A woman who quit her 9-5 job and became a freelance writer has released a must-have guide for anyone who dreams of being her own boss.
Fiona Thomas from Birmingham decided to go out alone after suffering a “nervous breakdown” in her 20s in a stressful management career.
She used the knowledge she acquired first-hand to write Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss, which offers step-by-step instructions for the new self-employed or those helps think about taking the jump.
Experts believe that the need for freelancers may increase in the post-closure period as companies look for a more cost-effective way to complement their existing employee skills. In the meantime, office workers who have become accustomed to greater autonomy may be attracted to the freelance lifestyle.
In a chapter shared exclusively with FEMAIL, Fiona reveals the things every freelancer should know when starting their business – from creating a “virtual store front” to the type of insurance they may need to take out.
Fiona Thomas from Birmingham decided to go out alone after suffering a “nervous breakdown” in her 20s in a stressful management career. With the knowledge she acquired first-hand, she wrote a book for freelancers
There are a few things you would like to have before you start working as a freelancer and I will cover them in this chapter.
Some of them are essential, like registering as a self-employed person, and others are completely optional, like setting up a website or finding a nice workspace. I'm not going to act like I've done all of these things completely before I start working as a freelancer, because as we now know there is no perfect start.
However, if you delete so many of them from your list from the start, you will find that this will make your company run much more smoothly. It also means that if a crazy number of customers start working with you (trust me, it will happen), you won't mess around with the default setting if you could get stuck in the actual work.
YOUR VIRTUAL SHOP IN FRONT
You can network and tweet people as you wish, but when people are ready to contact or spend their money, they want to visit your website first. There is nothing
If you sell products online, you should consider setting up a website with Shopify. Experts say it is the best ecommerce website builder and industry leader in this regard.
It's more frustrating than talking to someone you would like to work with. Then, when you learn more about his services, you will find that there is not a single trace of them on the Internet except on her personal Facebook page. The good news is that building a website can be as easy or complicated as you want. Guess which end of the sliding scale I would recommend you move to? Yes, you got it: just do it AF.
When I started, I used a free blogging platform called WordPress, which is the most popular website builder in the world. I didn't know that at the time. I just picked the first one that showed up on a Google search. I chose a name, a color scheme and a pre-made template and that was it. I was ready to go in less than an hour. I had put it off for weeks and when it was done I was surprised at how quick and easy it was. Other free services that allow you to set up a basic website for free include Wix, Weebly and SITE123. However, please note that there is an additional fee for purchasing your domain name, which must be renewed annually. There are also paid platforms like Squarespace and GoDaddy.
Registration as self-employed
If you make money selling goods or services at a profit, you usually have to register with the government as a self-employed person. Here in the UK this can be done online31 and really takes no time. So don't move it if you put it out longer than necessary. If you are based outside the UK, visit your country's government website for more information on how to register as a self-employed person.
The great thing about freelance work is that it's easy to get involved, but many people are unprepared for the risks and responsibilities associated with running a business. I know that I personally didn't consider taking out insurance until I started writing this book. It's not a legal requirement, so I just postponed it because I thought it wasn't essential and probably too expensive. I know insurance companies get a bad name because they literally benefit from fear, but I can honestly say that now that I've signed up, I'm really happy to pay £ 15 for the peace of mind I currently have . Here's a quick overview of what you need to know about the types of insurance available to freelancers:
PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY INSURANCE
This protects you from the business risk of inflicting financial losses on your customers through their own negligence. I spoke to Robert Hartley, one of the co-founders of Dinghy, an insurance company that specializes in freelance policies.
and he gave me an example of why you might need professional liability insurance: Imagine that you were a graphic designer and created a logo for a customer. A year later, a larger company says your design violates its trademark. You also have the means to take legal action. You could be held accountable for this and have to pay for lawyers and damages. "You get your logo design on your website, print it in a magazine, create a lot of banners, and then suddenly someone says you broke their trademark and you owe them £ 10,000." It is the designer of the logo who would have to pay this compensation, ”says Robert. “It's an honest mistake. You didn't deliberately tear off this logo design, and therefore the professional liability insurance pays the compensation. “However, note that this is only relevant if a financial loss has occurred. It can't be a customer who says they just don't like the logo!
Absence: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss by Fiona Thomas is published by Trigger and is currently available as an eBook for £ 4.31
PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE
This provides protection against injuries to other people or their belongings. It doesn't have to be a customer. It can be anyone in public who is not you, as long as it happens when you work. Perfect for freelancers like me who work in public spaces like cafes, co-working spaces and libraries and are afraid to throw a hot chai latte over a stranger's laptop.
