FAQs: Working for yourself

In a previous post we suggested some ways you could use your creative skills to work for yourself. Now we answer some of your questions about how you set about doing this:

Do I need a recognised qualification?

o   You may need to undertake some paid training in your subject area in order to get a recognised qualification, but all industries vary. You should try and find someone else freelancing in your industry and talk to them – LinkedIn can be a good place to start.

How can I establish myself in the field?

o   Look for professional bodies in the area, and join one.

o   Attend any industry fairs or events where potential employers might be.

o   Use LinkedIn or other professional social media networking sites and follow any relevant groups to keep abreast of developments.

How do I register a business/as a sole trader?

o   The government website has detail on how to go about registering a private limited company or registering as a sole trader. It also has useful tips about writing a business plan, understanding cash-flow etc.

Do I need to pay tax on my earnings?

o   Yes. You’ll have to register on HMRC as being self-employed, and complete self-assessment forms in order to pay the correct amount of tax on your earnings. Visit the HMRC website for more information.

How do I copyright my product?

o   The British Library Business and IP Centre (IP = Intellectual Property) has information on copyrights, patents etc, as well as advise on putting together a business plan and other tips.

o   You can also talk to the Legal Advice Centre here at QMUL on all legal aspects of your business.

How do I advertise my services/ products?

o   You might want to create a website, depending on your industry. It’s probably best to minimise your outgoings initially, so a good option is to use one of the many websites offering high quality web templates available for free, such as http://www.wix.com.

o   Depending on your service/product, social media can be a great way to spread the word. Pintrest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram all have different strengths, uses and audiences, so have a think about what would work best for you.

o   Get some business cards designed and printed, and give them out at industry fairs or other specialist networking events.

o   If you’re freelancing, proactively approach employers in your industry and send them your CV and examples of your work. Don’t be afraid to remind them about your services if you don’t hear back first time.

How should I set my prices?

o   These will be industry specific. If you’re freelancing, you should research accredited bodies relating to your industry to get an idea of a typical hourly rate. When you’re new to the industry, it’s advisable to price yourself at the lower end of the standard scale, and you can work your way up the scale as you gain experience and get more of a feel for the market. You can also negotiate different rates with different employers – if they want something done very quickly with short notice you might be able to negotiate a higher fee. If you’re selling something, look at how much similar items sell for and decide whether you want to position yourself at the top end or lower end of the market.

o   If you’re freelancing you may be asked to complete work on a fixed fee agreement, rather than an hourly rate. This can work well, as you will know exactly what income you will receive for the job and can plan accordingly, but it’s very important to make sure that you accurately estimate the work involved and the time needed before agreeing to a fee. It’s important to have a caveat in the contract that allows for the fee to be renegotiated should anything change from the initial brief, as you don’t want to have to turn down other opportunities for work while you’re finishing off a job that has taken much longer than anticipated.

If you have any other questions about working for yourself do feel free to book an Enterprise appointment with me. Even if you are at the early stages of your idea or just starting to consider working for yourself, I can help.

Rachel Brown

Enterprise Coordinator, QMUL Careers Centre

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