So you want to be a Freelancer
Note that this and what follows is from the perspective of operating in the United Kingdom. Specifics will likely differ for your country but the principles should be the same.
Mark, the author: I started as a freelance systems analyst and moved on to being a freelance business analyst a few years later. That was more than 20 years ago. In that time I've amassed a great deal of experience both in being a business analyst and in running my own freelancing business.
The following guidance is based on hard-earned experience, ignore at your peril!
- What type of business do you need for your freelancing?
A limited company is the way to go. If you're considering anything other business type such as a partnership or sole trader, don't!
- Insurance you'll need
- Membership of Professional Bodies
- Being a Business
- Getting a Contract
- When on Client Site
- Investing in your staff
It's a legal requirement to have Employer's Liability insurance and essential to have Public Liability insurance - great indicators of a professionally run business. Most agencies will include a contract term that insists on your company having them, so it's a no-brainer.
Professional Indemnity insurance is a must-have, too - up to £5 million will cover most situations. Again, it'll likely be a term in your contract with the agency.
This adds to the perception of your professionalism by potential and actual clients. The go-to professional body for freelancers is IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed. Our company has been a member since the early 1990s, soon after incorporation.
Remember, first and foremost, you're a business and need to operate in the way businesses operate. If you don't then you're "just pretending" and that's how you'll be treated by the powers that be - HMRC especially. And that means being caught by the dreaded IR35 and ending up with a hugely increased tax bill, inability to treat valid business expenses as such and so on. With the risk of them backdating your tax bills, too!
Remember, you're competing against established big business / other organization types, and you'll immediately be put at a huge competitive disadvantage if you don't get over that "just pretending" hurdle.
Keep in touch with client contects you've worked with - a name-drop can help tremendously when talking to agents about opportunities arising with that client. Sometimes this will help you bid directly for a contract, rather than going through an agent.
Maintain a mailing list of agents. We use Mailchimp. The free version is mostly adequate for freelancers using it to look for contracts.
Register with Contractor UK, not only useful for news in your field but also, and more importantly, it's got a great job-board service that you tailor to the types of IT contract you're looking for.
Send an avaliability mailshot to your list of agents each week. Try to include something in your email over and above your availability and any cv update, something that makes you stand out and stick in the minds of the agents.
Monitor the open rate so you know how many agents are actually reading your email (Mailchimp gives you this as well as other useful info about your 'campaign').
Be professional and polite at all times. Your company brand and the image you convey needs to shine.
Have you ever had an experience where a representative from a company has behaved rudely or unprofessionally in front of you? If you have, you'll know what a negative reaction you had to it - maybe you even talked about it with someone else?
Don't let that happen to your business - the effects can be far-reaching and could likely affect your chances of getting a contract extension or the next contract.
Be distinct. If you're in a room with client representatives, would an outsider be able to tell that you're not a member of client staff? If not, you need to think on how you can change this. Why? It's because the client needs to feel you're something special on first sight and that they're getting their money's worth. You will inspire their confidence if you get this right.
Continuous improvement should be your aspiration and that means investing in training for your staff.
Some of the above will be further described as time goes on. As we do, we'll give a link in the topic for more.
For students and junior business analysts
- studying for a computing degree
- a business studies student
- starting out as a business analyst / systems analyst
Our Briefing Study as an ebook
Our briefing study web pages covering Requirements Analysis and Specification are so popular, we've now made the whole study guide available as an ebook. A handy reference you can carry with you on your phone, tablet or kindle!
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Our Case Study companion ebook
The case study companion to our Briefing Study is also available as an ebook. Now you can carry it with you on your phone, tablet or e-reader and learn when it's convenient to you!
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