How to Work as a Freelancer

Binita Walia is an artist works on architectural glass commissions. In this interview she talks about how her work has developed and evolved due to the power of the web and through collaborative projects, helping her survive in the current financial climate.

Once you have set yourself up as a freelancer you will need to plan your business or service, pitch to clients to get contract work and consider collaborating with others. Here you will find step-by-step guidance and useful downloads.

Different types of freelancing

You can work independently, from home or in your own studio or desk space. This kind of work might be project-based, working for a client to design a logo or branding. An advantage to working this way is that you can work for clients across the UK and internationally.

You can work for an agency and this might be based in their office or from home, depending on the work and their requirements. It could be for a short period to contribute to a specialist job or for longer contracted periods.

You can work as a freelancer at the same time as working part-time as an employee. In legal terms, you will likely be classified as self-employed, unless you earn over £65K a year, at which point it becomes advisable to become a limited company.

How to kick start a project

Business planning

A business plan is essential if you want to get help from a bank or funder. It demonstrates that you'll use the money wisely and can pay it back.

Most banks and funders have their own business plan template, so check with them to see what information they will want.

Even if you don’t need any additional money, it can be very useful to create a business plan. It will help you put your thoughts on paper and think through what you want to do and how.

A good plan can help you evaluate your progress, prioritise your workload and make better decisions.

Create a basic plan for your business 

Your business plan doesn’t need to be long and boring. All you need when you are starting out are a couple of pages with some clear financial and marketing goals for the next year, a short explanation of your business idea and market and a budget. 

It is important that your business plan is well researched and regularly updated. Every month, go through your business plan and evaluate how you are doing against the goals you set yourself. See what is working and what needs improvement. It will then be your road map to a successful business.

Financial goals

  • Decide how much money you want to earn through the business and how much turnover you need to generate that salary.
  • How many products do you need to sell, or projects do you need to complete, to achieve your financial goals.

Your product

  • Think about what products or services you will offer. 
  • What are the features and benefits of your products and service?
  • How many products or services will you offer?
  • What price level would you sell at?

Your clients

  • Think about who your clients will be.
  • Who will collect or commission your work?
  • What kinds of people will use or buy your work? What kind of life do they live. What age or gender are they.

Set goals

When you are setting your goals it is a good idea to start with what you want to achieve in one or two years time. 

Set yourself some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals for your finances and marketing, for example: “I want to earn £12K from my design work with 20 projects this year”, or “I want to get eight illustration commissions this year, earning me £10K.”

Creating a more formal business plan

Funders and banks have their own business plan requirements and templates and they often provide guides to writing a business plan too.

After you have written your business plan, it is always good to get feedback from a business adviser or ask a more experienced business owner.

Presenting and pitching

Once you have gained interest from a client you might need to pitch an idea or your service. This could be in the form of a presentation or might be through prototypes, depending on the industry.

Preparation, practice and presentation are the key to a successful pitch.


There are two key times when you will need negotiation skills:

  • When you want to agree on something new, whether that’s a job, fee, business relationship or a new product or idea involving someone else) 
  • When you need to overcome conflict in an existing project

Here are some of the key skills you can develop to help you make the most of negotiations.


The first step in any negotiation is preparation. The more you know about the situation, the better you are able to negotiate. Find out all you can about the person and organisation you will be negotiating with,. Be clear about what you want to achieve and find out what the other party wants out of it.

Some of the things you will need to consider in your preparation are:

  • Your fee and how much you are prepared to do the work for and what you are going to do if a client offers less money than you expected. The amount of work/number of hours that will be involved. 
  • The standard of the work you are able to produce and how it fairs against others who may be negotiating for the same work.
  • Your deadlines and other work commitments, and how you plan to fit everything in.
  • How you will maintain communications with the client.
  • What will happen if there is a dispute over the quality or amount of work produced.
  • If there is any further information you need before you are comfortable going into the negotiation.
  • What would a win-win situation look like? For example, what arrangement do you think will allow you both to be happy with the agreement. 
  • What will be your fall-back plan if your original proposal does not work for the other party? Having a next best alternative can open up options for both you and your client. 

Exchanging information

Provide the above information to the client and make sure you ask for information from them, such as the client’s expectations and any limitations they are bound by. A good exchange of information can help avoid confrontations and misunderstandings.

The negotiation itself and can take the form of a face-to-face meeting, an email or phone call.

The negotiation itself

  • This is the most complex part of the process, and there is no single way to negotiate, but some general pointers are: 
  • Look for common ground to start with. Ask for what you want, then wait for their response. Listen carefully to your client. Make sure you remain business-like. Use the “if I, then you” model. If you need to make concessions, try to offset them by getting a better deal in another area. For example, “If I can reduce my price to x, can you reduce the number of days needed for the job?” This will ensure that you are not giving away something that is valuable to you without getting anything in return. 
  • Be prepared to compromise – it helps to decide in advance which areas you are prepared to compromise on.


It is important to close a negotiation with an agreement. Repeat back to the client what your understanding of the agreement is, and consider whether you need to create a contract for clarity and protection.


There are many benefits to collaborating with others.

But, when you’re used to working on your own individual projects it can take time to get used to other ways of working and different viewpoints. A group of creative people working together need to consider not just what they will do (the idea) but also how they will get things done (the process).

Choosing your collaborators

A real benefit of collaboration is working with people that think differently and have a complementary skill set to yours.
But collaboration isn’t always smooth-running, as different personality types get used to working with each other. In fact, most groups go through the team development process developed by TUCKMAN:

  • They come together (forming).
  • There is some conflict as new ideas are developed and the team gets to know each other (storming)
  • The team then settle into their roles (norming) 
  • And finally get on with the task at hand (performing).

For this reason, collaboration can feel quite uncomfortable at the start but often leads to the most innovative ideas.

What makes a good collaboration?

Communication is at the heart of good collaboration. All collaborators should be open and honest about what they want to get out of the project.

Doing personal reviews before you start means you can share your reasons for getting involved, identify what skills and resources each person is offering and what they want to achieve.

Other principles that make for good collaboration are: trust, commitment and shared goals.