Over 70% of Gen Z are thinking about going freelance - here's an EYNTK guide about taking the plunge

woman working at her desk
EYNTK about how to go freelanceMorsa Images - Getty Images

Do you ever feel that tug at the bottom of your stomach as it turns 5pm on Sunday, and you know you’ve got to go into the office tomorrow? Do you find your relationship with your boss hugely toxic and feel you might be better suited working for yourself? Well, you may not be alone.

New research by Fiverr has found that over 70% of Gen Z respondents think more about freelancing than last year – with many thinking working for themselves may prove more stable and preferable to the traditional 9-5.

Robbie Bryant, a careers expert at the Open Study College, believe social media has fuelled the younger generation’s need to freelance – and has made it so much more accessible.

“Platforms like Instagram make it possible for freelancers to reach customers and connect with other people in their profession, even when they’re just starting out,” he tells Cosmopolitan UK. “That’s why younger ‘digital natives’ feel so confident working in a freelance role as they have adapted to this type of networking naturally, and have a direct line to a potential customer base.”

But handing in your resignation and going solo can be a daunting prospect, especially if you don’t really know where to begin. However, fear not – Cosmopolitan UK has spoken to career experts if you’re thinking about taking the plunge.

What should you consider before going freelance?

So you’re toying with the idea of going freelance, but you’re not sure whether it’s a right fit for you? Career coach Victoria McLean, CEO and founder of career consultancy City CV, thinks you really need to think it through.

“Since you're the one in control, you're also the one responsible - for finding work, paying bills and invoices, providing exceptional service, accounting, IT,” she says. “Self-discipline and motivation are crucial. Your income is likely to fluctuate, so you must consider if you can afford the troughs you'll likely experience amongst the peaks.

“And while freelancing does offer flexibility, you also have to consider how you'll maintain a work/life balance. It can be tempting to work all hours to get projects done.”

Elsewhere, depending on your role, you may need additional qualifications to freelance, explains Bryant.

“For example, if you’re wanting to become a freelance accountant you must have a ‘AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting’ qualification,” he says. “Once you have the right qualifications, depending on the job role, you might also need to register with an authority in order to work in your chosen profession. It’s also important to know where your first few months income will come from, without a guaranteed paycheck to fall back on.”

What’s the best way to start your freelancing career?

You don’t have commit entirely to freelance straightaway; if you’re thinking about freelancing (and it doesn’t violate your current employment contract), Bryant suggests starting part-time.

“This will give you the opportunity to see if it works well for you and if you’ll be able to make a full-time career of it,” he explains. “Once you’ve chosen which route to go down, ensuring you have the right qualifications is essential - some industries require regular training so it’s important to make sure you keep on top of anything new too.”

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McLean adds that good relationships and keeping up a good, visible profile, will safeguard your freelancing.

“Firstly, try not to be overly reliant on one client, because if that client withdraws, you have to start again from scratch,” she says. “Make sure you consistently market yourself - network, use LinkedIn, join your local Chamber of Commerce and so on.

“Stay on top of developments in your industry so you're always ahead of the curve. And when you do bag great clients, make sure you sign a contract.”

How can freelancing impact your finances?

You do have to be prepared for the unpredictability of income – some months will see work pour in, while others will be far quieter.

“Financial unpredictability can have a real impact on your life, wondering if you'll make ends meet one month, followed by a month when you're paid more than you've ever been paid before,” McLean explains. “It's so important to have a safety net that you can fall back on, especially when you're just getting your freelance career off the ground. You also need to think about how you'll pay into a pension and prepare for your future retirement if you aren't paying into an employee pension scheme.”

Bryant adds that you also need to alert HMRC of the change in your tax status. “If you go down the sole trader route, you will simply need to register as self-employed with HMRC and complete a self-assessment tax return. However, if you choose to set up a limited company, you will get limited liability for any debt your business incurs which will protect you financially.”

a person using a calculator
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How much should we have put aside, then, if we are considering going freelance in the future? Bryant believes having enough money saved to cover your living expenses for “two to three months”.

“This not only takes the pressure off when it comes to needing to be bringing money in straight away, but also allows for any late-payers,” he explains. “Just because you’ve submitted an invoice, doesn’t mean it’s going to be paid straight away so it’s always worth factoring that in.”

What is the best time to start freelancing?

Now that, it seems, is down to you.

“There's probably not a ‘best’ time in terms of the time of year - although you'd probably want to avoid December!” McLean says. “And January just feels like a good time to start something new.

“But I would say that the best time is the time that works for you - and that might be when you've got your 6 months of savings in the bank, if you've been able to build a pipeline of work while you're still working full-time, or if you want to transition in your career, for example.”

What are the benefits of freelancing?

If you’re not best served by the traditional 9-5 office environment, freelance may suit you.

“Flexibility, autonomy, being able to build a more diverse work portfolio are some benefits,” McLean explains.

“The main draw is that you can be your own boss. You can decide when you work, what you do, and how you do it,” Bryant says. “It gives people more freedom not only with their work life but also their personal life too, and can work really well for people juggling work with family life or childcare.”

So…should we freelance?

It really is all down to you, and while many wax lyrical about being their own boss, it may not work for everyone.

“You're often working on your own, so if you need the buzz of people around you, it might not be for you - the same if you don't have very strong self-discipline or self-motivation,” McLean argues. “I would also consider how much experience you've got in whatever field you want to freelance in as clients will look for experience and expertise from freelancers.”

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