How to Safely Transition From Corporate to Freelance Work
More and more people are transitioning to freelance work these days. It is so popular that as of 2019, about 57 million Americans have been known to freelance. There is something about working with your interest, maximizing your skills, and handling your own time that appeals to a lot of people. Not to mention, there seems to be a better compensation for freelancers compared to regular employees.
It is no wonder that many employees are looking to transition into freelance work. If you are one of those people, you should know that there are certain practices that allow you to safely do so without jeopardizing your finances or your future career prospects.
Prepare your exit funds.
Don’t go jumping out of your corporate job without enough in your bank account to survive for at least three months. You may or may not land a gig right away, but assuming that you do, don’t expect the payment process to be as smooth-sailing as when you were under the bureaucratic rule of office management. Those things have been planned, laid out, and churning since the company’s establishment. As a freelancer, think of yourself as a startup where income may not be as consistent as when you were employed. It would take some time before things pan out, and you see returns on your efforts marching in a predictive pace.
Plan and time when you aim to jump-ship
Don’t give in to the temptation of quitting on a whim. While it may seem like a romantic thing to do, it hardly is a practical move. As with business decisions, the move to break away from your corporate life should be deliberate and pre-conceived. It should be well thought out so that it suits your best interest.
Quitting in the last quarter of the year is not a good move. It strips off the additional earnings you could get from a year-end bonus. It might also not be a good time to quit right after you’ve received a bonus since that makes it clear that you were only holding out for the money. While there is no real problem with that, it will not sit well with your employer, and you run the risk of setting a bad record on your file, which might not look pretty to future employers or clients who might happen to see it. In this situation, the best course of action is to wait it out about a month after receiving any bonus before you call it quits. This lets things simmer down and gets the bonus out of the picture of your resignation story.
Another situation where you might want to hold it out is if you are in line for a promotion. If the promotion is immediate, wouldn’t you want that extra title on your resume when you begin your new freelancing life? It might make things a lot easier, and the jobs a lot more lucrative for you. Ask yourself, will this promotion create a positive impact on my future freelance work? Can I wait for at least another six months before I quit?
Develop or enhance your skills
If you’re thinking of freelancing, chances are you already have your roster of skills that you intend to sell. Copywriting, graphic design, video editing, translation, teaching, transcription, and programming are some of the most sought after skills in the freelancing world.
If you think you have what it takes to woo clients, take a step back, and think again. Some of the freelancers who have been doing their jobs may have more experience and more knowledge than you who just stepped out of the office for the first time in your life. The skills that you intend to offer must be really worth paying for. What sets you apart? Why would they choose you over someone else who has more of the know-how? Sure, your skills may be at par, but they know better the ins and outs of the freelancing world to successfully transact with clients.
Try it out by moonlighting.
If you don’t have enough money to get you through a rough freelancing start, or you just can’t afford to quit your job unless you already have a steady stream of income from the side, you don’t have to go big and resign. You can simply test the waters and dip a toe or two in the freelance work world. Cater to a side-client for a small project that you can manage to finish during your free time. If you want things to move along faster and are willing to sacrifice time and energy, go for a regular client and allot some extra working hours. You’ll technically be working two jobs, so be mindful of your stress levels and try to maintain a good balance between your freelance work efforts and your personal life.
Track your income
Freelancers don’t earn as consistently as employees. That is especially true for beginners. If you’re already freelancing on the side, try tracking your income from it. Try to develop early on the habit and skill of monitoring your income as a freelancer because you will need it to assess the practicality of your career later on. It will also be a good basis for choosing clients, pricing your service, and asking for raises.
Another reason for you to develop this skill is that you will be managing your finances later on. Income, expenses, and taxes used to be for the people in HR and finance in your old office, but as a freelancer, you will be your own bookkeeper and manager.
Don’t burn down old bridges.
Finally, just because you are moving on to new horizons, doesn’t mean you can completely forget about your past employment. While it might be tempting to chuck it all in your past and incinerate all memories of it, that might not be a wise thing to do. Many freelancers start out offering freelance work services to old employers. Remember that these people you are trying to break free from are the same people who might know your skills and abilities best. They are likely the ones who trust you enough to hire your independent services.
Be careful not to leave a nasty reputation behind as you resign. Work as well as you normally could even up until your last days with the company. Avoid demerits as much as you can, and try to leave people positive memories of you. Remember, the world is not too large that you won’t come across old workmates later on in your freelance career.