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GOING FREELANCE:
TIPS AND TRICKS TO GET STARTED

A young businesswoman sits in front of an office complex on a small wall with a laptop on her lap. She looks to the right as if she were looking into the future as a freelancer.You are particularly good at what you do—but would like to be more flexible and earn more? At a time when more and more professionals become self-employed, you may have also toyed with the idea of changing your career path. When pondering such a massive change, however, a lot of things need to be considered. The most important ones are listed below.

How you benefit from going freelance

A freelancer in a suit is sitting with his laptop in a café to work mobile from there. He is smiling.

Flexible working times, diverse projects, appreciation of your expertise: Working as a self-employed professional brings many advantages. Regardless of corporate structures and instructions from supervisors, you decide yourself the companies you want to work for, how much to work and the projects to work with. You will be working on your own conditions at your own pace.

As an external professional you will assume a role you can shape as you wish—you decide the direction to take. You were asked to help with a certain project, and the more projects you complete successfully, the more sought-after you become. Your growing experience is invaluable for your future clients. Experienced professionals are in high demand across industries, and this trend does not seem to be abating.

What to expect when going freelance

If you want to work as a freelancer, you need to do things others do for you when you are an employee. They include, e.g.:

  • acquiring customers
  • calculating your income and deciding on an hourly rate
  • writing invoices
  • filing a tax return for your company

You will see that you will master these things with ease and be able to focus most of your time on core competencies. In addition, you may consider outsourcing individual tasks bit by bit to a partner. Sounds good? Then nothing will stop you from changing your career path.

Requirements for self-employment

A freelancer goes through her documents, orders and invoices from home.The key requirement to going freelance is experience because, after all, your clients rely on your expertise. While in employment, you acquire experience and professional knowledge which you should continue to expand in your role as a self-employed professional to be able to successfully leverage them. Do not underestimate how valuable your professional experience makes you as an external professional for new projects. In order to position yourself accordingly and to be able to access attractive clients, Hays’ project search opens up exciting opportunities for you.

If it is an area of expertise you have not worked in yet, you should be able to show your experience in other fields. This may be volunteer work or self-learning for a hobby. Ask for a written assessmenteven for assignments you did free of charge. Such an assessment should include a short description of your performance. References ensure that future clients are able to get a comprehensive picture of your capabilities.

Apart from experience and references, two other factors are an important prerequisite to becoming a freelancer: a suitable workplace and a high level of autonomy. When you are employed while working part-time as a freelancer, make sure to not complete your freelance assignment “in between” at your workplace. In a lot of cases you can work from home. Working from home requires self-management and problem-solving expertise—skills that make you even more attractive as a self-employed professional.

Step by step from employment to freelancing

Not everyone is keen on jumping into the deep end. Leaving the security of employment behind needs to be carefully thought out. One way of checking out what freelancing would be like is to work part-time as a freelancer while still being employed. In some cases this happens almost automatically. You can build IT skills, or other specialisations of interest to the freelancing market, part-time according to your employment situation and your previous experience.

In such cases, pay attention to the following: Check your employment contractfor whether you are allowed to work for the competition. This depends on several factors such as the type of work you do for these two companies. Often, you will not be permitted to work for a competitor of your employer. In addition, you will always need to ensure that during the contractually agreed working hours, you are mentally and physically fit to fully accomplish your tasks. If part-time freelancing goes well, you may lose focus of your main job. You must not let that happen—there is even legislation as to your duty of allegiance to your employer.

If you notice that part-time freelancing brings in more and more money you should consider handing in your notice to your employer. Otherwise, your health insurer may order a check to find out which job you earn more money with—and if it turns out that it is from freelancing rather than your employment, chaos is sure to ensue. So it is better to leave your employment in a planned, orderly fashion. As an alternative, you conduct your self-employment strictly part-time and ensure there is a notable financial difference between your two forms of income.

Going freelance full time—a big step

Your employment does not offer you the freedom and flexibility you were looking for? You have successfully carried out your first assignments as a self-employed professional and can imagine working on further projects? Take the step and freelance full time! Depending on your industry and job, contact the revenue office or register a trade. The revenue office will send you a questionnaire for tax information, where you have to enter your expected annual income. At the beginning, you have very little cues as to how much you may earn. However, be sure to calculate carefully because the amount of tax you have to pay will be based on that calculated amount. You may want to ask around in freelancing communities—sharing information with other freelancers can help you to better calculate your probable turnover.

Which industries have a demand for freelancers?

In the following fields of expertise, companies are particularly willing to work with external professionals:

  • construction & property
  • engineering
  • finance
  • healthcare
  • IT
  • legal
  • life sciences
  • retail
  • sales & marketing

One particular field stands out: IT. Whether it is business intelligence, cloud computing or SAP consultancy: IT professionals and/or IT freelancers are in urgent demand.

How to present yourself as an expert

If you are thinking of going freelance you should think about having your own website. In particular in areas such as web design, your own website is like a digital business card. But the same applies to all self-employed professionals: You need to be found easily, and you should provide as much information about yourself as possible. The easiest way to do this is via your own website because this is where you can describe in detail what you do, provide samples and references and give interested parties the opportunity to contact you.

Not everyone can create their own website or has the time to familiarise themselves with it. Of course you can ask a professional to create a website for you. However, many founders will want to avoid the cost involved in that, so professional communities such as LinkedIn or Xing are a good alternative to having your own website. These communities let you publish all the information you would normally present on a website to connect with interested parties. This enables you to be found by people who are looking for your services.

Ideally, you maintain both, your digital business card in the form of a website and a professional community.

Different platforms for successful acquisition

If you want to find projects yourself, Hays is at your side as an experienced and well connected partner. If you want to, there is also a variety of freelancing platforms that may be of interest to you. Most of them let you register free of charge, but require payment if you want to engage with potential customers or clients. In many cases you can get notified if a project comes in that you want to quote for.

Smaller platforms where freelancers offer their services may be another option. Hays is committed to acting as a broker for full-time self-employed professionals.

As a freelancer, you can apply for our project offerings—while searching for exciting projects, our service is free of charge for you. You benefit from the fact that numerous companies in many different industries form our client base and are looking for professionals on a per-project basis. We know what they need and can tell from many years of experience, which company and which freelancer may be a good match. We are actively engaged in bringing clients and freelancers together, and are at your side during the entire journey—from presenting to completing the project. Use our handy downloads for project overviews, checklists and templates or ask for individual advice.

Our conclusion - a lot of freedom and a lot of responsibility

If you want to go freelance you open up a level of freedom for yourself which you would probably not get to experience as an employee. You can make your workdays more flexible, which will benefit both your job and your family. At the same time you are expanding your horizon and growing with your responsibilities and projects. You can decide yourself how to grow and who to work for. Working as an interim manager can also be exciting. 

In the beginning in particular, it helps to fall back on experienced partners. Our experts support you with important information beforehand so you can become part of the Hays talent pool. We broker interesting projects and offer you distinct value while working for your client.

Your advantages with contracting

Here you can find out which services we offer for freelancers and why you can find your dream project with us.

You might also be interested in this: Dos and Don'ts!

Avoid putting your foot in your mouth with basic rules of conduct for freelancers. Plus: here's what you should watch out for with new clients.

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