What Is Freelancing? Getting Started And Going Digital

Most people look blankly at me when I tell them I’m a freelance writer, because freelancing is one of those things that’s as vague as it is interesting. So today I’m starting things off by trying to answer the core question; what is freelancing?

This series on how to get started with freelancing is going to look at all aspects of going solo and cutting yourself free from the 9-5. It’s not all plain sailing, but there are definite pros to the art of going freelance.

So, if you’ve ever wondered whether or not you’re cut out for the life of a freelancer, these posts may be useful for you. Let me know what you think in the comments. This post contains some affiliate links to services that can help you jumpstart your freelancing career if you’re feeling keen.

What is freelancing anyway?

Simply put, freelancing is the act of working out your set of skills and putting them out there for hire. One of the most important things to consider about freelancing, before you make the jump from the 9-5, is that you need a plan and a strategy to hit the ground running.

Anyone can put themselves out there for professional hire, but not everyone will make a success of it. One of the main reasons for that is that not everyone will have taken the time to plan their path down the freelance road properly.

It’s never a good idea to jump into something new without doing your research, and freelancing is certainly no different. The first thing you need to consider is your motivation for going freelance.

what is freelancing image shows a woman typing on a white laptop

Why do you want to start freelancing?

Is it because you have an additional skill that you could be making some extra money from? Or perhaps you have a passion for something that your normal job doesn’t allow you to follow up on?

Maybe you’re sick of the weekday grind and long for the flexibility of being your own boss. Whatever it is, you need to work out your motivations for going freelance and see if they marry up with the realities of what self-employment actually entails.

Change is good, and new challenges are great, but make sure you ground them in reality. Going freelance might need to be something you gradually work up to, especially if you have bills and responsibilities to consider. Luckily, that’s something that’s compatible with the gig economy. It’s actually the best way to find out if freelance work is right for you.

Don’t give up your day job straight away

This is really important. Make sure you understand the requirements of freelance work before you quit your full-time job and jump straight into it. There are many exciting ways to use your professional skills and talents on a freelance basis, but there are also some legal requirements you need to be aware of.

If you do start working for yourself, you’re going to need to consider yourself as being self-employed. This means that as soon as you’ve earned over £1,000, you’ll need to register with HMRC as a sole trader.

This is an important thing to bear in mind because once you’re registered as a sole trader, you’re then responsible for keeping on top of your own bookkeeping, accounts and self-assessment. I’ll cover this in more detail in another post, but the admin side of going freelance is something that you’ll need to remember and be really proactive about.

Crucially, you need to ensure you’ve got enough stable income coming in or saved up before making the leap into self-employment.

what is freelancing

What kind of freelancing are you considering?

There are lots of ways to use your professional skills on a freelance basis. Firstly, you need to decide upon what kind of work you’re most confident at offering up for hire. Luckily, there’s a massive market for all kinds of digital creatives, writers, photographers, editors, tutors, artists, animators and technical wizards.

That’s not the end of the scope though. Chances are, if you have a professional skill that you can help other people with, there’ll be a way you can monetize it in the freelance world.

Digital marketplaces have made it easier than ever to get paid work on a freelance basis. I’ll cover more about this in a further post, but one of the fastest ways to get started on your freelance track is by creating a seller profile for yourself on a marketplace like Fiverr, for example.

However, it’s important that you really work on your personal goals before you even start with any of them – make sure you plan for longevity!

Adjust your expectations and plan your budget for your new freelance life, because there’s no guarantee of a stable income, especially in your first few years. This is another reason I’d advise dipping your toes into freelancing slowly and working on your portfolio before you fully give up your job.

what is freelancing

Develop a freelancer’s roadmap

The freelancer’s roadmap is something I like to do at least twice a year, usually at the beginning of each month. It helps me immensely to have a yearly and half-yearly overview of what I hope to achieve in my freelance work.

Ultimately, this boils down to the fact that as a freelancer, you’re solely responsible for your own success. You need to have a roadmap for yourself, or you’re just going to end up feeling like you’re shouting about yourself on a market stall all the time, never really getting anywhere.

I’m going to break down the different strands of my freelancer’s roadmap in the next few posts of this series, so make sure you check out the sections on things like skills, tech, accounting and promoting, to name a few.

What is freelancing all about and is it for you?

There’s a lot more to freelancing than just putting yourself out there at the mercy of the digital world. There’s the impact it can have on your home and personal situation too. Making a success of freelance work is an uphill struggle, but one that can be incredibly rewarding too.

The most important thing to consider is if you can adjust to the lifestyle of a freelancer, where no two days are the same, and yet they’re all kind of are.

My first tip, if you’re asking yourself the ‘what is freelancing’ question, is to make a list of your skills, however random they might be, and look at which of those you think you can offer to other people. What can you do that makes you stand out? Where are your interests, and can they be something you can turn into an income stream?

Then you’ll start to get an idea as to whether or not freelancing is really something you can do long-term.

Are you a freelancer?

If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What was it like making the jump from the world of the 9-5 to the world of the self-employed? Maybe you’re still half-in, half-out. Either way, it’d be great to get some insight from fellow freelancers for anyone who might be thinking of going solo too.

Keep an eye out for my next post on freelancing, and please do share this one if you think it’s been useful. You might also enjoy my Freelancer Tips Pinterest board too.

what is freelancing

5 thoughts on “What Is Freelancing? Getting Started And Going Digital”

  1. I’ve been a freelance writer/editor/blogger for around 30 years (I am semi-retired now). I made the jump after my job working as information officer for a small national charity became untenable. What has worked for me is having a small core of regular clients who provided a baseline income for me month after month, year after year. I have had plenty of irregular and one-off clients as well, but in my opinion if you don’t have at least a few regular or at least semi-regular clients, freelancing will be a hard – and stressful – grind.

    1. That’s the goal I’m working towards too! I’ve got a couple of reliable clients who I work for fairly frequently but it can take time to build up that core base. Thanks for your comment Nick 🙂

  2. Ooo a roadmap, hadn’t thought of doing something like that or even sketching out my goals and hopes for the next week let alone the months ahead. I ended up falling into this more than anything after I lost my job because of surgeries. It’s been tough, with a heck of a lot of hours required for a fraction of a basic minimum wage. But, it’s flexible, it’s a sense of achievement, my mental health suffers from stress with it but is better for it than being on any benefits of any kind, so it kind of balances out. The struggle has been with finding the work – freelance writing has not been easy to come by and just relying on surveys and random market research stuff isn’t enough. Fab post to help you weigh it all up because for those who can’t work a regular 9-5 or who want more flexibility and independence then it can be a great option!
    Caz xx

    1. Hey Caz, I totally have the same sort of struggles regarding finding work as a freelance writer! I’m putting together a few new posts on where to find those jobs and how to try and promote your work as a freelancer in the next few weeks, so hopefully they’ll be of some use xx

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