Many businesses use wholesalers and suppliers, from the retail store where you purchase your favourite autumn jumpers, to the hairdresser blow drying your hair after a quick shampoo. Read More
About the Author
Considering recent challenges like the global pandemic and the rising cost of living, a lot of people are turning to side hustles to supplement their income.
If you’re thinking of starting up your own side gig, you’ll be joining one in five Brits that have done the same since March 2020. But where exactly do you start? We’ll give you some tips and tricks on how you can start a freelance side hustle.
What is a side hustle?
A side hustle is basically a hobby or side job you do part-time in addition to any other employment you may have. Lots of people start side hustles from their personal hobbies, for example, creating bespoke cakes or paintings, and they’re likely to have a small (but loyal) clientele.
The best thing about side hustles is the flexibility and freedom to earn your own income. As your own boss, you can choose how often you work, and the clients you want to work for. There are many stories of side hustles snowballing from a hobby to a full-time business – but again, it’s up to you if that’s what you want to strive for, you can go at your own pace.
How do I start a freelance side hustle?
If you have decided you want to start a side hustle, congrats! It’s an exciting prospect, but it can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. We have some tips to help you on your way.
1. Think about your passions and skills
Working full-time can really burn up all your energy, so you need something that can ignite your creative flame, even after working 40+ hours per week in employment.
Doing what you love will really reflect in your work, and it’ll feel less like a second job and more like a hobby.
2. Create a plan and set realistic goals
Setting huge targets, such as making several million pounds with just seven hours a week set aside for your new side hustle, while not impossible (we want to be positive here), is unrealistic.
Think about how much time you have, and how much money you can invest in your side hustle – and always give yourself time to find clients and grow. It doesn’t happen overnight.
3. Start networking
Networking is a powerful marketing tool. For example, if you’re a copywriter and you attend regular networking events or even get to know people on professional platforms such as LinkedIn, there’s always somebody who knows someone else that may need a copywriter for their business.
It’s the same with people who create incredible cakes – someone will always need one for a special occasion, and sending out email pitches to people who run corporate events or meeting up with other freelancers can really help you connect with others and reach the right audience.
4. Build your brand
Once you’ve decided on a business name, and what it is you offer, it’s time to think about how you raise your profile, such as by building a presence on social media. It can help to create a logo, and be consistent with your brand colours and fonts so customers recognise it’s you who is posting. Building a brand your clients trust and enjoy is crucial!
5. Look at your competitors
What are your competitors doing that you do better? Is there anything you can offer, that maybe they don’t? Sometimes finding a competitive edge or niche can really help you stand out amongst the crowd.
6. Set your prices
This can be difficult, especially if this is your first experience of working out how much to charge. Our advice would be don’t undersell yourself. It can be easy to sell your products or services for super low prices to compete with others, but the joy may quickly drain out of your new side-job if you take on a heap of work with next to no reward.
Look at what other people in your field are charging, and keep in mind your costs for the materials you need, and of course, your time.
Where can I advertise my side hustle business?
This depends on what your side hustle is. If you’re looking for a low-cost option to advertise your business, then most of the time social media is your friend.
If you run – let’s say – a kids’ teepee business, advertising your services in local Facebook groups, Instagram, and even Tik Tok while using the correct hashtags and keywords could attract parents looking for party ideas.
Paying for advertisements is always an option too, but if you do this make sure you budget yourself properly. Throwing all your savings on Instagram ads won’t work if they’re targeting the wrong audience. It can sometimes take a while to get it right.
If you’re getting crafty and selling personalised items, websites such as Etsy can highlight your brand and give you a platform that already has substantial traffic going to it. Though you’ll have platform fees to think about, they’re usually much cheaper than the cost of setting up your own website (and it’s usually much easier to create listings).
If you have a service to offer, then building a network on LinkedIn can be useful. You could also attend networking events to meet potential clients and get your name out there. Just keep in mind that information might make its way back to your employer though – which for freelancers with a service-based side hustle can sometimes be a consideration!
There are also lots of freelancing sites where you might be able to pick up work.
How do I create an invoice for my side hustle business?
It’s so exciting once you get your first client, but what happens when it’s time to collect your payment? Creating invoices is super simple, so the first rule is not to overthink it!
If you don’t use invoicing software to do the job for you, all it needs is the following:
- Your business name, address, and phone number
- Your client’s name, address, and phone number
- A list of products sold, or services completed
- The date the invoice was issued
- A unique invoice number
- The total amount
- Instructions on how to pay
Your payment instructions can be as simple as, ‘Please make payment via bank transfer to [insert company name or your name], [sort code], [account number].
