This is the first in a 10-part series of weekly posts on freelancing around the world. We selected the top ten most popular countries of residence among contributors in Contently’s talent network—excluding the United States—and researched visa requirements, tax regulations, and other useful information for freelancers considering a move.
Geographic freedom—it may be one of the main reasons you took up freelancing in the first place. There are few lifestyles that allow people to pick up their life, move somewhere new, and continue comfortably. As expatriation rates rise around the globe, governments and private citizens are making it easier to pursue a freelance career in exotic places (and Canada!). In some cases, visas are being issued for short-term or contingent work, and there are countless blogs to assist newbies who’ve just entered the freelance workforce.
This week we’re exploring how to freelance in the United Kingdom.
A workforce on the rise
Much like in the United States, the UK freelance workforce is rapidly expanding. A recent report by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) counts the UK self-employed at 4.8 million people, two million of whom are categorized as freelancers in “highly skilled managerial, professional and technical occupations.” According to the report, UK freelancers work across a few fields: arts, literature, and media; management and proprietary services; education; and information technology and telecommunications.
Freelancers are still called “freelancers” across the pond, though some contingent workers are referred to as “slashies”—those whose LinkedIn headlines read a little like “SEO Specialist / Illustrator / Barista.”
Acquiring a visa in the UK can be complicated, though it’s easier if your spouse is a citizen. Tourist or visitor visas forbid working, even as a freelancer, so if you’re serious about building a freelance career across the pond, you’ll need to think long term. In that case, your options are a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa or a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa . The former requires proof that you have access to £200,000 worth of funds you can invest, either your own or supplied by others, but that requirement can drop to £50,000 if your investments come from a few specific organizations.
If you don’t have that capital, consider applying for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa. This limited issue visa requires a two-part application process in which you demonstrate that your work is of “outstanding quality” and has been published (outside newspapers and magazines), distributed, or performed internationally.
Registering for taxes
This article from Simply Business covers a lot of your bases. You have to decide whether to register as a sole trader or limited company, which affects how you register for tax with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). In either case, depending on your revenue in a 12-month period, you may also need to register for Value-Added Tax (VAT). To give you a better idea of your tax obligations, the HMRC has put together a handy calculator.
Insurance options for UK freelancers
This rundown from Towergate Insurance gives a few recommendations for the kinds of insurance you should consider:
- Professional Indemnity/Liability Insurance: This is very common among freelancers—especially consultants—who want to protect themselves against claims of negligence, libel, and slander.
- Public Liability Insurance: For work that takes freelancers out of their flat—looking at you, photographers and videographers—this coverage helps if a member of the public sues your business for injury or property damage.
- Employer’s Liability Insurance: While this may not apply to most digital nomads, there are cases where freelancers establish longer-term business plans that require them to hire employees. This insurance handles claims made against you if employees are injured or fall ill on the job.
It’s going to take research, patience, and meticulous paperwork skills, but if a career across the pond is calling your name, there are ways of answering its siren call.
*Please note that The Freelancer does not offer legal advice. Those who are interested in freelancing internationally should complete their own due diligence, including research of visa laws, consultations with lawyers and consulates, and advice from other freelancers working in the area. This guide to International Employment from Clyde & Co. is a good place to start.