Things like your laptop may be covered by your home insurance, but that's not always the case. Find out where you stand from your existing policy. It is also worth noting that your home insurance may not cover items when you use them outside the home, and some policies completely exclude business items anyway. I personally have worldwide coverage for business devices so I can get a replacement as soon as possible if my laptop breaks or is stolen.
This is something I don't have, but it might be worth considering if you deal with a lot of customer data. "Suppose you visit a website and accidentally download a ransomware virus. You receive an email saying that you have to pay $ 500 or all the information on your computer will be deleted," says Robert. “The insurance company would help. If you have a lot of customer data such as addresses or bank details, you want this protection. "
For most freelancers, loss of income is an important concern. This type of insurance helps you by receiving income in the event that you are unable to work due to a long-term illness or accident. The guidelines give you a percentage of your gross income for a set time or until retirement, depending on the conditions.
HOW MUCH IS IT?
There is no fixed tariff for insurance policies because it depends on the coverage you need and the type of work you do. I am currently paying around £ 15 a month for professional liability, liability and equipment insurance to give you an idea of what to expect.
CHOOSE YOUR ROOM
It may be important for you to find a good job or not. If you're a PR consultant, a comfortable office chair and moderately spacious desk are probably good enough. You can even start with a smartphone that writes emails from your living room sofa. But those with more practical tasks need a room where tools and equipment can be stored.
Think about your potential customers and how you want to be perceived. Are you going to have a lot of meetings? If so, is a cafe the best place to do it? I personally am a big fan of the coffee and cake gathering because I want customers to know that we can relax around each other. I have no breath and no mercy, but that might not work for your business.
In the early days, it's important to keep your expenses to a minimum. My only start-up costs were a laptop (actually a long-suffering husband's Christmas and birthday present) and some apps that cost less than £ 1. Here are some things you may or may not want to include in your freelance starter kit, assuming you work from home:
- Laptop / desktop computer
- Wireless Internet access
- Comfortable office chair
- writing desk
- Notice board
- Storage boxes / bookshelf
- Website hosting
Here are some other things that can also cost you money:
- Computer software (e.g. Photoshop, Quickbooks)
- Technical support
- Hire an accountant
- Travel and accommodation (trains, fuel, hotels)
- Special equipment (especially if you create your own physical products) • Apps or services (e.g. social media scheduling apps)
And here are a number of costs that you should better hope not to occur regularly:
- Unexpected tax bills
- Legal advice
- Park tickets
- Replace a defective computer / phone / printer
And then there are these other purchases that you swear you don't need but still have to pay for:
- Branding / chic logo design
- Business cards on the classy paper
- Marketing advice
- Online courses
Your customer may share sensitive information and is therefore vulnerable in a busy environment. Perhaps you offer training for small groups and need an entire room with catering and equipment to give a presentation. Perhaps you offer beauty treatments and need a room with complete privacy, running water, a waiting area and a reception.
You can see from these few examples that all needs are different. Therefore, it is worth planning a bit ahead to ensure that you can do your daily tasks relatively easily.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SPECIFIC SPACE
One of the main advantages of freelancing is also the biggest curse. You can work from anywhere. This means that the boundaries between your work and your private life can blur incredibly quickly and in a way you may not even notice. Suppose you work at your kitchen table, the place where you eat your meals. Do you eat at lunchtime while you work because you don't have your own place to eat? You could also make it a habit to work from bed because you don't have a comfortable desk to sit on. Not only will this seriously damage your neck and back, but you could also start to associate the bedroom with work and find it difficult to switch off and fall asleep at night. For this reason, you should at least consider where you want to work beforehand. You will eventually be your own boss. So why not enjoy control?
TO WORK FROM HOME If you only need a quiet room, a laptop and an internet connection for your work, like most freelancers, you can start your career from home. This is the obvious solution, since it costs nothing other than the bills you already pay, although they can increase slightly, especially if you turn the heater on at full speed and prepare twenty cups of tea before noon. In general, using your home as a work space is the cheapest option for most. If you choose this solution, here are some tips to help you set clear boundaries for maintaining good mental health:
- Get up in the morning as if you were doing a regular job. Take a shower, get dressed, leave the house if you want, and walk around the block to create a "shuttle".
- Always take breaks away from your desk, ideally outside the home, but to be honest the sofa is fine.
- Arrange your desk in such a way that it keeps you away from possible distractions such as the television or the overfilled laundry basket.
- If you have a few hours to kill on the weekend, try not to sit at your desk automatically. You wouldn't have used that time to go to the office if you had a traditional job, would you? Check out Netflix to scream out loud!
RENT A ROOM Consider renting a room if you really need the space. However, keep in mind that you have to be 100% sure that you can pay the costs, as you are likely to be bound by a contract that will last for several months, if not a whole year.