To personalise it, use your logo and brand colours! Read our article about successful invoicing to learn more.
Do I need a business account for my side hustle?
Nope! You’re under no legal obligation to open a business bank account for your side hustle, but if you ever need to register for Self Assessment, it may be better to keep your personal and business payments separate – especially when it comes to bookkeeping!
Do I have to pay taxes on my side hustle?
If you earn more than the £1,000 Trading Allowance in a tax year, you’ll need to register for Self Assessment with HMRC. How much tax you pay will depend on your overall income for the year.
Find more of the latest news and guidance for freelancers in our info hub.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a popular topic of conversation amongst freelancers all over the world, and while some of those conversations are positive, others aren’t so optimistic.
As a freelancer, you may worry that AI could take work from you, which is a very valid concern. After all, there’s very little it can’t do! But what if you used AI to your advantage?
By treating AI as a tool rather than a replacement, freelancers could improve their work in a more efficient way. In this blog, we’ll explore how you can make AI work for your freelance business.
What is AI?
In simple terms, artificial intelligence is inspired by human intelligence, and its main focus is the brain – especially when it comes to how we think, learn, and execute tasks. It essentially makes computers, smartphones, and machines act more like us.
What do we use AI for?
AI can do a multitude of things, and at a much faster speed than humans. It can problem-solve, make decisions, search the web, and even create art – not to mention switch your lights on or off in any room, or regulate your air conditioning without you lifting a finger.
You’re likely to have interacted with AI in one way or another, whether you’ve spoken to a customer service bot, asked Siri or Alexa a question, or used an AI art generator. It’s part of our lives these days, and most people don’t even realise how much we interact with it.
What are the benefits of using AI as a freelancer?
As a freelancer, it can be difficult to see AI as something positive – especially when it’s being used to create art and write content – but one thing AI lacks is the human touch, meaning freelancing isn’t dead (and never will be).
There’s plenty of things AI simply can’t replicate, and collaborating with it can help:
Boost your efficiency
As a freelancer, you’ll spend a lot of your time on admin. In fact, lots of freelancers will admit to spending a good chunk of their working hours scheduling meetings, sending out email reminders, and ensuring there’s no clashes in calendars. Using an AI scheduling assistant app can save you hours on admin, so you can focus on what you do best.
What types of AI can help me boost my efficiency as a freelancer?
If you want to be efficient as possible, an AI scheduling assistant like Clara can give you a helping hand. Apps like this give you a real-life-human virtual assistant feel, simply ask her to find a time in your diary to schedule a meeting and she will do just that.
If that feels a little weird, you can use other AI Calendar apps like Clockwise!
If the financial admin side of things is slowing you down, take a look at cloud-based bookkeeping software providers such as Pandle, which offers lots of powerful automations at a decent price.
Improve your accuracy
If you’re a copywriter, marketer, or someone who needs to write a lot (which is most freelancers), you’ll know mistakes are easily made. Especially when you’ve read over your work for the fifth time and words somehow lose all meaning.
Using AI tools can help you spot errors quickly, so you can focus on writing that killer article or piece of copy.
What types of AI can help improve my accuracy as a freelancer?
Tools like Grammarly highlight any errors, and in some cases offer suggestions to reword sentences so they read better for your audience. This is a massive help if you don’t have an extra pair of eyes to make use of every time you’re writing.
The likes of Grammarly aren’t there to replace you, but rather to assist you in writing clear, engaging content.
Assist you with ideas
We assume you have lots of ideas – after all, you’re a freelancer, and your business runs off the back of your creativity! But sometimes you need help getting the bones of an article or piece of copy, and AI can assist you in doing just that, while also keeping your content original and yours.
What types of AI can help me with ideas as a freelancer?
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to put an article together, AI tools like copy.ai can help get your creative juices flowing. You could use it to get the bare bones of an article or to see your topic from a different perspective. Make the article your own though, of course – the content needs your unique human perspective!
Keep you up-to-date
When you run your own business with clients from different industries, you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve with access to all the latest data and insights. It can be hard to do that sometimes, with information flying at you from every angle.
What type of AI can help me keep up to date with the latest trends and insights from my industry?
Chat GPT is big news at the moment. This AI chatbot is trained on a large dataset of up-to-date information, so asking it the right questions might be a useful way to find the latest data analysis and trends.
Will AI be the end of freelancing?
