The Pros and Cons of Being a Self-Employed Fundraiser
Ask anyone about jobs in the charity sector and the first thing they probably think of is fundraising. And it’s no wonder, with so many people turning to fundraising roles to help support the charities and causes they’re passionate about. As a career, it’s both professionally and personally appealing. A job like this allows you to marry your passions with your people-skills, building valuable connections with your community to help support a cause that truly means something to you. And what could be more fulfilling than that?
But can you work as a fundraiser on your own schedule? The flexibility that comes with self-employment is attractive to many people. And in the charity sector, you can put your skills to good use without tying yourself to a particular organisation.
Think this may be the right path for you? We explore the benefits and pitfalls of working as a self-employed fundraiser.
First, the pros…
Aside from the flexibility that comes with being self-employed, there are many benefits to fitting your fundraising career around your lifestyle. Here are a few that may spark your interest.
1. You’ll be your own boss
Having the freedom of being self-employed allows you to control your own work schedule, perhaps fitting it around family commitments. As your own boss, you’ll need to set clear goals of what you want to do and what you can do for your clients. Offering too much is just as harmful as being too niche.
You also have to calculate the value of the work you’re doing. Charities and not-for-profits will be eager to get the lowest price they can, so calculating your use of time and resources is essential. The Code of Fundraising Practice states that payments to fundraisers must not be excessive and where appropriate maximum caps must be applied to avoid excessive payments. It is worth setting a base rate for your client and negotiating from here.
2. You can choose your own office
The flexible nature of self-employment means you can choose to work from home. Working from home also means you can claim back the costs of using your home as an office. You can do this through things such as gas and electricity bills. For example, if your office takes up 15% of your home, you are entitled to claim 15% of your bills back.
You’re also not bound to your home office; you may choose to work in a public coffee shop or a co-working space for a change of scenery—the choice is yours. Working in a public space helps defeat loneliness and allows you to escape the confines of your own home, separating your work and home life. However, using a public space for work means no expenses can be claimed back—even your morning coffee and croissant!
3. You decide what you work on
You’re in control of the contracts you take on and the clients you work with. Don’t be afraid to say no to projects you don’t think are suited to you. On the other hand, saying no too often and being picky can alienate business.
Find a happy medium and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. It’s not always necessary to only work with charities you’re extremely passionate about or relate to. You may find you work well with a charity you have never heard of. Working with a wide range rather than a few select favourites will help develop your fundraising skills and enable you to adapt to different contracts.
4. You’ll meet new people
As a fundraiser, you’ll find that a lot of work comes from word of mouth and networking—it’s who you know. This career enables you to engage with many people who have the same interests and goals as you, developing your social standing and skills. Remember that when meeting other fundraisers and charities there is always an opportunity to learn something new that can help develop your fundraising business.
5. You’ll benefit from a different set of perks
Being self-employed means you can claim costs such as equipment and transport. The cost of a work computer can be offset, however, this must be a work computer or laptop, not for personal or family use. You must register yourself as self-employed with HMRC to ensure you pay the correct amount of tax and National Insurance, which is often less for Freelancers.
You have the opportunity to work with charities that support all kinds of causes, giving you plenty of chances to give back. Self-employed fundraising is rewarding for many as you can make a positive impact whilst earning a living. Persevering through the hard work that goes into fundraising is made easier knowing the positive results that you will achieve.
Now, onto the cons…
Of course, it’s not always easy being self-employed. Beyond having to sort out your own taxes, you won’t have the support of a wider team and the HR regulations that come with a full-time job. Here are a few difficulties you can expect to encounter when being self-employed.
1. It might be hard to maintaining a regular income
Securing clients can take time, especially when starting out. It may be months before a project ends and you receive the full payment. To avoid being in this dilemma, you should ensure you have your first contract (and a few potential clients) before you officially go freelance.
As a fundraiser you need to be able to adapt to this irregular workload, some months may be busier than others and this can create gaps in income. Budgeting can ease this inconsistency. Blowing your wages after a busy period could be detrimental if you soon experience a slow couple of months. Planning ahead is key.
2. You may have to work for free from time-to-time
A lot of work that goes into fundraising is the planning, networking and self-promotion that allows you to get your name out there and build a client base. This work will require a lot of unpaid time and effort. As many charities rely on volunteers for their fundraising, this could be a starting point to build up your reputation as a fundraiser and show your work ethic.
3. You’ll have to get used to being a team of one
Those who prefer working independently may not see this as a negative. However, as a self-employed fundraiser, you’ll be required to work alone without the regular interaction with colleagues.
You must be able to rely on yourself to come up with a range of ideas for different projects. Time management will help prevent you from being overwhelmed with handling a workload by yourself. Meeting possible clients in person rather than speaking over email can also prevent you from feeling isolated, especially if working from home.
4. It’s easier to procrastinate and get distracted
Working independently means there’s no one to look over your shoulder to keep an eye on your tasks. The element of networking and self-promotion that comes with freelancing also gives you more of an opportunity to become distracted from work (especially if it’s a slow season). Taking regular breaks from work can prevent this, giving your brain pause and taking a moment to relax away from your computer screen can make a world of difference.
5. It’s often harder to find a work/life balance
As your own boss, you’ll be completely responsible for balancing your work life and personal life. When the two clash you have no one to look to for a solution but yourself and must be able to prioritise when necessary. This won’t always be an easy task and takes some time to get used to.
More often than not, drawing a line between your personal and professional hours can be a huge help. You have to know that there’s a time that you can switch off and continue with life as normal. That way, you’ll have the head space to tackle anything that needs to be addressed in your personal life as well.
6. You’ll miss out on the company perks
When you’re self-employed, you don’t have the same benefits as an employee. Holiday time will go unpaid, you may lose money if you are unwell and unable to work and you will also be solely responsible for any losses. As your own boss, you’ll have to ensure you have freelancer insurance that protects you in these situations. It is important to shop around to find the insurance that suits you e.g. income protection insurance and critical illness cover.
Ultimately, it really just comes down to what works best with your lifestyle. If you’re constantly looking to explore new projects and challenges, freelancing might be right for you. But if you prefer stability and working set hours, then it may be more beneficial to work full-time for one organisation.
Hopefully this guide has helped you make an informed decision. It’s not an easy job whichever you choose, but it sure can be rewarding.
Do you have any experience as a freelance fundraiser? Share your thoughts and advice with us in the comments section below. And if you’re ready to start applying for freelance fundraising roles, take a look at the temporary fundraising jobs available today.
Bethany Pembrook is a Project Manager and freelance writer. She works closely with MSP Training giving talks about their Prince2 Training course in particular. She enjoys pushing people forward and encouraging them the take a hold of their careers and realise their potential.