The Pros and Cons of Being a Self-Employed Fundraiser
Fundraising is a career that can be professionally and personally appealing. It allows people to work with charities that they are passionate about, giving them a sense of fulfilment. The flexibility that comes with self-employment is also attractive to many people. However, before embarking on a career in self-employed fundraising it is essential to know both the positive and negative aspects of the role.
The pros of being a self-employed fundraiser
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 will need to set clear goals of what it is you want to do as well as what you CAN do for your clients. Offering too much is just as detrimental as being too niche. You also have to calculate the value of the work you are 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.
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 are also not bound to your home or one space, you may choose to work in public coffee shops 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 such as a coffee shop means no expenses can be claimed back – even your morning coffee and croissant!
Choose 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 is not always necessary to only work with charities you are extremely passionate about or relate to. You may find you work well with a charity you have never heard of or taken an interest in. Working with a wide range rather than a few select favourite will help develop your fundraising skills and enable you to adapt to different contracts.
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.
Meet new people
As a fundraiser, you will 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.
You have the opportunity to work with charities that support all kinds of causes, giving you an opportunity 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.
The cons of being a self-employed fundraiser
Maintaining a regular income
Securing clients can take time, especially when starting out. It may be months before the 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.
Working for free
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. Many charities require on volunteers for their fundraising, this could be a starting point to build up your reputation as a fundraiser and show your work ethic.
Being a team of one
Those who prefer working independently may not see this as a negative. However, as a self-employed fundraiser, you will 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.
Where are the perks?
As a self-employed fundraiser, you will not 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 will 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.
Procrastinating and distractions
Working independently means there is 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 a break and taking a moment to relax away from your computer screen can make the world of difference.
Finding a work/life balance
As your own boss, you will 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.
As you can see, there a definitely pluses and minuses to both freelancing and working for a set charity as a fundraiser. 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!
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.