Getting started

Before you start, there are a handful of precautions that new freelancers might want to take. If you think you're ready, double check this list to make sure there's nothing you've overlooked.

  • Do you have at least three months of living expenses saved up?

  • Are you registered for self-assessment with HMRC, whether self-employed or limited company?

  • Do you have access to all the specialist equipment you need?

  • Have you set up your workspace safely and ergonomically?

  • Do you have a separate bank account to store business cashflow?

  • If you’ll be turning over £25,000+, do you have an accountant?

  • Do you have a safe way to store all your work documents, backed-up and encrypted?

  • Do you have all the appropriate insurance for your line of work? (Most commonly public liability insurance, but specialists might need insurance tailored to their field)

  • Do you have a workflow, routine, schedule or business plan to follow?

And of course, the most important question…

  • Do you have your first job lined up?


And of course, the last advice we can give is to know when to say no. There are a couple of lightweight guidelines that might help decide when to turn down work. Don’t treat these as rules, and feel free to expand on them yourself:

  • When you don’t get along with the client. Maybe they like to swear a lot in their email correspondence. Maybe they will only meet in person when you want to work remotely. Any number of factors can come into play, but if you can’t gel, it’s going to be difficult to produce great work together.

  • When you have a bad feeling about the job. Maybe you can’t find the client’s website, or their phone always goes to voicemail. If there’s something that feels off, you’re usually right.

  • The client hasn’t paid their last invoice. If you’re still waiting for a payment, you could be waiting a long time. Don’t start another job for someone who hasn’t paid you for the last job.

  • When the client has unrealistic expectations, or doesn’t have much perspective on what you do. It’s your job to explain to the client how much time and budget you’ll need for a project, and make sure that no one's under the illusion that you’ll be faster or cheaper than you’ve set out in your original proposal.

  • You’ve been promised a deferred payment or cut of the profits. If your client is banking on their next deal to pay your invoice, they might not be worth the risk. Make sure you have a strong contract in place if necessary. You’ll thank yourself later.

Depending on your industry, specialism and level of experience, you can define your own rules for saying no. The only thing to remember is that you can always turn down a project, no matter your reasons. A simple “I’m fully booked at the moment” can go a long way.


Don’t overload yourself with work! It’s better to say no when it's too many projects and deliver a small number of projects with full energy and a clear head, than deliver a large number of projects with little attention and risk losing clients because you couldn’t give them all your full attention.


When you work for yourself, there’s not a process in place to make complaints. If you’re not comfortable with something happening in your industry, from harassment to criminal activity, you’ll need to have a plan in place to resolve this yourself. Unions are a great way to have someone on your side, and have been discussed in this guide.

A reliable client contact will also help a lot. If you’re working as part of a team or crew, find out who’s responsible for your safety and make sure you can get hold of them easily. Simple things like this can save you headaches in the long run.


And the last part of the day job that you may miss is feedback and training. Whilst day-to-day you may usually have contact with your boss who can help you develop your skills and your work, when you’re working solo you’ll need to focus on your own skills development. As mentioned before, finding a community either locally or online can promote some competition, and push you to make stuff work sharing. This can also apply to business skills; you may find that your peers are willing to share their methods for speeding up invoice payments, or have recommendations for accountants and lawyers if and when you need them.


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