Work today isn’t defined by permanent employment, with an ID card, fixed workspace, health benefits and income security with regular paychecks. Work can be a number of things. It may be full-time, part-time, temporary work or freelance (self-employed) gigs.
What happens when circumstances point someone used to full-time work into freelancing? Is the switch super slick or utterly unnerving? It all depends on your readiness, or lack thereof.
It’s this uncertainty that threatens anyone who plans on transitioning to freelancing from a full-time job. When a worker goes freelance, there are far fewer limiting factors, whether in the scope of work or ability to earn and also how they spend their time. This freedom and self-reliance should prove highly attractive to anyone, even a full-time employee with a pension plan and job security, as long as they’re able to bring in enough income to sustain their lifestyle.
But what if they can’t?
This is a question that often can only be answered after the event, thus causing serious uncertainty and stress.
If you’re a designer, developer, writer or consultant, perhaps you’ve already handed your notice in and traipsed out to embark on your dream of becoming a freelancer. Chances are that you will not lack for work as employers are also willingly creating more remote opportunities than ever before.
Even so, you may want to consider including some of the following steps in this transition plan to help ensure your success and to make your journey smooth:
Nest egg: Save enough to manage your personal and family finances for essentials such as food, utility bills, rent, school fees and mortgage payments for six months to a year. If you can depend on a spouse or parents as you get established in your venture have that conversation before embarking on the freelance lifestyle, and set the expectations right at the outset. Focus on quickly securing enough work to keep you afloat without delay, and build it with a marketing plan. You can still freelance without savings or support if you have long-term clients before you quit.
Money saved is money earned: Set austerity measures in place to bring down your monthly expenses to the barest minimum possible. Consider each and every item such rent, car payment and lifestyle expenses on food, gifts and outings. You can build your business under far less stress by doing so and can enjoy the luxuries as your income increases as your staid desk job turns into a fading memory.
Even if you happen to have additional income in just one month (with no long-term assurance of its continuation) try to set some aside to tide you over for a lean month or so. Plow some of your income back into the business (such as for a second laptop or an office copy machine if it’s necessary to improve the customer experience of your clients). Maintain meticulous business income and expense accounts.
Go freelance on the side first: Before you quit, work at your proposed plan and acquire a few new skills as well as sign on one or two clients for whom you could do some work out of office hours.
Ready, set, go: Decide on where you plan to work. It could be from home, a library, a coffee shop or a shared workspace. Whatever it may be, see if the space allows you to work undistracted, be organized and work productively…or not! Decide your business plan and what services you’ll offer, then acquire all the tools you will need to help you in your set of tasks. Decide what businesses or people to approach as prospective clients and study their selection process to ensure you make the cut. Decide your marketing strategy, including the need to have a website or not and stipulate and set aside a budget for everything now. As you get clients, network with them, so they bring in word-of-mouth customers. Referrals are the best marketing you can have.
Don’t drop the ball: If you went freelance so you could focus on other commitments (such as another degree or caregiving duties) be prepared to face disturbances that throw your schedule awry. If this means you fail on your commitment to submit timely deliverables and get penalized as per contract terms – perish the thought – your business could fold before it gets off the ground. Resilience and refusal to be fazed by failure are must-haves for a freelancer along with the ability to deal with ambiguity, learn on the go and manage change.
Don’t close any doors: Assuming that you’re a skilled and valued employee (without which it would be hard for you to succeed as a freelancer) do let your employer know that you may come back if you don’t find freelancing all that it is hyped up to be and get their response to it. They may want you back…or they may not!
Research from the McKinsey Global Institute stated that in 2015, we potentially added 72 million new freelancers to the work group through online freelance platforms alone. We already find that what’s called a job today may not have qualified for the epithet, even in the recent past. But, remember, what the new world of work lacks in security, it more than compensates for with an exciting variety of jobs, that offer various work conditions and pay rates.
The cry is unanimous: The future lies in freelancing! Fortunes made by the likes of Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg were definitely not a result of their courting traditional employment opportunities. At the same time, every girl that lands in Hollywood doesn’t become the next Jennifer Lawrence!
Do you have experience in going freelance from a full-time work? Was it good, bad or ugly?
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