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Suffolk's MENTA offers some top tips for freelancers and sole traders and says: "You're not alone"

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There are so many great reasons to become self-employed. A pre-pandemic survey found that self-employed people are happier and more engaged than those working in any other profession. As a freelancer or sole trader, you have the freedom to innovate, to make decisions based on your business growth as well as uncapped earning potential.

However, it can be lonely if you don’t know of the growing resources available to you to meet other freelancers or sole traders. In fact, over half of all freelancers reported they have encountered loneliness.

When you are an employee, you are part of an established team. We are generally social animals and enjoy interaction with others. Grabbing a coffee with a colleague can give you the boost or break you need from the screen or work in general. It is important to find that as a sole trader.

MENTA (51533922)
MENTA (51533922)

While you may be interacting with customers or clients the relationship is such that you are a service provider. If you need advice or guidance, it is not appropriate to seek this out within a client or customer relationship. Instead, it is important to find your network either virtually or physically.

Accessing training programmes will help.

If you are considering becoming your own boss, MENTA deliver a range of free start up training packages where you can access advice on how to grow your network when you start out as a freelancer or sole trader.

Networking is a great way to meet people. Picture: MENTA (56346822)
Networking is a great way to meet people. Picture: MENTA (56346822)

Just communicating with the professionals behind the course will be hugely beneficial.

Social media is a great place to start when you first become self-employed. Do some research and take advantage of the village and town community pages on Facebook around your area, not only are they a great way of letting people know about your service or product they can also help to link you to other self-employed businesses close by. Introduce yourself and what you are doing and see if there are any other freelancers or self-employed people in your locality who might want to meet for a coffee and impart any advice. Depending on the type of business you are operating there are also national Facebook groups you can join, dipping in and out of as you need. For example, a simple ‘start up support’ search on Facebook brings up ‘The start-up business help and advice UK’ page which has over 22 thousand members.

As you start out as self-employed you will find yourself in unchartered waters. You must learn all parts of business, rather than just rely on your service expertise. You may have legal or accounting questions which can be answered in the group without needing to pay a professional for the advice. Very often freelancers struggle with pricing structures and what to charge, a social media group gives you access to people who may have had the same issues and may be willing to share anecdotes to help you on the right path. Sometimes you may need to let off steam after a difficult day trading. Social media support groups are a fantastic way of connecting with people. If you would rather make new connections face-to- face, MENTA has non-membership networking events in Haverhill and Bury St Edmunds, these events offer you the chance to not just promote your business but can help with any feelings of loneliness

-- To find more information on both the free self-employment support and networking events, email bookings@menta.org.uk

MENTA Haverhill

21-27 Hollands Road, Haverhill, Suffolk CB9 8PP

Email: haverhill@menta.org.uk | Call: 01440 714912 | Social: @mentabusiness