An essential guide to successful freelancing in London for creatives. If you’re a designer, art director, illustrator, copywriter, creative director or photographer freelancing in London, or looking to freelance in London, this guide is for you.
Getting set up
Getting setup to freelance in London does require some paperwork. The two main things you have to do is setup a private limited company and open a business bank account.
Setting up your own limited company is the best option for earning the most cash. There are number of other benefits to a limited company which I’ll cover later.
Setting up your limited company
The first steps in setting up your limited company is picking a name for your business. It can be your real name, like Craig Barber Ltd. Or it could be something a little more creative. Once you’ve decided on your name, head over to the Companies House website to see if your chosen name is available.
Once you’ve got your name locked in, visit the Companies House website and take the steps to register your business online.
Getting a business bank account
In order to charge people via your limited company, you have to have a business bank account. Most of the large banks offer business bank accounts. I’m with HSBC. I find they are competitive and they also offer me an overdraft of £1000 which can be handy when just getting started.
Banking tip: Make sure you get a debit card with your business bank account. You will use this card to pay for your business expenses.
A fast track way to get set up
If you’re in a hurry or just need some help there are alternatives to setting everything up yourself. When setting up my limited company and bank account I used a company called Crunch. These guys specialise in getting folks set up. They also have a great online platform that helps you with all of your books and accounting. Very handy.
Some recruiters may require you to take out yearly insurance. The type of insurance is called ‘Employers Liability Insurance’. Depending on which cover you get, It costs around £170 per year. Although a small thing, some employers may favour you over the next person if you have it, but it’s not mandatory. I found my insurance through these guys.
Once you’re all set up with your limited company and your business bank account, it’s time to find some work. Freelance creative work in London can be found a number of ways. Below are my top tips which I use and recommend.
Best time of year to find work
It’s worth noting what time of year it is depends on how easy it is to find freelance creative work in London. The European summer is the busiest and easiest time to pick up work being June, July and August.
The hardest times of year to find freelance work in London is January through to March. Make sure you’ve got some work lined up or some money saved to cover yourself over this period.It gets really quiet which can be tough. If you’re moving to London I would definitely make the move in the summertime.
There are a lot of recruiters in London. Below is my list of the best ones I’ve worked with. Initially you will required to come in for a face to face meet and greet. The recruiter will always request you bring in the relevant paperwork. Make sure you have your passport and professional references ready. If you’re a non UK national make sure you have your visa and residence card on you.
Recommended freelance creative recruiters in London:
As an alternative to recruiters there are a number of great online platforms to help you find work. They take a little bit to set up, but once you’re setup they are really handy. I particularly like getting freelance roles sent straight to my inbox.
Recommended London freelance creative platforms:
How much to charge
The majority of freelance contracts in London will be based on a daily rate. Depending on what you do and your level of experience, your day rate could be from £150 per day through to £500 plus a day for really senior creatives.
Working on Saturday should be charged at 1.5 times your daily rate and on Sunday your day rate should be double time.
It’s worth noting freelancers only get paid for the time they work in London. No sick day pay. No holiday or paid public holidays. Some days no matter how crap you’re feeling, you’ll have to drag yourself into the office I’m afraid.
Finding work tip: A lot of recruiters post frequent updates for freelance work on LinkedIn. Be sure to connect with a number of London based creative recruiters to be kept in the loop.
Another way to find creative work in London is good old fashioned networking. I’m a fan of network events as it’s a social thing as much as it is about finding work. You’ll find it a lovely experience to mix with other creatives in London.
A list of the best networking and meet-ups for creatives in London:
For all of you advertising creatives out there, there is a little known non profit for London based creatives, it’s called Nabs. Check them out if you need help or advice on all things advertising industry related.
Once you’ve finally secured that awesome freelance booking there’s is a few bits and pieces you need to know. Below are are my tips and best practices for making the most working as a freelance creative in London.
You usually have to sign a contract before you start working. This contract will be sent to you from the recruiter or from the employer themselves. The contract states the terms and conditions that you will be working under. It will state your day rate, length of booking, overtime specifics and importantly how much notice the employer has to give to terminate your contract. Depending on the employer, they can often terminate your contract immediately with any notice. Some contracts state it’s a 24 hour notice period. Please read your contracts carefully before you sign. It’s important that everybody is clear on what the ins and outs of the booking are.
Working tip: Always make sure you get a contract. It protects you as well as the client. Also check the small print. Some places can cancel your booking with a days notice and you don’t want to be cancelled at 4pm on a Friday.
Using your own computer
A lot of freelance creative bookings in London will require you to bring your own computer. It is advisable, but not mandatory to have your own your laptop with all the relevant software to get yourself regular freelance contracts.
Timesheets are super important. They suck but they are super important. Make sure you get familiar with the timesheet system the agency or your recruiter has set up for you. You will need to have this complete and approved so you can get paid. I advise doing your timesheet as soon as you have finished your contract each week.
If you do have the option to work remotely and can’t work from home. There are a number of great, free public places in London to set up shop and get some work done.
The best free, public spaces in London to get some work done:
Working on site tip: If you’re working with an agency workspace I recommend taking your own mouse and mousepad into the office. The number of times I’ve been sat in front of some really crappy setups. It really helps to bring in some of your own gear. Meeting a deadline using a crappy mouse is tough.
Running your business
If you’re like most creatives you probably suck at numbers. I know I do. The thing with running your own business is you have to do some maths. Below are the basics of running your freelance business.
You’ll have to do your own invoicing. Most often you will be sending your invoice directly to a recruiter who pays you. Sometimes you will be required to bill the agency you’re working for. You will be charging the total amount plus VAT. I recommend billing on a weekly basis. Your invoicing will typically be done by emailing a PDF document.
You can expect to wait between one week to four weeks for your invoice to be paid.
Paying yourself a monthly salary
When running a limited company, the way the tax system works in the UK it’s best to pay yourself what’s called a monthly salary. This amount is determined by your accountant or online platform. It’s an amount you pay yourself once a month out of your current business bank account.
Paying yourself a monthly dividend
On top of your monthly salary, you pay yourself what’s called a divided. The dividend amount is calculated by much your limited company has been earning. If you’ve been raking it in, you’ll be up for a big dividend each month. If you’ve had a lean month your dividend will be small. This amount can be calculated by your accountant or your online system. Again the cash will come out of your business bank account.
For the love of Pete don’t spend your tax money. You’re going to need this later. It’s easy to see those big round numbers on your invoice and get all carried away at the pub. As part of running your own business you have to set aside money from every invoice for VAT and once a year corporation tax. The latter is the scary one. The cash has to remain in your business bank account to cover these tax bills. Repeat. Do not spend it.
Expenses are your friend. This is one of the huge benefits of being a freelancer with your own limited company. On any given day, below are a few of many things you can expense to your limited company:
- Coffee breaks
- Lunch and dinner
- Bus and train tickets
- Taxi fares
- Computers & hardware
- Subscriptions and memberships
For a full list of things you can expense click here.
Expenses tip: Remember to always use your company debit card to pay for these expenses. It makes it simpler when doing you are doing your accounting.
Thanks for reading my freelancing in London guide! I hope it helped you out.
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