After a certain point in your career, it can be tempting to make a move from permanent work to freelance or contract work.
You may be unsatisfied with your current role, or simply like the idea of being your own boss. But it is a very big decision. So we have put together some guidance and thoughts from the people who manage our freelance and contract candidates here as well as speak to some people who have been there and done it.
First of all, we spoke to Glen Birchall, freelance graphic designer who has been a candidate of ours, working on projects for some wonderful clients such as Transport for London.
What made you think about making the move from permanent to freelance?
To be honest it was a long time in the making. I’d been freelancing in the evening and at weekends for a few years before making the break to full time freelance. Essentially, I got to a point where my enjoyment for the freelance work and having more creative control just seemed a bigger draw than my permanent job.
What have you found the hardest aspect? And what has been most rewarding?
I guess, naively when I started freelancing full time I didn’t consider that what I was really starting was a business. So I had to quickly learn to wear multiple hats, i.e. manage my finances more closely, accepting that being a graphic designer was just one of my roles and become more comfortable with networking and promoting myself.
In terms of what continues to be rewarding is establishing new clients and building lasting relationships that have extended beyond a single project. It’s really satisfying to look back through my files to see the body of work created for certain clients.
What advice would you have for someone thinking of making the move to freelance? Specifically in your sector, creative.
Before I made the jump to full-time freelance I tried to ensure I had enough work for the first three months which gave me a bit of a safety net, I also saved a little bit of money, just to help me through the first month.
I’d also recommend hiring a desk space / shared studio instead of working from home. It’s surprising the people you meet and where things can lead, I think it helps to separate home life from work life.
What are some of the things people may not have thought about? And that you didn't know until you did it - good and bad.
For me, being self-employed makes me more motivated, it reinforced my drive for design, creativity and to continue learning. That's perhaps something I didn't consciously realise before being freelance.
One aspect of going freelance I hadn't really given much thought to missing my colleagues. I miss the camaraderie of all working together on a project, or even the slight element of competition to come up with the best idea / design. But, that said I do now collaborate a lot more with illustrators, copywriters, photographers and programmers which certainly helps.
Thanks to Glen for taking the time to talk to us, be sure to check out his work on Instagram.
But there are lots of practicalities to consider. Our contracts manager, Ian, who deals with a lot of our freelance candidates and clients looking to hire freelance or contract resource, discusses some of the more practical things to consider...
What are the absolute key things to consider when moving from a permanent to freelance career, in terms of managing your finances and the like…
Freelance work is usually paid on a day rate, for actual days worked.
If you are paid PAYE you are actually entitled to holiday pay which you will accrue week by week as you work, which often people don’t realise. The current standard allowance is 28 days per year (which includes the 8 bank holidays).
For instance, if you chose to be paid through our Stopgap payroll service you will also be auto-enrolled into a pension. Stopgap will pay you at the end of each month issuing you a payslip, showing all your deductions.
If you work through your own Limited company you get paid for days worked also, but you don't receive holiday pay or any pension facility. You are also responsible for your own personal tax and national insurance contributions. You will need to consider these factors when discussing your day rate for the role.
What are the benefits of using an umbrella company and what are they?
Working through an umbrella company means the umbrella company will have a contract with you, possibly a contract of employment, and in this, they will detail how they will pay you. This will usually be through the PAYE process. You will need to check how they accrue and pay you for your holiday entitlement and whether you will be auto-enrolled into a pension. The umbrella company will also charge you for their services.
How do we manage freelancers, what does it mean to be on our payroll V the clients?
Being on the Stopgap payroll is a simple process. We will ask you for your P45 and bank details and once we have this we will set you up ready for payment at the end of the first month. Stopgap pays regularly on the 30th of each month so you are always guaranteed your payment. This applies to our PAYE candidates as well as our Limited company candidates. If you are a Limited company candidate and are billing the client directly you will need to check with them how regularly they will pay you as the relationship is strictly between you and them, we have simply sourced you for the role.
For PAYE candidate, you will need to complete our timesheet on a weekly basis and get your manager to countersign it. You need to send the timesheet to us, by scanning and emailing, and we will process this into the system ready for payment at the end of the month. You can request your holiday pay on the timesheet also, for any days you want to be paid for from your holiday allowance (providing your have accrued enough at the point).
For Limited company workers, we require information about your company and some copies of your certificates and a few other bits of relevant information. Once we have checked all the details we will set you up on the system so we can pay your Limited company at the end of each month. You will need to complete timesheets for each week, countersigned by your manager and send an invoice to accompany your timesheets at the end of each month.
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