AI does have the capability to take some work away from freelancers – for example, if businesses want to cut costs and use AI to write a blog post – but there will always be a demand for freelance work somewhere, and this is because:
You can’t replicate human creativity
AI is brilliant for writing clear and concise content, but it doesn’t go much further than that. It can’t think outside of the box and it doesn’t have a deep understanding of real human emotions. So, while AI can write a decent piece of copy, it will always need a human touch to make it relatable.
Some content can be duplicated, and in some instances, false
There are two issues here that could damage your website authority. Firstly, if lots of us are asking for AI to write specific things, there’s a likelihood somewhere along the line content will be duplicated.
As well as this, if we were to ask AI to pull up quotes and statistics, it may pick out-of-date or incorrect information. Without human judgement, it could be tricky for AI to pull statistics that are factually correct.
It lacks original thought
AI is all about gathering data and looking at algorithms. It can’t come up with an idea that isn’t there, as all of its thoughts are ones that have been written before. We humans, on the other hand, can come up with a unique fresh perspective for everything we write.
It has knowledge, not experience
A lot of our learning is through experience, successes, or failures. And that’s what makes our content so unique. We can suggest things from our own personal experience and give examples or advice that AI can’t – simply because it hasn’t lived through it. It’s that personal touch readers want, and what clients love for their websites. Tapping into real human emotions will always be vital, whether you’re writing content, producing art, or creating designs.
Freelancers will not be replaced any time soon.
Head over to our Freelancer Hub where we have a whole host of guides and resources.
Let’s be honest here (our Freelancer News circle is a safe space), without making any profits, most of us would be rethinking our careers, and that’s ok. If you’ve ever thought about giving up and going back to paid employment, we feel you. It’s something that crosses almost every freelancer’s mind at least once.
Not to mention business owners and self-employed individuals are being hit harder than ever with the cost-of-living crisis, and prices becoming more expensive by what feels like the millisecond.
We know this doesn’t make you any less passionate about your freelancing work, but the vast majority of us need to (at least) pay our bills. It’s even better if our passions do more than simply cover our business overheads. But what can you do to make sure you’re profitable?
The very nature of being a self-employed freelancer means that your income is likely to fluctuate no matter what. To help you stay ahead, we share our tips for maximising your freelancing profits. You can do it, we’re rooting for you!
What are your key expenses?
Some expenses are absolutely key to your ability to freelance. Depending on what sort of services you provide, this might include anything from rent payments, your phone bill, or printing costs.
When we’re surrounded by them every day, it’s easy to overlook some of the costs that might be putting strain on our financial budget. Reviewing and managing our costs can make a massive difference to how much profit we make.
Do you rent out office space?
You may rent out office or workshop space, but do you really need to? With rent prices skyrocketing, especially in city centre locations, it might be time to review how essential that extra expense really is.
Lots of freelancers work from home as a cost-saving measure (and for the sheer convenience!), and might sometimes rent hot desks or meeting spaces to see clients, or even just arrange to meet up in a coffee shop. Remember, you can claim expenses if you work from home too, so all the more reason to set up your own home office!
Technology is also ever-evolving, with online video calls and screen sharing now accepted as the norm. If your premises are more habit than helpful, it might be time to get shut of the space and keep more of your income.
What are your suppliers like?
It’s not unusual to find a supplier and stick with them until the end of time (we’re creatures of habit so a lot of us tend to stick to what we know). But it’s always best practice to check what/who else is out there, so you’re always aware of the best solutions available.
This helps you stay efficient, and can even help you keep on top of your competitors. When thinking about your supplier, keep notes such as:
- What sort of payment terms do your suppliers offer? Are they beneficial for your cash flow? For instance, if you order printing work for a client, does your supplier give you enough time to recharge the customer before paying the printing bill, or does the cost come out of your pocket first?
- You’re likely to have looked around first before choosing your supplier, but have you checked since? Things may have changed since you first had a look, so find time in your diary to review different suppliers. You never know who you might come across!
- If you feel like their fees are a little high for what they offer, consider trying to negotiate with them while also checking out other suppliers in your area. If you go to networking events or have contacts with other freelancers or small businesses, ask if there’s anyone they’d personally recommend. You’ll find people in your industry will have heaps of knowledge to help and guide you through this sort of stuff.
Never feel like you’re stuck with one supplier, there are plenty of friendly professionals out there offering great prices!
And lastly, remember it’s business and nothing personal, so don’t feel tied down to a particular person for fear of hurting their feelings, especially if it could be damaging your profitability.
How efficient is your business?
As a freelancer you need to ensure you’re making your work life as streamlined as possible. After all, you’re running the whole show!
