Simple guidelines for freelancing

Dave Everitt, last updated 25-Feb-2012

1. minimal overheads
if you work with other freelancers and don't need space to put equipment, use a room at home or arrange space at a friend's. If you really don't need office space, don't have an office. Use one good laptop, with a large screen and keyboard to plug into when you're at your usual desk (and backup regularly!).
2. avoid being an employer
encourage collaboration or 'co-opetition' (see David Parrish: T-shirts and Suits) with other freelancers and avoid the complications of PAYE, sick and holiday pay, and employer liability.
3. nurture relationships
identify those you get on with who have complementary or similar skills, and make mutual arrangements to exchange excess or unwanted work, retaining a small handling percentage agreed by both.
4. make your money work
avoid costly business accounts from banks. Instead, open an interest-bearing account to hold all incoming funds (such as Nationwide's 'Business Investor'), then pay yourself a salary from it. If you reach a monthly account cheque limit and need to pay others, pay yourself enough to cover them too.
5. enjoy your time off
plan time off, and do something constructive with it. Don't work without taking as many breaks as an employed person.
6. train yourself
use the web to find online learning resources, and plan in enough time without distractions to give them a fair amount of your attention. This is especially relevant to those working with digital technology, since the most useful resources are often free (e.g. Open Source programming languages, or web frameworks).
7. forget the business plan
if you try to plan your business from the top down, you'll lose sight of the essentials and end up plan-watching instead of working. Identify your overall aims, then just do the next thing you need to start achieving them.

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