for those that have ticked happily along on PAYE jobs for their whole careers. Suddenly, you don’t just have your job to do, you also have a load of behind the scenes work, like finding insurance, sorting out your tax and marketing yourself.

If you’re serious about being your own boss, you have to be committed to all this extra work, and doing it properly. So what’s actually involved and how can you get started?

1. Choose your legal structure

As a freelancer the two most popular ways of operating are either as a sole trader, or as a limited company. What’s the difference?

A sole trader is personally responsible for all their business dealings, including debts, bills and lawsuits. This is the biggest downside, because it means that if your business gets in financial trouble, your personal possessions will be up for grabs.

The plus side is that there’s a relatively small administrative burden compared with the alternative, registering a limited company in the UK.

By creating a company, you create a separate legal entity and can therefore shift the legal and financial burden from yourself to your company. The downside of this is that there’s a lot more paperwork. You have to meticulously carry out your responsibilities as a director, and there are hefty penalties if you neglect your duties.

Remember, even if you choose to go down the sole trader route, you’ll still need to register with HMRC as a business.

2. Create a website

It goes without saying that every business these days is expected to have a website, no matter how new or how small. Even if it’s just a couple of pages with contact details and professional info, it’s better than nothing.

There are tons of different website creation tools to choose from, and the one for you will depend largely on your website coding knowledge and what features you require. Some of the most popular are WordPress, Wix and Weebly.

If you want to appear that extra bit professional, it’s worth getting your own domain too. Not only is it impressive, it also makes it easier for potential clients to find you online. Domain registration is quite cheap nowadays, so it’s almost definitely worth it.

3. Connect

Once your business and website is set up, you need to start telling the world. This means meeting new people, both on and offline. A good freelancer is always in search for more work, even when they’ve got a full load already.

Make sure you have a professional profile set up on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and, if you think it’s necessary, Facebook. It’s a good idea to separate your personal and professional self, so make new profiles using your work email, instead of using your existing ones.

Do some research and find out if there are any local freelance groups or networking events in your area. This is a great way to introduce yourself to the local business community and will help you find clients. Get a business card professionally designed and have them ready to hand out at all times.

4. Build your portfolio

You may find it hard to find work at first, because clients will often want to see what you’ve done in the past before they hire you and, if you’ve just started out, that’s unlikely to be very much.

You can remedy this by asking friends and family if they need any work done. If something’s going to be particularly good for your portfolio, you may want to consider offering a reduced rate, or even doing the work pro bono.

Patience is needed in these first few months and all you can do is keep pitching and keep trying.

Good luck!

The easiest way to find clients and start your life as a freelancer is right here on twago!

Register as a freelancer now

Nick Chowdrey is a freelance and staff writer specialising in business and tech. He is currently technical writer at specialist freelancer and contractor accountants, Crunch, and regularly contributes to other freelance blogs. You can follow him on Twitter @nickchef88.

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