Whilst it might still be relatively easy!
So this article and advice come with one major caveat – that obviously given the ongoing political situation and impending immigration law changes, that the process may indeed change in the not too distant future.
However, do not let that put you off!
Because despite political uncertainty, the UK remains one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. And with a total of 5.7 million SME’s employing over 16 million people and generating more than £2 trillion in annual revenue, it’s easy to see why the UK and London are now business hubs to watch, especially for innovative start-ups.
And what do all these SME’s and start-ups also bring?
Opportunities for freelancers of course!
And if you get lucky, then the opportunity to visit some of your new clients in landscapes that go from one extreme to the other – think Welsh valley hills one day, trendy London bars the next.
So what does setting up as a freelancer in the UK actually entail?
Here are the key steps to take to ensure success.
- Obtaining a National Insurance (NI) number.
This is your ticket to a) getting paid and b) being legal.
The UK Government website here is actually very helpful in following the right steps to obtaining your NI number. It’s surprisingly clear too! In fact, for most questions you’ll have, Gov.uk will have the answer, so do check it out.
- Sole trader or Limited company?
The next thing you need to do is decide if you want to operate as either a sole trader or a limited company.
A sole trader is basically a one man band; whereas a limited company is a business that’s registered separately to the individual owner or owners.
- Register with HMRC.
Now, HMRC sounds very grand, doesn’t it? It stands for ‘Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’. Basically, the entity in the UK that oversees all things tax.
It’s definitely one organisation you want to be on the right side of. So be sure to register with them in your newly defined profession as either a sole trader or a limited company.
- Get yourself an accountant.
Whilst lots of people do their own accounts and many avail of self-service software like Xero or Sage, if you’re new to freelancing and/or new to working in the UK, then finding an accountant you can trust is really worth it.
There are loads of local accountants – yes, the sort that you can still walk off the street into their high street offices! – that will give you useful, helpful advice for not very much money every month.
And the peace of mind alone is worth it… just to know that you’re set up correctly, you’re calculating your tax or dividends right each month and you know all the deadlines and won’t risk any fines.
- Consider insurance.
Depending on the type of work you’re going to be doing and the companies you may end up working for, you’ll want to consider insurance. Again, there are different types that you’ll need to read up to decide which is best.
Simply Business have a great Freelance Insurance quote generator too that you can use to get an idea on numbers.
- Line up your first clients!
With all of the above in motion, start thinking about your first clients. Yes, already!
The good news is that you can take advantage of all the usual online sites that you could use before you even stepped foot in the UK – so Upwork, Advisable, Fivrr…
The not so good news is that if you want to take advantage of that huge SME pot, then you’ll probably need to get out and network. There are loads of local business groups across the UK, and nearly all of them organise monthly events for networking. So be sure to look up the ones if your area and get attending!
Remember that when you’re just starting out as a freelancer, then a face-to-face exchange can count for 5 or more emails or calls – and if you make a good impression on that first human exchange, you’ll be sure to pick up a string of word of mouth referrals thereafter.
Fancy heading to the Italian riviera to continue your freelancing career? Then check out our guide to setting up as a freelancer in Italy.
By Emma Westley