Everything you need to know about going freelance

For many designers, going freelance is the logical next career step after putting in the hours at an agency. Other designers skip the in-house bit altogether and jump straight into the freelance life. And while the benefits of being your own boss can be immense, going freelance is a major step that you need to be prepared for.

Whether you're an experienced art director or a fresh-faced graduate, it's near-impossible to be perfectly prepared for the freelance life, but are plenty of things that you can do to ensure that you're ready to hit the ground running when you make the jump. You also need to be ready to take care of your own finances without the safety net of an employer to pay you regularly and deal with your taxes, and on top of all that you owe it to yourself not to work yourself into the ground.

There's lots to think about before embarking on the freelance journey; luckily we have a whole stack of essential advice ready for you.

Getting started

Everything you need to know about going freelance: Getting started

(Image credit: Michelle Thompson)

So, you've decided to go freelance. Before you hand in your resignation, though, check out these guides to make sure you've got all your ducks in a row.

4 ways to go freelance

Going freelance isn't just about quitting your job and making a break for freedom. There are four main ways of becoming a freelancer, each with their own challenges, and knowing which route you're taking – and how to be prepared for it – can help you make a proper go of it. Here we speak to designers and illustrators who have taken each path, and get their pro tips to help you enter the freelance world successfully.

The art of going freelance

There's more to going freelance than having an amazing portfolio and knowing how to network. Obviously both these things help, but if you really want to prosper in the freelance world then here's a handy list to help you make the transition, from establishing your goals through to achieving happiness and success (not to mention all the fiddly details in-between).

9 things you need to sort before going freelance

There's nothing like being properly prepared to take much of the risk out of going freelance. Eliminate most of the likely obstacles to a rewarding freelance career by ensuring you can tick all the boxes on this list before you make the jump.

6 things to know about getting freelance clients

Going freelance means that you have to be a business person as well as a creative, and that can be a barrier to a lot of designers. The long and the short of it is that you're not going to make money if you don't have any clients, so follow our guide to luring them in and making sure that they stick around to give you even more work.

9 tools to help you work remotely as a freelancer

One of the best things about being a freelancer is being able to buy new kit in the knowledge that it's tax-deductible (don't forget to keep those receipts). And if you're planning to work remotely then it's essential to have all the necessary tools to do your job, no matter where you've set up shop for the day. Be prepared with this guide to the gear you're likely to need.

Money tips

Everything you need to know about going freelance: Money tips

(Image credit: Pixabay/Alexas Fotos)

Being a freelancer isn't just about the money, but you're not going to get very far without it. Follow these tips for managing your finances, bringing in more cash and not getting tripped up by taxes.

Freelance finance: How to make more money

There's nothing quite as simultaneously exciting and terrifying as going freelance. Without a regular pay cheque you're entirely dependent on your own efforts, but if you get it right you'll never want to go back to a full-time job. We spoke to a number of creatives who've already made the leap, to get their advice on how to make it work without ending up in a financial hole.

How to be a thrifty freelancer

The tides of freelance existence can be unsettling; one month you'll be rushed off your feet, while the next you might find that nothing's coming in at all and you're wondering if you'll ever find work again. The easiest way to get through those fallow months is to be thrifty with your money so you always have a comfortable financial buffer when things go a bit quiet; we asked leading freelance artists, designers and photographers for their advice.

How to manage your freelance cashflow

All freelancers have to face up to three key financial issues: keeping on top of paperwork, getting paid and, crucially, making sure the taxman doesn't throw you in prison. It's the tedious bit of freelance life that takes up time you'd rather spend on actual work, but it has to be done. We asked other freelance designers how they manage it.

9 tax return tips for freelancers

If you're in the UK, you have to have your tax return for the previous financial year filed and paid by 31 of January. Save yourself some last-minute pain by following these tips for getting it all done on time and without any nasty surprises.


Everything you need to know about going freelance: Self-care

(Image credit: Jamie Coe)

If you're working every available hour as a freelancer and never taking a break, you might not be doing it right; here's some advice for keeping your head straight and maintaining a decent work/life balance.

5 tips for taking guilt-free holidays as a freelancer

The eternal freelancing dilemma is that if you don't take time off you'll burn yourself out sooner or later, but if you do take a holiday then you'll miss out on work, clients will immediately drop you in favour of someone with a better-tuned work ethic and you'll end up dying in penury. In reality, though, it's entirely possible to take holidays as a freelancer without wrecking your career; here are five ways to do it.

25 tips for staying sane as a freelancer

Finally, despite the many advantages of being a freelancer, sometimes it can all feel a bit much. When you're out there on your own, working all hours and often having to fight to get paid, the pressures of freelance life can become overwhelming. But you're not the first freelancer to feel like that, and there are plenty of ways to get you back on track; we asked around and gathered up 25 great tips for staying sane and keeping your focus.

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Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.