At some point in their career, most writers who are getting paid will have to register for self-assessment tax and go freelance. It's a scary moment, especially if, like me, you had only ever had a salaried job. Before doing I went freelance, I asked self-employed friends what the experience is like, and most had always been working for themselves, so they knew no different. There's no holidays, they'd say, and worries of future income drying up are always present, but what irked me was how little they could tell me about the practicalities of working for yourself. I wanted to hear how difficult it was to register for tax, or who I had to talk to before I jumped into freelance work.
I'm here to tell you that it's not that hard. Registering for tax is pretty simple, and there is a helpline for disnumerates like me to get assistance. The government wants you to be successful – it's in their interests, as they'll be taking a slice of your money for tax anyway. And you don't need to ask anyone to start working for yourself. You just do it.
I started as a part-time freelancer and really pushed myself to go full-time freelance as soon as the work picked up, because the job market is so dicey. I had been threatened with redundancy three times in my career as a librarian in just under ten years and the final time they managed to squeeze me out. Job club beckoned. I took the plunge and leapt into working for myself. It's hard, but fun. A friend of mine runs a business/marking consultancy and is seeing more and more people setting up on their own due to the recession, and loving it.
If you want to work for yourself, take a look at the government advice here and other than that, KEEP ALL YOUR RECEIPTS. You'll see why.