London is a beast of a city, there are hundreds of creative agencies and millions of creatives freelancing every day. Whether you’re heading to London to freelance or already do now there’s a lot to learn. Here’s everything I’ve learn’t from freelancing in London over the last 10 years.
Registering a limited company
A limited company is something you’ll need to set up to maximise your income in the UK as a freelancer. Head on over here to get started. For your business name, remember to pick a nice simple name that is not going to date or sound corny in a few years time. Who knows it could be a billion dollar company one day. You can see what limited company names are available here.
One of the main ways to get freelance work in London is to go through a recruiter. There are plenty of recruiters out there. One of the main things I look for when working with a recruiter is what their payment terms are. Some recruiters pay you on a weekly basis. Others have a 30 day payment term which can be really tough if you haven’t had a paycheck in a while. Speak to other freelancers or colleagues to see who they use. One of my preferred recruitment agencies in London is Aquent.
The recruitment agencies will also ask you for a passport and proof that you’re good to work in the country so best have a scan of your papers to email if required or of course take them with you for the initial meet and greet with the recruiters.
Another alternative to recruiters is a website called YunoJuno. You sign up and fill out your profile. Briefs straight from creative agencies get posted to the site and you can put yourself forward for them.
Pro tip: A lot of freelance work gets posted to LinkedIn. Be sure to have an active account and scan the posts. Wednesday through to Friday are the busiest days for job postings as recruiters are looking to place freelancers for the following Monday.
What to charge
Most recruiters and agencies will ask what your daily rate is as apposed to an hourly rate. Be sure to have your daily rate in mind when asked. Typically a junior designer in London would be able to make £150 a day with the more senior creatives making anywhere from £250-350 depending on experience. Where possible go through a recruiter. I have often found billing a recruiter is much better as the recruiter will often pay you quicker. I have had friends who have had horror stories of agencies taking up to 3 months to pay a single invoice! ouch.
Keeping your finances in order
As a freelancer you’ll be doing your own books, one of my tools of the trade is a great online, UK based service called Crunch. These guys help me send out invoices, record expenses and all the other stuff in between you’ll need to be doing as well as working.
You’ll be called to turn up at places all over town and sometimes out of town. I was once called up to work in a barn out of town, complete with horses roaming around. So you’ll need to know how to get around and where to turn up. CityMapper is a fantastic app that has London mapped really well, complete with times, cost, a great map and methods of transport.
Pro tip: Use a prepaid Oyster card for all of your travel. You can get a receipt and expense the travel costs to and from work. Don’t use a credit or debit card as you can’t ‘top it up’ and get a receipt.
Working on site
One of the best tips I can give you when starting a new freelance placement at a new agency is to bring your own mouse! Man the number of times I’ve had to use a crummy mouse. You’re expected to get stuff done fast. Don’t take any risks. I always take my own mouse and a super deluxe mouse pad.
At one of the many smaller startup agencies I have worked at over the years one of them didn’t even have proper chairs. when prompted as to where my seat was the guy sprang into action and made me a makeshift ‘chair’ out of milk crate. Good times!
Working off site
If you find yourself in a freelance role that allows you to work off site there are plenty of great places in London to do so. I use and recommend the South Bank Centre in London. There’s plenty of space with tables and chairs to set up your laptop. Grab a coffee and use the free wifi they have on offer.
Eating and expenses
Once you have your limited company set up, remember you can expense all meals and even coffees during the day. If you’re not into packing your lunch be sure to buy your lunch and keep the receipts to be recorded for business expenses. Crunch has a great little app that I use for recording my expense called ‘Snap’. It’s an iPhone app that records expenses by simply taking a picture of the receipt. Such a time saver as entering them in manually sucks.
Keeping your gear in order
Some agencies will require you to bring in your own laptop. When liasing with the recruiter or the agency I always ask ‘Do I need to take my own machine?’ When required I take in my own laptop, mouse and even my own mouse pad. To carry all this stuff around I recommend a good bag. Incase make an awesome bag, you can check out the one I use here.
I hope this post helps. One last piece of advice I can recommend is to be nice to folks when you’re freelancing. The creative industry is a small industry. Whilst you are always just the ‘temp guy’ if you’re telling folks to piss off on a regular basis it will come back to byte you in the arse. Recruiters talk and so do agency folk. If you have a bad experience somewhere just make a note of it never to return and also let your other freelance mate know so they don’t have a crap time also. Lastly if anyone has any further tips let me know in the comments.