4 FAQs for Freelancers

4 FAQs for Freelancers

Understand your rights as a freelancer

By Carl Stanford

As a freelancer, how long can I work for a company before they’re forced to employ me under tax laws?

A company can’t be forced to employ you just because you’ve worked for them for a certain amount of time. Neither tax laws nor employment laws compel them to do so.

However, they may be legally required to treat you as an employee and grant you employee benefits under certain conditions. If you have worked for a company for consistent hours each week over several months, if they won’t allow you to send another person in your place, or if they don’t permit you to take on or prioritize work from other clients, these could all be indications that they should treat you as an employee and not a freelancer.

You should seek legal advice if you wish to pursue such a claim.

How do I make sure I get paid for a job that’s already been completed?

Before beginning any job, make sure your agreement with the client is clear about payment deadlines, and check any clauses about the client’s right to withhold payment. After the job is complete - or after each milestone - check that the client has received your invoice and that it contains accurate instructions on how and when to pay.

Generally, the client’s failure to pay can constitute a breach of contract and you could take them to court. However, if possible you should first try to find out why the client is withholding payment, as they may be dissatisfied with the work or believe the job’s not been fully completed. There could also be genuine delay at their end. For the sake of maintaining your relationship with your client, go through this process first before sending emails threatening legal action.

Can I work as a freelancer if I signed a non-compete agreement?

Non-compete agreements are designed to protect your employer, which can make life difficult for you if you leave. If, when you move on to a new project, you’re still within the time-frame specified in the non-compete agreement, you’ll have to be careful about the type of freelance work you accept. It all depends on what restrictions you have agreed to. These could include geographical, industry sector, topic, and time-span.

Each agreement is different, and it’s best to get your contract checked over by an employment lawyer, rather than risk being dragged to court. Hopefully, an agreement shouldn't hamper your ability to work for new clients - as long as you're careful and you read the agreement thoroughly before signing.

Do I need an occupational licence to work from home?

No. Generally speaking, you don’t need any kind of licence to work from home.

If you alter the character of your home in order to convert all or part of it to business use, you may need to apply for planning permission. However, this won’t be required if you’re just using one room as a home office.

Certain business activities require specific licenses wherever they’re carried out, including: public entertainment, alcohol sales, food businesses, animal businesses, scrap metal dealing, gambling, tattoo parlours and adult entertainment.

Again, an ordinary home office used for freelance, consultancy or similar work would not require any kind of occupational licence.