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Building it alone; Freelancing when you're single

Illustration by

Jon McCormack

May 14, 2021

For many people, the decision to go freelance is hard to make. Think of all the things you have to take into account, such as finances and the loss of your colleagues. but if you’re single, it can quickly complicate the first steps of becoming a freelancer.

Around a third of the freelancepopulation are not currently dating or married, and more than seven million people live alone. It's no surprise that single freelancers (or frankly just anyone who has to pay rent in London) often find themselves asking if life would be more stable if they did have a partner to share the bills with.  

Here’s a guide to what you need to consider if you are both single and freelance.

  

Budgeting

Every freelancer should budget, but for those who are alone, it’s even more important. Working out what your minimum outgoings (rent, bills, food, car etc) are is a good place to start. This total represents the bare minimum amount you need to earn each month to survive.

From here, you can work out how much you need to earn to have a comfortable life so you can work out how much you need for saving, socialising, holidays, and nice things such as that fancy scented candle you can’t live without. This total is what you should aim to earn each month.  

 

House buying and renting 

Although not all self-employed people live alone, many people as they get older find that having flatmates doesn’t appeal and they want space of their own.

Renting can be competitive, especially in the current climate. Some people find it difficult to persuade landlords that just because they are self-employed doesn’t mean they are unemployed or that they are underemployed. Add to this the fact there is only one income, and some may think you are a risky prospect.  

Getting an account who is familiar with your situation to write a formal letter stating what you earned on your last tax return and what you are projected to earn in the current tax year can make the difference.

House buying is a bigger minefield. While it is possible to buy on your own as a freelancer, you need to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. The requirements for mortgage lending can be stricter here are stricter if you work for yourself because lenders see you as riskier; mainly because your income can fluctuate.

You’ll need to pass the lender’s affordability tests in the same way as any other borrower, but self-employed people are required to provide far more evidence of their income than other borrowers because there is no employer to vouch for them, so make sure you haveup to date tax returns, bank statements, evidence of savings ready to go. A mortgage broker can help, and some specialise in helping freelancers get on the property ladder. Check out our partners, Trussle, for more advice on this.

 

Lack of human interaction 

Being self-employed and single means you’ll often be on your own. A lot.

Firstly, this is not always a bad thing. Time spent alone can be really good for creativity and focus so for that reason – and for your well being – getting comfortable with being on your own is important.

But finding some freelance communities can help you have some connection and conversation when you’re craving it. These can be groups, either online or in-person, which are either for all freelancers such as UnderPinned, or ones that cater specifically to the kind ofwork you do e.g. PR or floristry. Local groups of self-employed people are alsogood to join as well to increase your chances of making friends with people youcan meet up with in real life (when allowed). Joining a community offreelancers can help you find your people, but social media is another way.

Something I quickly learned about freelancing is that other people doing the same kind of thing as you are not your competition; they are your colleagues. The support and help I have received from other freelancers has outweighed that which I got from actual colleagues in staff jobs.

 

The working day

It can be hard to differentiate between your working day to down time when you don't have a partner coming homefrom work at a certain time, and especially if you also don’t have children who always bring along a more rigid routine.

The beauty of being self-employed is that you set your own rules and hours. The problem can come when you realise you have ended up working far longer hours than you intended because the working day has bled into your free time. Scheduling in time in your planner for rest can help if this is something you struggle with. Taking up a hobby can also help especially if you have to join a class at a specific time.

You can also develop certain rituals or habits to help. For example, every lunchtime I go for a walk even ifit’s just a quick turn around the park and in the evening, I close my laptop and put on a podcast that I listen to while cooking.

 

Taking risks

This can be particularly hard for single people but can be important for pushing your self-employed business tothe next level. It’s important to push yourself because you are your own bossa nd don’t have anyone doing it for you but it can feel scary to take too many risks. Having an emergency fund will help with this but so too can your mindset.

Many people have what’s known as a scarcity mindset. They believe that there will never be enough — whether it’s money, clients or career development opportunities, for example. As a result, instead of believing there is plenty to go around, they have a fear of coming up short and cling to what they have instead of taking risks.

Working to change this, throughself-development work, can help. I’ve experienced this myself after being tooscared to fire an anchor client who was really difficult to work with. Given I was reliant only on myself, I played it safe and stayed in atoxic situation instead of letting myself believe there was more work out there.

 Overall, don’t let your relationship status put you off realising your self-employed dreams. It can be an amazing combination. My confidence has soared since going freelance and I’m proud of myself for what I’ve achieved when I only have myself to rely on. It’s not a walk in the park but I wouldn’t have it any other way and I hope it will be the same for you.

Are you trying to find more work?

Or are you trying to organise your payments, or make contracts for your clients? Whatever you need to do as a freelancer, UnderPinned can help.

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