In My Opinion: Colin Kelly: The freelancer’s guide to London

SO, you’ve got some work in London? Nice one. But before you go charging down and get all dazzled by the bright lights and celebrities – take a moment to think about the impact this might have on your business.

The fact is, London costs money. A lot of money. It sucks you in in with all sorts of promises and opportunities, eats your bank balance, then spits you out.

You need to be prepared and this is where your terms and conditions with clients are important and where you need to be super-organised as a small business.

It’s well worth opening business accounts with travel and accommodation providers. When you find one you like, be loyal and you might enjoy some additional perks, like bigger rooms and better seats. Most importantly, try and ensure you’re on 30 day payments terms and get your invoices in to your clients as quick as you can. The aim here is to ensure your travel expenses are paid back to you by your client BEFORE you’ve had to pay out. That makes a huge difference to your cashflow.

If you’re in London regularly, and for more than a couple of days at a time, consider applying for a London Visitor Oyster card. You can’t get these in London, you need to send away for one in advance. But having one means your London Underground journeys will be much cheaper – sometimes as much as half price compared to the standard rate. The balance on your Oyster card never expires and you can even transfer them to friends and family.

On the subject of the underground, the mobile app ‘London’ was a serious help on my first few trips. Give it a start and end point and it’ll tell you precisely which trains and lines will get you there. It even provides options if you want to avoid busy stations at peak times. In my experience, the evening rush hour is much worse than the morning one and I had a particularly bad experience at Tottenham Court Road just after 5pm one night when I wandered around trying to find the Northern Line while getting shoved in all directions by dozens of fairly aggressive commuters. When you’re working out travel times across London, bear in mind that some stations involve having to queue for lifts – this can add as much as 15 minutes to journey times.

If your work is in Central London then you might be best avoiding all the airports and getting the train. Glasgow – Euston can be done in 4 hours 30 minutes, whereas a flight to Heathrow leaves you about an hour from Leicester Square. Add in all the security checks at the airport and the opportunity to do work on a train and you can see why I opt for the train.

Personally, I love London; there’s no doubt it constantly beats with opportunity. Think big and see what you can drum up while you’re down there. Think not just about the work you’re there to do, but check in with some old friends and contacts, set up after work drinks, meetings, lunches, knock a few doors and tell them you’re in town. You never know what might come of it.

Anyone who lives and loves the media and popular culture will find London captivating. I’ve put together my own little ‘media tour’ which includes the former Smash Hits magazine offices on Carnaby Street, the Virgin Radio (now Bauer Radio HQ) in Soho’s Golden Square, the TV-AM Studios (now MTV Europe) on Hawley Crescent in Camden and Noel Gallagher’s old house, ‘Supernova Heights’, in Steeles Road, Belsize Park.

The nearby Sir Richard Steele pub and The George at the top of Haverstock Hill are well worth a stop if you’re looking for good food and drink in a lively atmosphere.

Hop on the underground for South Kensington and check out the Ferrari and Lamborghini showrooms on Brompton Road.

Nothing focusses the mind on making your business a success than staring at supercars for a few minutes (oh, and Kylie’s old house in Drayton Gardens is just round the corner).

Colin Kelly is a broadcaster and journalist in Glasgow. Find him online at or @colinkelly on Twitter.