From Employee to Freelancer

Perhaps the handwriting is on the wall?  Is your intuition talking to you?  Anyway,  rumor has it that a few jobs will be eliminated and you suspect that your head may eventually be on the chopping block.  In addition to sprucing up your resume and LinkedIn page,  you wonder if perhaps you might go out on your own?  If you must face insecurity,  why not have it on your own terms?  You may be right.  Millions of Americans have done exactly that,  including your humble diarist.

If you’re still collecting a check consider yourself fortunate,  as tense as things may be at the office.  Having a job gives you two enormous luxuries: time and money.  I was not so lucky.  I tried for many months to get a job after losing my long-held corporate gig.  I knew nothing about how to Freelance,  although I had long harbored the desire to strike out on my own.  Unfortunately,  I had to learn the hard way.  It was an expensive lesson that continues to reverberate.  On the other hand,  I am in business and somehow manage to support myself.

Self-employment is difficult in any economy.  It’s necessary to work hard and work smart,  plus be resourceful,  resilient and rather lucky.  I know a few people who are making good money,  but I’ve read that a 30%  decrease in income is typical.  Freelancers must campaign and compete for assignments and there will be gaps. 

Clients are known to pay when they feel like it and collecting in 15 – 30 days is not always possible.  Furthermore,  there are many expenses that we must shoulder:  professional training seminars,  technology and office supplies,  retirement plan,  health insurance,  life insurance  (yes, we do need it,  even if unmarried and childless).  On top of that,  we have no paid sick days,  vacation time or holidays.

But if you’re trying to explore all income generating options because unemployment checks do not last forever and you wonder if your next employer might be you,  here are a few Freelancer start-up guidelines for you to follow:

Expand your network

It’s almost impossible to secure work assignments when you’re not well-known to potential clients and there are few who can give testimonials that will vouch for your expertise.  Growing your network is the most important step you can take in preparing to become a Freelance consultant.  Ideally,  you will consult in a field and specialty where you have deep expertise and credibility. 

Immediately begin to cultivate and solidify client relationships with those who can green-light projects you would want.  Identify professional associations that cater to consultants in your industry and also seminars that clients attend and get on mailing lists,  so you’ll know where to network.  Read industry blogs and other publications,  so you will be up-to-date with important issues.

Check your credentials

Be sure that whatever competencies and qualifications,  degrees,  certificates,  licenses and/or  insurance necessary to do business are in hand.  Whatever you don’t have and can get on your employer’s dime,  take steps to do so ASAP.   Otherwise,  consider professional development expenses as a 2012 tax write-off.  If nothing else,  the improved credentials might help you get your next job if you decide to hold off going out on your own.

More next week,

Kim

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