Freelance PHP Developers
One of the great things about taking on web development or PHP development as a career is that it is entirely possible to work for yourself, at home, and even in some respects in your spare time. This is because any kind of web development has very few geographical limitations as your work is done on, and for, the internet. While some clients will want you to come into the office to display your work or go to meetings, more and more companies are allowing freelance developers to work from home and telecommute to planning meetings.
There are a few things you need to take care of however before you start working as a freelance PHP developer. The first of which is registering yourself for self-employment tax and national insurance. Any self-employed person in the United Kingdom is responsible for paying their own taxes and national insurance contributions. You will also need to keep track of all business records and details of your income to allow you to fill in an annual self assessment tax return. You may also have to register for VAT.
The first step is to register with HM Revenue and Customs and inform them that you are self-employed. This can easily be done by visiting http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/working/intro/selfemployed.htm. Once you have done that, it is important to keep good track of your business expenditures and revenues so that you can accurately fill out your tax forms at the end of the year. There are multiple software packages available that will assist you in keeping track of these costs.
After you have registered with HM Revenue and Customs, you will receive a self assessment tax return to complete each year. As for national insurance contributions, you will most likely have to pay class 2 national insurance contributions, though if you make over a certain amount you may also be responsible for class 4 contributions. If your business revenue is over the VAT threshold, you will be required to register for VAT as well.
The most important records to keep track of are any invoices for your time spent performing your tasks as a PHP developer, receipts for any business expenses such as computer equipment or software, and your bank records. These records form the basis of the information you will need to file your self assessment taxes at the end of each year, and are the first things you're going to need to prepare that return.
Working for yourself as a freelance PHP developer can be incredibly rewarding, you set your own hours, decide what projects you wish to take on, and generally dictate the flow of the entire project. However these freedoms come with certain responsibilities that must be addressed. You will be solely responsible for locating new clients and projects to work on, and you will be responsible for keeping track of all business finances and taxes.
It is easy to fall into the trap of working significantly more than you are billing. Sometimes it just doesn't feel like you really did twenty hours of actual work, so you only bill for ten. This is an easy trap to fall into and must be avoided. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use time tracking software that keeps tabs on what windows you have open on your computer, and allows you to categorize your computer usage by project and task. This also comes in handy when billing clients as most clients will argue with you about the amount of time spent on each task, and being able to point to a time tracking sheet helps tremendously.
Another important thing to consider is whether or not to hire or retain the services of an accountant. While freelance PHP development is a fairly straightforward tax situation, it is not hard to end up in a situation where your taxes are beyond your ability to understand or handle. While it can be expensive to hire an accountant, it is important to keep in mind that a mistake on your tax forms could haunt you for years, and end up costing more in the long run. Should your revenue ever exceed the VAT threshold you may want to seriously consider hiring an accountant.
Overall, working as a freelance PHP developer can be enjoyable, rewarding, and challenging. Thankfully there are excellent resources available from HM Revenue and Customs to get you started on your road to total financial independence.
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