- Try to track how you spend your time, and where you use up resources. For instance, are there any processes you can change to make them easier or avoid duplicating work? If you’re active on social media a lot, could you plan and schedule more of your posts? Having them scheduled a couple of weeks in advance can make a huge difference to your workload, rather than coming up with content and posting it ad hoc.
- Can you schedule follow-up emails for your clients? You can set up personalised emails a couple of days (or hours if you prefer) after client meetings to check in and thank them for their time, and add any bits of info that you normally would. Personalising these emails is usually pretty easy, and you can set up trigger points to stop anything being sent if they email you first (so it doesn’t look like you’ve automated anything!).
- If you spend a lot of time manually entering bank transactions into your bookkeeping or invoicing clients, it might be worth researching what software options are available to do more of the heavy lifting for you.
- If you create or sell products, is there a way to use up leftover or surplus materials? Do you spend time answering the same questions with each new client? Maybe you could prepare an onboarding guide, or even just write up an email template to deal with them more efficiently.
These are just a few suggestions, but it completely depends on what it is you do. It’s well worth getting a pen and paper to record your day, and see if there’s anything you can do to relieve those pain points!
Are you under-pricing your goods or services?
When starting a business, most of us are worried about putting clients off. So, instead of charging what we’re worth, we massively undersell ourselves and usually end up out-of-pocket rather than making a profit!
Whether you sell your services or products (or both) you need to think of the following:
Always do your research on what other people in the industry are charging – especially your nearest competitors. This will help you decide whether it’s time to put your prices up. We know this can feel difficult, but with time you’ll become more comfortable deciding how much you should charge your clients. Always remember your own worth!
We’re not being dramatic when we say bookkeeping is absolutely essential for every business – freelancers included!
It’s super important for many reasons, from helping you stay organised, to identifying any issues putting strain on your finances – such as repeated late payments from clients.
Keeping on top of everything and get paid quickly
Keep on top of the jobs you’ve completed, the hours you’ve worked and the invoices which have or haven’t been paid. Having everything so visible will help you keep track of what you need to pay, and who still needs to pay you.
You can even use this information to send payment reminders to all your clients, helping you to get paid faster, and review the ones who regularly miss their payment date. This way you can decide whether you want to continue working with these clients, or whether it disrupts your cashflow too much and therefore isn’t worth the stress.
If you have a good bookkeeping system, you can check your income, outgoings, clients who pay the fastest, and services or products that are the most popular. This way you can keep on top of who your best clients are, what services or products they’re loving, and what areas may need a revamp or some marketing.
Have your tax and expenses under control
Did you know you could claim tax relief on some of your expenses as a freelancer? For instance, this might include your travel costs to see a client, or a mobile phone you use for work. The list goes on, but by being aware of what you’re entitled to, and logging it all in your bookkeeping, you won’t be left second guessing what expenses to claim back in your tax return.
Speaking of which, good bookkeeping will also help you keep on top of your earnings, so you can begin to put money aside ready for your Self Assessment tax bill!
Keeping on top of the books will help you spot opportunities or issues in your business. The best part is that some providers offer free bookkeeping software, so that won’t be another thing you’ll have to pay for.
Do you need to look at how you’re promoting your business?
In an ideal world, we’d create a website with our services displayed, and customers would come flooding in, leaving us busy until retirement. Unfortunately, though, that just isn’t the case.
While marketing may be a little scary, it’s vital for getting your name out there. Don’t let the name put you off! Marketing can be anything from handing business cards out to your mates in the pub, to advertising your services in a LinkedIn post.
Before you go to the time and cost of setting up a website, do you actually need one? In some cases, you might just need to set up a sharing link to your portfolio. If you do need to use a website to promote your services, but you’re not too sure where to start, you could take an online course or even hire help from another freelancer.
Without help or training, we don’t want to know where we’d rank in Google. And let’s be honest, we could all hide our deepest and darkest secrets on page 3, and no one would know.
What else can I do to promote my freelance services?
- Have happy customers? We love to hear it! It’s a great feeling, and you should be super proud. If a customer is reaching out to you because they loved your service, ask them to leave you a review! It’s free promotion you should never miss out on if the opportunity arises.
- Look at your marketing strategy. As a freelancer, you need to find what works for you. You could advertise yourself on social media, meet people at networking events, or even reach out to your existing or previous clients. Word of mouth recommendations are a powerful form of marketing! Test what works for you and don’t be afraid to try new things.
- Follow up on any dead ends. It happens to us all. You give someone a quote, they say they’ll get back to you, and then it’s dead silence. Have a follow up email template ready for any quotes, letting your clients know you’re there if they need you. You’re not being rude, sometimes people just need a little chase.
