Making The Choice To Be Self Employed - Pros vs Pitfuls With Hiscox

Making the jump to being fully self employed can be a little bit scary, but it's also incredibly rewarding. Whilst you suddenly become your own HR, legal and PR departments, you are also your own boss and free to work around a schedule which suits your lifestyle.

In my case, this often means I'm often trying to cram ten days of work into a week! But it also allows me the flexibility to have a long weekend when I want to, and the freedom to edit from home in my pyjamas whenever I feel like it.

Insurance company Hiscox recently ran an event in London which gave  lots of tips on how to run a successful start-up. You can read their incredibly helpful post here which deals with everything from growth, to networking to time management. They have also published separate articles on chasing late payments, key mistakes to avoid and how to avoid what Harvard Business School calls "Heartbreaking Mediocrity".

I've been a freelance photographer for over six years now, and have found that almost all of my work comes from networking and word of mouth. I frequently get emails from new clients where my brand has been recommended, and it's always a great feeling to know that you've left a good, strong impression after a shoot has been completed.

Making those initial connections is key though. When I was much younger, I would assist other photographers and make myself as indispensable as possible which gave me a wonderful grounding in how large scale shoots worked. However it also introduced me to some wonderful people who would later on prove to be very useful contacts which is perhaps something more unique to people working within the arts.

Research is utterly invaluable. You need to know your market inside out, both from the perspective of who you're targeting and who you're up against. You need to have a solid business plan. And perhaps most importantly, you need to look into the legalities of setting your business up, from registering as self employed to filing your own tax return. I read a LOT of books on self employment both at the start of and during my six years of self employment, and whilst nothing can really fully prepare you, you can still create a checklist of the things you need to tick to be on the right side of HMRC.

There are many key things to consider when going self employed, far more than what could be covered in one blog post. However these are some things which helped me along the way in my early days.

1. Branding.
Your branding should be an extension of you, as it's what your customers will know you as. There should be consistency across your website, social media platforms, letterheads and business cards so that you are instantly recognisable by customers and consumers alike.

2. Know Your Dates.
Have a calendar specifically for your business with key dates for meetings, tax payments, deadlines and so on. Google have a feature in their calendar which allows you to show multiple calendars in different colours as one view. This enables me to see my business and personal commitments at once in a clear, concise manner.

3. Keep Precise And Up To Date Expense Records.
No matter how many times you've done it, tax returns are no fun. To make things a little easier, input all your expenses and payments into monthly tabbed spreadsheets. It also helps to have twelve monthly envelopes kept together to file your receipts in. The extra minutes you take doing this now will be worth the time and stress saved later! It's also a great idea to do your tax return at the end of the tax year rather than waiting for the January deadline. That way if any problems are presented, you've got the time to work out what's gone wrong.

4. Get Insurance.
As a photographer, this is an essential. Whilst it seems like yet another cost to swallow, a monthly fee is better than not being able to replace your equipment if damaged or stolen.

5. Use Social Media.
I am so grateful that we live in an age where it's so simple to connect with an infinite amount of people. I frequently use platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to interact with both fans of my work and potential clients. However don't get distracted and let it suck up all your time!

Until next time,

(All photos (c) Diana Thompson / Fashion Loves Photos unless otherwise stated. Please do not reproduce without written permission.)

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