11 Jan 23, By Zebra People

Considering whether to go freelance?

4 mins read

Here’s what you should know about contract work in digital design before you decide.

If you’re toying with the idea of diving into the wonderful world that is contracting, you should make sure you have considered the below before taking the leap:

Choose the gigs that are right for you

The contract market moves fast and there are always options out there. We’d advise against diving into the first contract that comes around without giving it some proper consideration as once you’ve started, you really want to see it through to build on your reputation as a contractor. Make sure you’re establishing where your strengths and interests lie and how you can bring value to the business. This will also give you clarity on your unique selling point which could sway the decision on whether you get the contract in the first place.

Test out contracting

Lightly test out contracting first, before going headfirst into it. By this we mean if you’re still in your current perm role thinking about how contracting is the way forward, try to take on smaller contracts on the side to get a feel for what contracting is all about before committing full time. If this works for you, it could be worth the leap.

Be on top of your finance

Being on top of your finances is one of the most important points if you’re looking to go from perm to contracting. Unfortunately, you don’t have the luxury of the internal payroll team looking after this for you as you’re now ‘self-employed’ (this is depending on whether your contract falls inside or outside IR35). Most contractors have an accountant or umbrella company that they work with to save this headache in the long run. Either way, it’s vital as a contractor that you have a good grasp of both your income and business expenses.

Keep organised

Organisation is key to being your own boss. You’re far more responsible for what you’re working on and the deadline of that task. In most cases, the client will give you the brief and – because they have hired you to complete a specific task – they will expect you to finish this with little direction. Use To Do lists, and follow them to help you stay on track.

Never stop upskilling

It is easy to get fixated on making sure you’re always in contracts so your cash flow is consistent – this is a good mindset to have but can also hold you back. Thinking purely about where the next contract is coming from can be bad because you only look for the same work rather than taking some time out to learn new skills or enhance the skills you already have. The more skills you have the more contracts you can do.

Keep fresh

Remember to take well-deserved breaks. As a contractor, you’ll tend to go into limbo when you finish a contract and look for the next. But remember to make sure that all of your time isn’t spent looking for contracts. Take time to relax and recharge your batteries. As you get more well-known in the contracting space, you’ll start getting roles coming to you rather than having to hunt for them all the time.

Build and maintain a solid network

In order to keep the work flowing and consistently have work on, building a network of people who could use your skills is vital. Leaning on a handful of specialist recruiters can help you with this of course, particularly at the beginning.

Be flexible

Be open-minded about day rate in the beginning, you’ll see a broad range of rates out there much like permanent salaries. If you are new to contracting, you may want to consider slightly lower rates to gain the experience and build your reputation as a contractor rather than focusing solely on taking as high of a rate as possible. This can really help you get the ball rolling.

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