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Taking the plunge, going freelance...
advice for setting up in the UK
gazraa




msg:786922
 8:07 am on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

Well I've made my decision, I'm going full time freelance. I've been doing the same old boring development work for other companies most of the 6 years I've been a web developer and I need a change and a fresh challenge. It's a bit of a scary prospect, but it will be a worthwhile decision if all goes to plan.

What I would like to know is from those that have done it in the UK, what advice would you give me to getting it all set up?

So far I have the following:

A good broad set of skills.

A bit of money in the bank. Not much, but will cover emergencies in the first month.

Several contacts already trying to push work my way (can't take it on yet as I'm still working full time).

An online system for managing customers, invoices and online billing/payment.

A ltd company already set up, but I'd prefer to go as a sole trader initially.

Support from family and friends (although it's mainly moral support rather than financial).

I have read a little about umbrella companies and like the idea of them handling all the tax and paper work side of things which will lighten the load but I'm not really sure if it's worth it. Can anyone give me advice on that?

Any advice would be very much appreciated.

 

mack




msg:786923
 8:35 am on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

Well done, a very brave descision. :)

The fact that you have people trying to push work your way in the first place is a great thing. The first months will always be the hardest. If you can get a jump start in this time you will probably do well.

I guess the key is to have a backup plan in the event that things don't go to plan. I would recomend parting with the company you work for on as good a terms as possible. I hope it doesn't come to it, but it would be good to have the possability of going back to your old job as a safety net.

In all honesty I truely wish you well.

Mack.

send2paul




msg:786924
 8:49 am on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've never gone "freelance", and probably never will, as I'm only a part-time internet person anyway, but when I was asking these questions about a year ago, one of the most overiding repsonses was to do with marketing you & your business.

You will now become a business. You and your business have to marketed correctly. It's almost irrelevant what you do gazraa, - it's all about knowing who your market is and how to get to them.

Thankfully there are zillions of internet forums with free advice on online & offline marketing techniques, so I won't bore, or confuse you with links here, as you may know exactly what you're looking for.

Plan a business strategy. Know your market. Have a Plan B.

Most of all - enjoy. By putting an enormous effort into foward planning, you could save yourself a lot of headaches in the future.

I hope that general waffle helps :)

gazraa




msg:786925
 9:20 am on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

thanks to both of you, it does all help.

I should be leaving my current place on good terms, I've been gettng good reviews and get on with everyone in the office. There's even a small chance I could get some freelance work with them as I know they have a lot of work coming up that would suit what I do.... but we'll see about that.

I do have a plan B, well several plans actually. I'm investigating how to get into teaching evening classes in the area I live, that's something I've been interested in for a while and might be a good way to get something reasonably regular to help out.

Contracting is another option. May end up doing similar boring stuff as I have been doing but at least it's not likely to be for long periods of time.

I'm involved in several things which I can see the potential for getting work out of it, up to now I haven't been able to push for it, but here's my chance. While I work my notice I can get things in place to hopefully hit the ground running... or at least walking at a brisk pace :)

send2paul




msg:786926
 9:56 am on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

....and get a couple of keyword rich websites up there with Google Adsense on them - then you've got a trickle/flood of regular income coming in no matter what happens! :)

p.s. try not to do too much. Diversification is a good thing, but it can also prevent you from concentrating on the main event.

gazraa




msg:786927
 10:28 am on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

adsense income is already on the to do list :)

i know what you mean about trying to do too much. at the moment it's just finding out what options there are and what's involved, so if i need to try it i don't have to spend time finding out how to do it.

topr8




msg:786928
 1:02 pm on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

no 1 tip.

do NOT get registered for VAT until you really have to. (due to income/turnover threshold)

the resons for this:
1. takes an extra layer out of your accounting (saving you money)
2. no need to submit returns to the vat every 3 months again saving you time and money.
3. ok so you can't claim the vat element back for petrol and so on, but if you are not vat registered the gross amount is tax deductable anyway, so in reality no difference.
4. get a decent accountant. cannot emphasise this enough.

...

5. ALWAYS be decent and charming to receptionists/secretaries at any company you visit - they can be much more influential than their 'rank' suggests. (seriously)

[edited by: digitalghost at 4:35 pm (utc) on Aug. 14, 2005]
[edit reason] typo fix [/edit]

gazraa




msg:786929
 1:33 pm on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

i think that tip number 5 is one of the best I've had!

thanks for sharing that one.

With regards to the accountant side of things.... is joining an umbrella company worth looking at? Ok, so they will take a cut but is the reduction in hassle worth that extra cost?

Is anyone here using an umbrella company?

johntabita




msg:786930
 10:51 pm on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've never gone "freelance", and probably never will, as I'm only a part-time internet person anyway, but when I was asking these questions about a year ago, one of the most overiding repsonses was to do with marketing you & your business.

You will now become a business. You and your business have to marketed correctly. It's almost irrelevant what you do gazraa, - it's all about knowing who your market is and how to get to them.

Thankfully there are zillions of internet forums with free advice on online & offline marketing techniques, so I won't bore, or confuse you with links here, as you may know exactly what you're looking for.

Plan a business strategy. Know your market. Have a Plan B.

Most of all - enjoy. By putting an enormous effort into foward planning, you could save yourself a lot of headaches in the future.

I hope that general waffle helps :)

send2paul is dead on with his advise. Know who your target market is before you begin. "Small to medium sized businesses" is not a target market, nor is "anyone who needs my services." The best method is to target by one or more demograhics, such as:

Company size
Number of employees
Annual revenue
Type of decision maker

Assuming you're selling B2B and not sub-contracting yourself out to other design/development firms, you'll need to be sure that you speak the right "language." Decision-makers such as CEOs, business owners and marketing directors are not interested in things like ASP.NET, PHP, CSS or web standards. They are primarily going to want to know one thing: How can your services help them to make more money, spend less money, or both?

You have to do more than translate "features" into "benefits." You must translate features and benefits into results. Unless you can communicate how your services will produce the results your prospective clients want, you'll be hard-pressed getting anyone to hire you.

This requires a paradigm shift in thinking, especially if you've primarily been a technically-oriented person. Difficult perhaps, but not impossible.

Hope that helps.

gazraa




msg:786931
 8:17 am on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think that type of thing will ok. In all the work I've been involved in (except my latest job) I've been client facing too and know how to turn techy speak into business speak :)

Angelis




msg:786932
 8:28 am on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Someone told me the other day a good accountant will be able to save you the amount you give them as a fee therefore making them cost nothing.

Dont get a cheap one just because its cheap, its much better to get it right the first time.

Essex_boy




msg:786933
 10:38 am on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thats good advice, i once used a cheap accountant he lived in a caravan, offered to commit cheque fraud for me when funds were tight.

I pay around 1000 per year for mine I guess he saves me something like 7000 per year.

Good investment.

gazraa




msg:786934
 2:24 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

so how do you go about getting a good accountant? Word of mouth? Yellow pages? Big firm, little firm?

steve




msg:786935
 1:17 pm on Aug 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

so how do you go about getting a good accountant?

There's a very good article on the institute of chartered accountants website, called 'finding a chartered accountant'

As to size, choose one about the same size as your business. Our small business used to use the local office of one of the largest accountancy firms in the UK. We always had the impression they weren't really interested, moving to a small local firm saved us money in fee's and the extra advice and help have been invaluable.

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