The ups and downs of being a freelancer

If you’re currently working for someone else and have a particular expertise, you might be considering a move into freelancing. It’s a popular way to move from being an employee to being your own boss.

But as with starting any business, there are as many downsides as there are benefits. Just have a look through any of the articles here on Bytestart and you’ll see some of the challenges many business owners face.

Before you consider the move, here are some things you should consider before making the leap into freelancing:

Skills Every Freelancer Must Have


The only way to win work is to develop relationships with suppliers. And that means that at a very basic level you need to be a people person. If you’re the kind of person who would rather lock yourself away from human contact, you may struggle as a freelancer.


The freelancer who markets themselves the best tends to win more work. Marketing is about putting yourself in the shoes of potential customers and ensuring your offering is exactly what they want.

It’s likely that an averagely talented freelancer with great marketing skills will beat a superb freelancer with poor marketing skills.


Marketing gets the business in; but you need good money skills to stay in business.

Freelancing isn’t like being employed. There’s no regular pay packet; you will need the ability to be flexible and maintain a positive cash flow. You will also need to manage your bookkeeping and tax affairs.

It’s vital you are organised so you can fulfill all your financial and legal requirements. Most freelancers will use one of the many online accounting systems now available to help do this with as little fuss as possible. ByteStart’s dedicated guide on How to Choose the Best Online Accounting Software for Your Business explains what you should look out for.

Self discipline

Some days as a freelancer you will have no paid work to do. And it will be very tempting to just switch on the TV for an hour… which could easily become a wasted day.

Down time is marketing time when you’re a freelancer. You will need huge reserves of energy and discipline to ensure you use your time productively every day.

A positive outlook

Compared to working for someone else, freelancing can be tough. As with most hard things in life the rewards are better if you approach it with a smile on your face and the ability to shrug off the inevitable stumbles along the way.

The Ups of Being a Freelancer


Don’t want to do a certain piece of work? Want to take a specific week off no matter whose holiday it clashes with? Then go for it!

Freelancers work for themselves and enjoy the freedom that goes with that. The ability to turn down a client because you don’t want to work with them cannot be over estimated. It’s an amazing feeling of control.

Variety of work

You can also pick work that challenges you and gives you a greater variety of things to do. Many an employee has “extended” their career by going freelance and reigniting their passion for their work.

Greater earning potential

Unlike employees, who have to hope they earn their bonus or keep their fingers crossed for a pay rise, as a freelancer, you control your earning potential. If you really need more money and are willing to put in the extra hours, the work is out there.

Pay less tax

As a freelancer, you will be in control of your own financial and tax affairs. You will be able to choose the business structure that best suits your situation, meaning you should be able to keep more of your hard-earned money.

A good accountant will help you reduce your tax bill to less than you pay as an employee. However, you should factor in the loss of income for periods when you’re not working, and the lack of ‘perks’ provided to permanent staff members, such as paid holiday.

As a contractor, you also will need to familiarise yourself with IR35 legislation. IR35 rules are designed to determine whether you are a true freelancer – or a “disguised employee”. Getting it wrong could land you with a nasty tax bill.

Read more about everything you need to know about becoming an IT contractor.

You are your own boss

The number one reason to freelance. You will have a stunning amount of control over your life compared to being an employee. The only way you can really understand this is to do it.

Yes, you will probably work longer and harder than you ever did for someone else, but because you are choosing to do this, you are in control. And wow it feels great.

Last updated: 13th February, 2021

Superscript no-ties business insurance - pay monthly

Tailored just for you + pay monthly. You could be covered in just 10 minutes.

Combine all of your old pensions into one online plan

Sign up in 5 minutes - over 300,000 users, including the Bytestart team!

Tide Business Bank Account - £40 welcome bonus!

Exclusive for Bytestart readers + 12 months' free transfers. Find out more.

FreeAgent Online Accounting - 55% off - ByteStart exclusive!

Brilliant software. Get 55% of your first 6 months, then 10% for life.

Related articles

  • contractor rates earning

    What hourly rate should you charge as an IT contractor?

    Alongside freedom, the potential financial benefit associated with contracting is a prime motivator for many people thinking of working for clients as an independent worker. One of the first things people ask is: “what hourly…

  • contractor accountants

    Top 10 tips for choosing a contractor accountant

    If you do a quick Google search for the term “contractor accountant”, you may be surprised to see just how many companies claim to be specialists in this sector. With so many companies to choose from, how do you know which ones will provide you with the best service?

  • umbrella company

    Working via an umbrella company – the pros and cons

    Although most professional contractors work via limited companies, a significant percentage prefer to (or have to) work through umbrella companies. Here we look at the pros and cons of contracting via an umbrella. Related guides:…