You’re not alone. Since 2008 the freelance workforce has grown by 43%. In 2016, according to IPSE, they contributed a whopping £119 billion and freelancers are predicted to fuel the post-Brexit economy. The role of the freelancer isn’t going anywhere. So what’s stopping you from taking the plunge?
The answer is almost certainly fear.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of the unpredictability. Fear of failure.
As any freelancer will tell you, we have all felt and faced these fears when starting out. I know I did. I feared the uncertainty, but after a second redundancy from a full-time job I realised that was uncertainty is everywhere. So I went for it and endured for 25 years – culminating with the Freelancer of the Year award.
It’s a trade off which many don’t want to make; the security for uncertainty. But think about it: what security do you really have, working for an employer? You can work your guts out for someone else and still be out on your ear and job-searching. The difference is, as a freelancer, your CV is almost certainly up to date, your contacts book is full and you’re totally up to speed on the job market. Oh, and nobody can fire you.
So, if freelancing is an itch that needs scratching, don’t let your fears stop you; don’t fester in a job that just doesn’t work for you – life really is too short. I’m here to help you have a word with your doubts and fears and to promise you that with the right mindset and a game plan an amazing career awaits.
The joy of flex
Flexibility and freedom seem to be the main driver for freelancers. You work on your own terms. You want to take time off? You can. (Yes there’s no holiday pay but freelancers generally budget pretty carefully and earn a better day rate, which means if you plan you can cover your time off.) Don’t like the work or the culture at a particular company? Don’t go back – just move right along to the next gig.
Once I was in a ‘rolling’ contract, about to be renewed. But being faced with the prospect of working for another month with an atrocious bully, saying “thanks but no thanks”, was not only a great feeling, but a great move. As a freelancer, you don’t have to put up with shit, but you might if you don’t have the confidence to know your worth.
Spice it up
Another benefit of freelancing, and one which isn’t really talked about, is the amazing ‘sideways moves’ you can make. You know those moments in the annual appraisal where you’re asked where you see yourself in a year’s time? Well, you could be at the same desk, or maybe at a different desk in the same office – or you could be somewhere else and doing something else entirely. Something you really love and you don’t even know it yet.
I’ve had a varied career, one that was very unlikely to happen without the decision to go freelance. I’ve been on a journey that started out in print production, and went via publishing, marketing, product design and advertising. I started hands-on in print, and then digital, became a project manager and management consultant. My curiosity and love of learning new things trumped the the comfort zone and kept me moving into new areas.
So, what do you need to make the leap?
You need a strong enough reason to motivate you out of the comfort zone of employment.
For me, I wanted challenge and variety in order to grow. Boredom and stagnation actually frightened me. My first week in my first full time job, the thought of working there day in, day out for years on end depressed me so much, it gave me a really strong drive to be independent and go freelance.
Think about what it’s costing you to continue in permanent employment… stagnation, lack of opportunity or challenge, less money, less freedom to move around. You will know what pushes your buttons.
A growth mindset
A growth mindset is critical to your freelancing success. You can feel pissed off about every bump in the road, and keep doing things in the same old way, or you can be willing to learn from each challenge you face and use it to develop yourself. As a freelancer, you can get ‘lumbered’ with the less-glamorous projects that are sniffed at and nudged aside by employees. But these are opportunities to grow muscles and prove to clients that you can get on with the job without a fuss.
A willingness to invest in yourself
You will be totally responsible for your career (no moaning about the boss not recognising your worth for a pay rise). This means keeping your skills updated and spending some time and money doing so. Take yourself as a business seriously.
A ‘stop’ button
There is reverse psychology at play around the fear of not finding enough work, and that is the temptation to say yes to everything.
The reality is, freelancers can end up taking any contract that comes their way and work non-stop for months and sometimes years without breaks, as they fear where the next contract is coming from.
The ‘feast and famine’ of freelancing can cause a lot of anxiety. For example, one person I coached would not spend any money in-between contracts, which meant she wouldn’t go out, not even to meet friends for a coffee.
This is meant to be about work that works for you. And that means building up healthy barriers around when you work, and when you don’t. Otherwise, what’s it all for?
Also, it shows clients that you value yourself when you say no from time to time. And it shows that you’re in demand, which only makes you more of a catch for the next job. Reverse psychology once again…
So build in down time and stick to it. Get a cashflow forecast going, or use a bookkeeping tool like Freeagent.com to gain more insights into your finances and plan for the future. Be a great boss to yourself, plan for breaks, allow yourself time for coffee with friends. Don’t lose sight of why you wanted to go freelance in the first place.
To avoid ‘knee jerk’ job applications in between contracts, you need confidence in yourself and what you have to offer. A firm belief in yourself is necessary because you need to be comfortable with self-promotion. Coaching or mentoring can help you see your true worth and provide the foundation you need to go out into the world of freelancing and have a fantastic career.
My own freelance career got better and better. I know what a great move this can be. Now I’m ready to help you on your path to freelance success, so if you’re craving your freedom and you’re ready to take the plunge, I’ll help support you all the way.
No excuses – grab fear by the throat and get in touch with me today.