Editor | 13 December 2016

Freelancers reveal the negative side of self-employment

Generally speaking, freelancers love freelancing. The freedom and control that freelancing brings is precious for hundreds of thousands of independent British workers, but at the same time it can be a very difficult job.

The common misconception that freelancers pop out for coffee whenever they like and still earn fistfuls of cash isn’t true for most people.

With the ‘gig economy’ under review and the government eyeing the flexible sector for a tax cash grab, some freelancers have revealed the dark and dirty side of self-employment.

Physical, emotional and financial tolls are all part of daily life for freelancers, but there are things that can be done to soften the hardship.

The dark side of freelancing

A recent article in The Guardian reported some of the biggest problems facing freelancers. Many of the issues raised in the article related to under the surface challenges that aren’t very noticeable to outsiders.

One disillusioned freelancer, Clair Crawley, pointed out the discrepancy between how much free time you think you will have as a freelancer and how much free time you actually get.

She told The Guardian: “At the time I was really motivated. I thought I would cut down on travel time, work when I was free and take time off when I wasn’t, go to class assemblies, all the other things you can’t do in a job.”

Like many freelancers, Clair found it nearly impossible to find a good work-life balance. “I would book for the children to go to the child-minder because I knew I had a deadline. Then the client wouldn’t give me the information I needed to do the work in time, so I would pay for the kids to go to the child-minder, pick them up and put them to bed, then work until 2am trying to finish the project to deadline, because I wouldn’t get paid otherwise,” she said.

Emmeline Pidgen, an illustrator who was recently named IPSE’s freelancer of the year shined the spotlight on a different problem faced by freelancers - the isolation.

“You don’t have group brainstorming sessions, motivating staff talks, even colleagues to talk to about office gossip,” she told The Guardian. “You have to have a real drive to push through and feel confident with your own direction and ideas, but the loneliness can affect you.”

Financial problems faced by freelancers

These under the surface issues do pose a huge challenge to the freelance way of life. But consistently the most common complaint from freelancers relates to financial worries and specifically, clients not paying their bills on time.

Late payment of invoices creates serious cash flow problems for independent professionals. And nearly every freelancer has a nightmare client story. In total in the UK it is estimated that small companies are owed an estimated £26bn in late payments.

Margot James, the small business minister has promised to tackle this problem. Next year all big companies will be legally obliged to report on their payment practices. For now though, the late payment crisis is worse than ever.

A recent FreeAgent study found that in some parts of the country including Sheffield, Twickenham and Slough, less than 30% of microbusiness invoices were paid on time.

Combat late payment with cloud accountancy

The tolls facing freelancers can seem grim yet there are effective ways of dealing with them. Freelancer ‘hubs,’ for example, help independent professionals work together, get motivated and share experiences.

Fighting financial pressures can seem more complicated but cloud accountancy software can make it easier.

Freelancer of the year Emmeline used cloud software to get tough with clients. She set tough terms and conditions using her invoicing system and when clients didn’t pay on time she charged them a late fee. She also began turning down work when clients treated her badly and took control back over her freelance career.

Cloud accountancy solutions like FreeAgent and Xero make chasing payment easier for freelancers. Using these systems you can send out automatic reminder emails when payment is due and add payment charges where you think it necessary. This saves freelancers a lot of time and energy, leaving more time to concentrate on what’s important.

Cloud Accountants have staff accredited with both Freeagent and Xero and we can talk any freelancers through using the software to automate tasks and reduce administration.

If you would like more information about any of our cloud accountancy solutions then please contact our accounts team. Call: 0808 281 0303.