The number of freelance professionals working successfully from home is on the increase. This is because freelancing gives them the freedom to build up their own client base and work the hours which suits them. There are some professions which work well on a freelance basis such as web design, writing, consultancy and administration. However, competition can be rife and in many cases, freelancers will find themselves being undercut by individuals in less affluent countries who will agree to do the work for far less than a UK citizen could possibly compete with.

Having said that, work is out there for those who are determined enough and many see a freelance role as the ideal way to balance a work/home life. The internet has paved the way for professionals to offer their skills to the world but do the benefits of working from home make going to the office seem like an outdated way of earning a living?

Freedom is the key reason why many professionals are attracted to a freelance career. No more having to explain yourself, no more rigid routines and no more Monday morning blues knowing that you will have to paint on a smile for those colleagues who love you as much as you love them! Working from home certainly does free you from those binds and constraints.

You can also pick and choose the work which you find most enjoyable to complete and disregard those projects which seem like a chore. No more having to please just one boss as working for yourself gives you the flexibility to work with a variety of companies. Never has there been a better time to work as a freelancer than now.

With the recent credit crunch, employers are having to dish out redundancies as though they were sweets. This means that work is outsourced for people who can deliver at short notice or at a competitive price. Alternatively, companies who urgently need work completed are often prepared to pay much more simply to have a good job delivered at short notice, so you can expect to earn subsequently more per hour than your employed pals! The only good thing to come out of the present economic climate is the fact that you benefit from these cutbacks and are not living on your nerves, unlike some of your pals who go to the office every day waiting for the axe to fall.

The advantage of working from home also means that you can take on a wide range of projects to broaden your existing skill set. An example can be found in the field of journalism or writing where research can easily be collated together in a range of subjects rather than just working in an office which only offers writing assignments for cars.

Tax advantages are also a favourable reason why many choose to become freelance. Because you are solely responsible for your own tax, a company is usually able to pay you more per hour.

Starting to sound good? Well, yes working for yourself can certainly give you the freedom to create the independence, enjoyment and life that you want, but what about the down side of being your own boss.

Although escaping from your colleagues may seem like a good enough reason in itself to make you want to become captain of your own ship, are you really a social being who enjoys their banter? Are you self-motivated enough to be able to set the alarm for 8.30am when you have no-one to reprimand you if you sleep in until one? This means that work could pile up, deadlines fall behind and motivation will nose dive. This is bad news for any chance of repetitive work and you may find yourself struggling financially to stay afloat.

Being your own boss takes a lot of self-discipline and commitment. You need to be able to reap the benefits of good contracts when they arrive and ensure that you balance your accounts so as to be able to weather any quiet periods. Writers or web developers will find themselves chained to the computer for hours on end with no-one to talk to but themselves, can you hack the solitude?

You are solely responsible for the make or break of your freelance profession. Going it alone means that there is no safety net or additional perks to fall back on such as healthcare, a pension scheme or any chance of promotion.

If you have weighed up all of these options and the advantages outweigh the risks, the first thing you need to do is ensure that you have some savings to keep you afloat whilst you become established. Never miss an opportunity, print up some business cards and distribute them like confetti. The world and his wife needs to know that you are trading, so give them out to former colleagues, friends or just visit some offices and ask if you can leave them your contact details.

When companies or individuals do contact you, ensure that you have a professionally printed portfolio outlining your work experience, references and any samples of your past work. These are the people who are likely to recommend you to others so present yourself as professionally as possible. Also take advantage of social networking and attend any exhibitions or trade fairs purely for the opportunity to make yourself known.

Finally and most importantly, register yourself as self-employed with the Inland Revenue. Failure to do this could result in a fine and even prosecution.

Now, if you are working from home you need to be able to separate yourself from the rest of the house. Find a room where you can have some peace and quiet and make the family aware of your working hours so as you are not disturbed during these times. It might also be a good idea to keep as close as possible to an employed set up by taking out your own pension scheme and insurance policy. This is your salvation in case you are ever unable to work. Finally, remember that you are responsible for your own National Insurance Contributions so start as you mean to go on and sort out all of your finances before you dive in.

Once you have crossed all of he T's and dotted all of the I's, you can give yourself a well deserved pat on the back and look forward to a potentially positive career as a professional freelancer. With the internet, the world really is your oyster, so start looking for those pearls of opportunity and watch your business life develop at a natural pace with you in the driving seat. There can be nothing more rewarding than watching your skills and talents bring you the financial rewards that you so rightly deserve.