If you crave flexibility and the option to work anywhere in the world, then freelancing might be for you. It’s never been cheaper or easier to set up a business at home. You can create a free website, manage your documents in the cloud, and communicate with clients over Skype. Unlike consultancy, freelancing often involves working with multiple clients on short-term projects.

Naturally, your first step is to find the skills that you can successfully market. Take a look at the What Have You Got? page to get some ideas. Freelancers with an academic background tend to work in the following areas:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Proofreading
  • Translating
  • Tutoring
  • Coaching
  • E-learning
  • Training

Websites such as Upwork will give you an idea of hourly rates and how much competition exists in different areas. Specialising in particular niche can make you more visible, and also attract greater financial rewards.

In addition to the skills you market, you’ll also need the following core skills:

  • IT literacy – there’s not much you can do without technology these days. A strong understanding of how everything works will save you considerable time and money.
  • Accountancy – even if you’re not too hot on numbers, you need to at least grasp the basics. Employing an accountant is expensive, so at least learn enough to complete your own tax return and to keep basis records.
  • Marketing – you’d probably much rather just get on with what you’re good at, but you have to find an effective way of reaching potential clients, whether that’s through social media, networking, or mailshots. Understanding the fundamentals of promotion helps ensure a consistent stream of work opportunities.

Freelancer News offers information and tips on getting yourself established, while online communities such as provides networking opportunities with other freelancers.

In this video, Andrew Douglas explains his unusual journey from PhD in Computer Science to becoming a full-time potter:

Next Steps

You might want to attend the Research Staff Development workshop on Thinking Creatively About Your Career: How to Identify, Develop and Market Your Skills as a Freelancer. Check the listings to find out when it’s next running.