- Remember to be patient: Great things take time, so patience will be required when seeing out a new marketing strategy or building up your customer reviews. It’ll all be worth it in the end.
The main thing to remember is not to be so hard on yourself. It can be extremely difficult being a freelancer, but once you learn how to take action and when, the more your hard work will pay off.
Get more advice and news over on our Freelancer Hub!
You can spend most of your working life blissfully unaware of any HMRC jargon, letting PAYE do its thing. But then decide it’s time to venture into the unknown and become your own boss, and before you know it, tax jargon is coming at you from all angles.
At some point, as inevitably as tax itself, you’ll encounter Self Assessment, and before you know it, payments on account. Intended to make paying your tax bill easier, payments on account can also be an unwanted surprise, which is why we thought we’d share our guide to what they are.
So, what are payments on account?
Payments on account are essentially there to spread the cost of paying tax through Self Assessment. They work on the assumption that you’ll make the same amount or similar in the next tax year as you did in this one.
This can be both a blessing and a curse, but you’ll need to be aware of them if you either:
- Owe more than £1,000 in tax from self-employment to HMRC
- If less than 80% of your tax bill has already been collected at source (so this will be referring to the likes of PAYE)
Think of payments on account as a pre-payment towards next year’s tax bill. But because HMRC aren’t psychic and don’t know what next year’s tax bill will be, they just assume it will be the same as this year’s.
Is there any way around payments on account?
There’s no escaping from this one. The minute you submit your Self Assessment, HMRC will calculate your tax bill. If the bill comes to more than £1,000, or if less than 80% of the tax you paid this year was deducted at source, you’ll automatically become liable for payments on account.
What will my first year with payments on account look like?
It’s well worth preparing yourself for the possibility of making payments on account, so you aren’t hit with any unexpected bills.
They can feel like a burden because you’re paying some of next year’s taxes in advance, even though you haven’t earned the money yet.
It’s why it’s so important to keep track of your bookkeeping and potential tax bill throughout the year!
Here is an example of what your first tax year could look like. The scenario: You owe £1,000 in tax in your first year, and £1,500 in tax in your second year
- The first tax year ends 5th April 2022, and £1,000 in tax is due by 31st January 2023. Because your 2021/22 tax bill hit the £1,000 threshold, you must also make payments on account towards the 2022/23 tax year.
- The 2022/23 tax year won’t have finished yet, so HMRC will assume you’ll owe the same amount that you had to pay for 2021/22.
- They’ll ask you to make payments on account in two equal instalments. The first half is due at the same time as your 2021/22 tax bill due before 31st January 2023.
- That means you’ll need to pay £1,500 by 31st January 2023. This amount is made up of your £1,000 tax bill, and £500 which is your first payment on account for next year’s tax. It can really hammer your cash flow if you’re not expecting it!
- Then before 31st July 2023 you would need to pay the remaining £500, which will be your second payment on account towards next year’s bill.
- Once you get to the end of your second year, 5th April 2023, HMRC will know you owe £1,500 in tax, but due to splitting the cost with your payments on account, they’ll be able to see that £1,000 has already been paid.
- So, your first payment due 31st January 2024 would be £500, plus the first payment on account for the next year.
- In this next year, HMRC will assume your business owes £1,500 in tax, so with half of that total, the business will owe £500 plus £750 (a total of £1,250) by 31st January 2024.
- There would then be the remainder due in the total of £750 in July 2024.
But what if my profits change from one year to the next?
HMRC calculate your payments on account by assuming you’ll owe an identical amount to the previous tax year. But if you make less profit, you’ll owe less tax, so big changes to your profits can really disrupt things.
HMRC predictions can end up skewing our tax bills, but they do eventually balance themselves out. If your payments on account mean that you overpay on tax one year, you’ll always receive it back when the tax year is over.
Obviously not all of us can wait until the end of the tax year, so there is an option to request for HMRC to reduce your payments on account.
Before you do that though, we strongly recommend some careful analysis of your income, outgoings, and profits first. If you estimate you’ll make much less, but then make a lot more, HMRC will demand the difference straight away and might even charge interest on top.
What should I do if I’m struggling to make payments on account?
We’d recommend either chatting with Citizens Advice, to HMRC themselves, or better yet, speaking to your accountant who can look at your options.
They’ll be able to help you estimate how much your business can afford to pay, so when you go to HMRC, you’ll be ready with a realistic payment plan .
Looking for more advice on all things finance and accounting? Head over to our Freelancer Finance section where we’ve got a whole hub of handy guides ready to help you out.