How to find your perfect freelance worklife balance.  

Words, hubbul

Achieving the perfect worklife balance for freelancers and contractors is the holy grail. Millions go in search of it. Very few find it. 

Given that as an independent worker, you theoretically have the power to decide how you work, when you work, where you work and who for, you’d think that finding that sought-after balance between work and play should be simple. The reality is however, that it’s not. 

As any half-experienced freelancer knows, many of us live in fear of the work drying up. Without real job security in the form of a cushty contract of employment, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of working non-stop, because, who knows, that rainy day might be closer than you think.

Freelancing can turn you into a workhorse. While this might well bring you some form of financial security, a healthy worklife balance it does not. Ask yourself; why was it that you went freelance? The majority of freelancers ventured into self-employment in search of a better worklife balance, not simply to earn more.

Setting clear boundaries between work and play, and allowing yourself to switch off once in a while is easier said than done of course. But it’s possible. And what’s more, it’s liberating. So whether it’s holidays, work-free weekends or evenings with the family, here’s how you can build a better worklife balance, and one which your freelance career will benefit from.

Choose your moments strategically

Naturally, freelancers don’t want to pass up many opportunities. After all, the work might not come around again. With this is mind, it’s up to you to get a clear idea of potential projects or busy periods with your regular clients. 

Get organised, pencil in busy periods into your diary before plotting in some fixed dates on which you plan to enjoy some well-earned time off. While you might not get paid for the time you take off, if your client is away at the same time, there’s the possibility you might not even be needed anyway.

Although testing sometimes, many clients will typically work around you where possible. If they aren’t playing ball, you have a bigger question to ask yourself.

Work remotely

Whether you’re in need of a quick city break, fancy Friday afternoon off, want to do the school run or need to clear your head with a gym session, working remotely gives you more freedom and flexibility.

By structuring your day to your taste, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy more of the moments that matter. Start early, finish early. Start late, finish late. Do a few hours here, and a few there. Take control of the way in which you work and enjoy a much better all-round balance.

Millions work remotely in the UK today, as businesses of all sizes actively embrace the remote working revolution. Have the discussion with your client, or outline from the beginning that more often than not you’ll be working remotely. If they trust you, they’ll respect your independence.

Collaborate with others

If you’ve worked up a strong relationship with your clients, you’re well within your right to introduce them to a new member of your team.

While this changes the dynamic of your offering – marking the change from solo freelancer to an agency relationship – it will free you up a little should you be looking to take some time off or just ease up on your personal workload.

A few words of warning though; introducing a fellow freelancer to a client requires a gentle, considered conversation. Only collaborate with freelancers you know and trust. And remember, that as the ‘Account Manager’, all responsibility falls on your shoulders. And so it should.

Trust your ability

In the early days of being freelance, you’ll no doubt be on a mission to prove your invaluable worth to each and every client. It’s only natural. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that any time off or ground-rules make you less of an attractive proposition. This changes over time. And with experience comes self-assurance, confidence in your ability and in the service you deliver for clients. Rather than your client relationship being a one-way street, make a habit of having clear, honest conversations about the way you intend to work.

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What must Government do for freelancers and contractors?

Words, hubbul

The recent General Election result will have done little to convince UK freelancers and contractors that the current Government is committed to supporting their growing needs.

Following a hung Parliament, Theresa May and The Conservative Party are looking to strike a deal with The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a majority government. However, with recent research highlighting that a staggering 97% of freelancers and contractors feel unsupported by the current Government, it’s safe to say that any incoming Party – or in this case Parties – will have their work cut out to win back the support of the UK’s independent workforce.

And this concerning lack of faith in the Government is easily explained, as Seb Maley, CEO of contractor tax adviser and the company behind the research, Qdos Contractor commented.

“Recent controversial changes to the taxation system has understandably left independent workers feeling unfairly targeted and in many respects vulnerable. That a huge proportion of freelancers and contractors do not believe the current Government has their best interests at heart is of course worrying news however.”

From slashing tax-free dividend allowance by 60%, introducing unpopular public sector IR35 changes, rumours around private sector IR35 reform, and who could forget – the increase and subsequent reversal of national insurance contribution (NIC)  - there has been little evidence recently that The Conservative Party is indeed, the most suitable Party for the UK’s independent workforce.

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In the coming months, we can ultimately expect some uncertainty, as any new Government settles in, negotiating Britain’s exit from The EU in a new look Government. And leading voices in the sector are urging the powers that be to prioritise the needs of the UK’s growing independent workforce.

“The Government needs to bring certainty and clarity to our negotiation position on Brexit as soon as possible. The current uncertainty can only be damaging to our hopes of negotiating the strongest possible exit deal from the EU,” explained IPSE’s Director of Policy, Simon McVicker.

“The self-employed must be central on the government’s agenda. The Government must ensure a flexible economy is crucial in their thinking for the post-Brexit world. We urge the politicians to put the interest of the UK first and to continue to create the environment for the self-employed to thrive in.”

Interestingly, and prior to the General Election, despite stating their unhappiness with The Conservative Party, the largest percentage (42%) of freelancers surveyed announced that they planned to vote for them. Whether they actually did remains to be seen, but given the likelihood of another Conservative Government, the independent workforce will be expecting more support this time around.