NOTICE EMPLOYEES Nowadays there are tons of co-working spaces to win that use city center buildings that you put in the middle when you need them. Usually you can either choose from a hot desk (just pick a desk and use it) or pay for a private office. Prices vary depending on location, perks (e.g. printing service, reception, free coffee) and the frequency of your visit (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). According to a survey by Deskwanted, the average monthly cost of a “flexible desk” is US $ 195 in the US, EUR 189 in Europe and GBP 168 in the UK.32 I've thought about it from time to time, but I honestly never was in able to justify spending on the type of work that I do. I have a perfect home office that has all the benefits I need. And by perks I mean the ability to walk around in my pajamas and sing queen songs with all my heart.
TIP: If you just want to change the landscape without spending any money and are not interested in the social aspect of talking to others, visit your local library and check if space is available.
PAY WHEN YOU GO OUT There are many rooms where rooms can be rented when you need to hold one-off events or larger meetings. Many hotels, bars and cafes have private function rooms that you can reserve on condition that your guests spend a certain amount on food and drinks. There are also many freelancers who organize their own co-working events, and Jessica Berry from Nottingham, UK did just that. She started with a small group of freelancers and has since launched an affordable membership program that allows people to sign up to gain access to collaboration one day a week from £ 30 a month. Look out for similar programs in your area. If you don't find one, you can set one up yourself. Such programs are facilitated by other services such as Dispace, an online platform that highlights empty spaces in cities that remote employees can use for collaboration, meetings, and events.
OTHER DRILLING THINGS TO NOTE
Gawd, here is the terrible truth. Freelancing can sometimes be boring. In the past week alone, I fell asleep at my desk at least twice while trying to do the basic job of finding the right type of insurance for my company. (By the way, now is a good opportunity to tell you a secret: I have no idea what I am doing and I learned from writing this book that there are some things I could do as part of my own OOO life. )
There are many aspects to napping when you are your own boss and that is only part of the job. Hopefully one day I can outsource these dreaded tasks to a friendly assistant who also motivates me, lets me go to my dental checkups and hands me a G&T every Friday at 5pm (or earlier, I assume) friendly assistants, we'll do our job much earlier than usual. But until this sweet future is a reality, boring jobs are my sole responsibility. Here are some other things you may not know you need to keep an eye on:
DATA SECURITY If you are a company based in the EU, you must comply with the general data protection regulations. There are now separate data protection laws in over eighty countries. So make sure you follow the best practices in your location. There are several things that your company needs to consider when it comes to how you store and use other people's data, such as: B. Email addresses and financial details. This also involves a fee (yay, more money) that depends on the size of your company. More information is available at www.ico.org.uk. As of May 25, 2018, the Data Protection Ordinance (Fees and Information) 2018 stipulates that every organization or individual entrepreneur who processes personal data will pay a data protection fee to the ICO, provided that these are not exempted.33 In America there are no federal Privacy Act, but there are some country-specific laws such as the California Consumer Protection Act. You should check your government website, depending on where in the world you are.
HEALTH AND SAFETY If your work poses a risk to others (e.g. when you are driving on the exhibition grounds), you must comply with health and safety laws. Depending on where you live, there are other laws that apply to you when you hire staff (another reason to fly alone if you ask me). The good news is that you don't have to comply with many health and safety laws if you are self-employed and work alone. This doesn't mean that you should run a pair of scissors between meetings or start operating the equipment after a few glasses of Malbec. I'm not going to pretend to know anything about health and safety, but I want to point out how important it is that you don't compromise on personal safety. One example is the importance of comfortable desk furniture. And no, this doesn't mean that you connect your espresso machine so that you can reach it from your bed while you continue answering emails. I suffer from a bad back because I have worked for years in cafes where I drag boxes and stack chairs every day. I thought the pain would improve if I was a freelancer, but I didn't know that ten hours a day if I leaned over a laptop would make the pain worse. After a few weeks at physio, my husband helped me choose a suitable office chair with arm and back support and a monitor to make sure I was in the right position when I stared at my screen. I also paid a few pounds for a small padded strip so my wrists wouldn't rest on the corner of the table. These are small things that are often standard in offices, but are worth considering when setting up home office residents.
PAPER WORK It's a super smart idea to have all the boring documents before you have clients on your books. It was not one that I personally implemented, and I lived to regret it. When it comes to some things, it's okay to fly past the seat of your pants, but it's worth making sure your agreements are sound. Don't worry, I'll cover contracts, invoices, and records in the next few chapters.
Absence: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss by Fiona Thomas is published by Trigger and is currently available as an eBook for £ 4.31. The paperback will be released on October 1, 2020 and is available for pre-order for £ 9.99.
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