Freelancing from Home: What You Need to Know

Working from home can be great, but as many find to their costs, it’s not for everyone – here’s how to make your experience rewarding and profitable.

It’s the dream of many an office bound employee – to cut loose from the nine to five, ditch the commute and do you work in your pyjamas from your bed. Unfortunately, if you don’t prepare correctly this dream can become a nightmare.

Choosing freelance

Freelancing is rapidly becoming more popular and according to various studies we’re well on the way to becoming an economy in which the majority of people end up working freelance. It’s a more flexible, if high pressure, environment in which people are becoming their own small businesses renting out their skills and expertise to the highest bidder.

A life of freelance is attractive for all sorts of reasons. There’s the sense of freedom which comes from being your own boss, the ability to set your own hours and pay rates. With freelance you aren’t capped by what you earn. Rather than desperately hoping your boss will give you that pay rise or promotion you can simply go out and get more work. By your own hard work and dedication, you can build your freelance empire from the ground up.

At the same time, it can be tough. A recent survey showed that around half of freelancers would consider giving up and the pandemic had slashed incomes by up to 60%. When things get tough, they get very tough indeed. You may not like the nine to five, but at least it gives a greater sense of security. When you’re a freelancer, every hour counts. If you’re not working, you’re not getting paid and that can be stressful.

The work from home mentality

Many of the problems stem from the different mentality working from home implies. We’re used to getting into the office and sitting at our desks until it’s time to clock off at the end of the day. Then it’s into the car/train/bus to go home before we start the whole process again.

Working from home can be much more hit and miss. Finding motivation can be difficult. Without the prospect of your boss glowering at you as you slouch in late, there can be little incentive to get up on time.

Things can slide – other things can intervene, particularly if you live with other people. As many people discovered during the pandemic, balancing a home life while you’re trying to work can be difficult. Finding a separate time and space to devote to work is easier said than done.

The first challenge when working from home will be your own mentality. There are no hard and fast rules. Some people may try to emulate the working day – getting up early, working through the morning, having lunch and then powering through the afternoon. For other people things might be a little more flexible. You might split up the working day, leaving time for other things such as exercise, and opening up time in the evenings to catch up.

This can work well, particularly if you’re the kind of person who works well in short bursts. The great thing about working from home is that you set the rules and can abide by your own working pattern. Whatever you do, though, it is vital that you have discipline, set a plan and stick to it.

You could, for example, set yourself a target for a set number of billable hours during each working day. Alternatively, if you’re being paid per piece of work, you could measure the value of the work done each day. For example, if you need to earn £200 per day in order to meet your financial targets try to ensure you complete work totalling that much each day. The temptation will always be there to leave something for the next day. However, things can easily slide. Even if you only miss your targets by a small amount, things can mount up.

Setting up the office

Working from home brings many changes, not least of which is that where you live will now be doubling as your place of work. This might require a few adjustments. In an ideal world, you’ll want a space you can dedicate to your work and kit out with all the things you’d expect a modern office to have.

Of course this depends on your situation – not everyone will have enough rooms to dedicate to an office. However, it’s a good idea to find a space if you can, even if it’s just a desk in the corner of your bedroom.

Having a place to sit and work, is a great way to focus the mind and ensure that, even if you’re at home you’re mentally still in work mode.

Working from home may also bring a number of financial implications. You might have to buy special equipment or furnishings to kit out your home office. You might also have to upgrade your internet connection in order to communicate with your clients. All these expenses should be recorded as you will be able to set them against tax.

You may also be able to claim some of your rent or utility bills as an expense. Strictly speaking you can only charge for expenses which relate to your work, but if you’re using your home as an office, then you may be able to justify some (but definitely not all) of your expenses to reduce your tax burden. For example, if you’re spending more on electricity and heating because you spend all day at home, that could be seen as an expense directly relating to your work.

One thing’s for sure, when you work from home you’ll have a number of challenges – in terms of your mentality, your finances and practicalities. It can be useful to have the support of a financial expert to let you know about all your financial obligations and what you can and can’t claim. This will help make your transition into a domestic work environment more seamless and profitable.   

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