There are no shortage of suggestions when it comes to the type of help and support the independent workforce would benefit from either.  Seb Maley of Qdos Contractor has called for any incoming Government to first focus on tax simplification.

“The vast majority of independent workers are not tax dodgers and do not choose to work this way to unfairly exploit the system. In times of uncertainty, the UK’s independent workforce has shown its value to the economy, contributing £119bn last year. Why target them, punish them and tarnish their hard-earned reputation?

“It’s time tax worked for everyone. And the new Government will have a fresh opportunity to work with freelancers and contractors to build a fairer, smarter and simplified tax system - and one which the independent workforce, the economy and Government will each benefit from.”

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In a similar vein, IPSE has outlined a number of measures the new Government must take to show their commitment to the UK’s 4.8million and growing self-employed population.

In The IPSE Manifesto: a contract with the self-employed, the UK’s leading body for the self-employed highlight a number of key areas. These include;

  • Delivering a Brexit that works, and ensures the free movement of skilled professionals across Europe
  • Bespoke building a fairer, more efficient tax system, and one more suited for freelancers
  • Securing the futures of freelancers, including incentivising pensions
  • Preparing the next generation of self-employed, and integrating self-employment and enterprise onto the curriculum

With a record 4.8million self-employed people in the UK, 2million of whom are freelancers and contractors, this fast-growing sector of the workforce is becoming more important both economically, and politically speaking. And one thing remains clear; any incoming Parties have the opportunity to rebuild burnt bridges with the UK’s 2million freelancers and contractors. Whether they will however, remains to be seen.

What would you like the incoming Government to tackle first? Join the conversation…

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Will artificial intelligence revolutionize the way freelancers get work?

Words, hubbul

The world of work is changing fast. The days of a monotonous of 9-5 are dying, replaced with a way of working that brings freedom, flexibility, choice and control. Relentless technological innovation has changed the mindset of the global workforce and businesses alike, enabling anytime, anywhere working and building a new, exciting wave of entrepreneurs. 

Today, we can just as easily work from the comfort of our home or holiday villa, as we can from the office. This transformation has liberated the modern workforce, the catalyst behind the millions of bedroom businesses, coffee-shop workers, freelancers, contractors and self-employed.

Technology has undoubtedly been the driving force behind remote, new and innovative ways of working. And it’s no surprise that digital innovation is also expected to play a fundamental role in how this new workforce sources business, survives and even prospers in a fiercely competitive environment.

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) – a computer system so smart that it learns and understands patterns and behaviours to make better and more well-informed decisions – is set to revolutionize the way independent workers connect and match with relevant businesses who are on the lookout for quality freelancers and contractors.

Some say AI has the potential to one-day automate the entire recruitment process, as it learns to make better decisions about potential candidates and jobs over time, based on skills matches, references, day-rates, location, availability and to some extent culture fit.

As always, the business world is gearing up for change. 85% of executives revealed in Accenture’s Future Workforce Trends report that they are preparing to invest heavily in AI related tech in the next three years. Smart learning through AI has the potential to automate and reduce spend on mission critical activities, from customer service, right through to finding and matching with new talent.

Many businesses and employers are already ahead of the curve, on the cusp of embracing artificial intelligence, as they go in search of faster and cheaper ways to connect with the right freelancers and contractors. As many as 96% of senior HR professionals believe AI has the potential to greatly enhance talent acquisition – just going to show that this new, exciting technology is highly regarded as a main component in the future of recruiting.

But are we ready for such change now? 57% of HR professionals surveyed by Alexander Mann are concerned that technological innovation within their department is too slow. And despite the overriding believe that AI is set to fundamentally change the way these businesses match with freelancers and contractors, just one in four HR leaders are currently using these methods.

“It is certainly promising to see that an astounding number of senior HR leaders understand the benefits of utilising Artificial Intelligence in their HR and talent functions. Artificial Intelligence technologies and data analytics tools both hold significant opportunities for candidate sourcing, selection and retention,” explained Laurie Padua, Director of Technology and Operations Consulting at Alexander Mann Solutions.

“And with figures from LinkedIn’s 2016 Global Recruiting Survey finding that 46% of HR leaders are still struggling to attract candidates in high demand talent pools, it’s clear that organisations which embrace technology will have an edge over their competitors. Companies who are quick to adopt these technologies will have far greater access to in-demand talent pools, while those who fail to act are likely to fall behind.”

The faster artificial intelligence is embraced as the technology which could fundamentally change how we as freelancers and contractors connect with relevant businesses and employers, the better.  And excitingly, the widespread use of artificial intelligence in the recruitment industry looks to be a case of when and not if.

For freelancers, contractors and the growing, global and flexible workforce, the benefits are clear. For the first time the new, independent workforce can be confident that the opportunities, projects and roles presented to them are entirely relevant. And for the first time freelancers can rely less on limited networks and their little black book of contacts, knowing that the right jobs, from the right employers, paying the right rates will arrive at exactly the right time.

How important do you see technology being in the way you win new work? Join the conversation...

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