We are clearly moving towards a more freelance-friendly working world, one driven by a growing sense of entrepreneurialism among workers and employers’ desires for a more flexible workforce. Some studies suggest that freelancers could make up around 40 percent of the work-force in just six years.
For now, we are in a transition period, moving from the traditional fixed workforce to a freelance/flexible workforce. Many workers are starting to jump on the freelance bandwagon.
If moving into the freelance world is the next exciting step of your career, there are eight things you should do before quitting your day job to freelance full-time:
1. See if There Is an Option to Change From a Full-Time Employee to a Part-Time One
This will let you reap the benefits of continued job and financial security with your employer while you kickstart your freelance career. Interestingly, research published in the Academy of Management Journal found that entrepreneurs who hold on to their day jobs while starting their ventures (termed “hybrid entrepreneurship”) cut their risk of failure by a third. Apparently, both Steve Wozniack and Henry Ford founded their companies while working at their previous day jobs.
2. Try to Turn Your Existing Colleagues Into Clients
Be nice to everyone and put aside any petty issues or disputes you may have with staff. Chances are that some of these staff members — e.g., your manager, other managers, colleagues, etc. — could indeed be your future clients or referrers. Network with them and make friends.
Be open as you can with your manager about your ambition; ask if you would be able to continue with some aspects of your job in a freelance capacity. Do the same with other trusted managers in the business. Done well, you can walk out of the business with a signed freelance-working agreement in hand. Many employers will be open to such an arrangement, as it offers a way for them to retain use of your services after you leave.
3. Test the Water
You should always research the demand for your particular freelance services, but you can never really know the market until you try to find work. Join the major freelance marketplaces and do a little moonlighting, if that’s practical. Understand your cost of sales in terms of time and effort. For example: how many jobs can you find advertised that pay a suitable rate? How many proposals do you have to put forward to win a job at a profitable rate?
This information should help you estimate with some accuracy how much work you will be able to generate in one quarter, allowing you to decide if freelancing is a practical career choice.
4. Research the Market
This is crucial. We live in a VUCA – that is, volatile, complex, uncertain, and ambiguous — world. While you are shielded from much of this uncertainty as an employee, you’ll be exposed to the full force of the VUCA world as a freelancer. This is as much an opportunity as a problem: being a freelancer means you can more quickly exploit new market opportunities than larger, less agile organizations can.
Research the market carefully and look for any sharp rises in demand for services. Focus your freelance career in these areas for greatest impact. If you make a poor decision and hamper yourself by moving into a declining market, things could get quite sticky very quickly.
If you found this article useful, please check out part two!