Year on year freelancers are a more integral part of the life sciences industry. Companies recognise the value freelance support can deliver in relatively short space of time. Whether that is a specialist skill set, or the ability to hit the ground running in a new environment; the return on investment is clear.
From a candidates’ perspective freelancing offers flexibility, creative stimulation, career development and financial advantages. But the freelance lifestyle isn’t for everyone, so what does it take to be a successful freelancer?
I speak to a network of medical communications freelancers every day, here are the top tips I’ve gathered from speaking to those ‘in the know’.
- Get help with your finances: Everyone recommends speaking to an accountant. If you’re just starting out as a freelancer they can advise you on company set up and structure. Finding a specialist freelance accountant can be useful as they can take care of your paperwork making the process as headache free as possible.
- Create an online presence (and keep it up-to-date): Set up a Linkedin profile, join relevant groups and add industry buzz words into your biography. All of this will make your profile more visible to potential clients. Some freelancers also build a personal brand through a website show casing their work, blogging or actively using twitter.
- Build up your skill set: There’s a lot of debate surrounding how much experience you need to start freelancing. The general consensus is you need at least 4 years’ experience of full-time permeant employment first, allowing you to build up technical skills and utilise training, to have the confidence to ‘hit the ground running’ in new environments.
- Personal Development: Jump at all the learning opportunities you can. Whether that’s in a current role or outside of this. Take the time to continuously develop your skills through external training, workshops and personal reading.
- Know your rate and your flexibility: Speaking to other freelancers and recruiters can give you something to benchmark your rate against. This provides a good point to start negotiations, but stay flexible as rates may differ project to project. I’d also advise reassessing your rates every couple of years as the market is always changing.
- Be aware of what your rate includes: It’s important to remember you are responsible for your sick pay, holiday pay, pension and any equipment you need when setting a minimum rate but also be aware of current market rates.
- Have a dedicated place to work (with a shut-able door): If you’re working remotely and balancing your home life with work it’s important to separate the two. For many, freelancing can mean splitting the day up to incorporate the school run. This flexibility is fantastic but to detach your work life from your personal life it often helps to have a physical ‘work’ space if possible (even more so with little ones at home).
- Don’t panic: One of the biggest pieces of advice is to remember how quickly the freelance market can change. The quiet periods never last for long. Slow and steady growth is more sustainable and the best way to build up your reputation. It’s a small industry after all!
Obviously freelancing isn’t for everyone and it’s important to make sure it fits in with your lifestyle. The best place to start is talking to people in the industry, whether that is other freelancers or one of the contract team here at meet. We can help you understand if freelancing is the right move for you.
If you’re already freelancing embrace and enjoy it – nothing is perfect, but in the current market the balance of power is with freelancers – there is so much work out there!