Into the unknown (or is it?)…
After a career to date where I have always been a permanent employee, I’ve been presented with an opportunity to go freelancing. Why leave the stability of a permanent job? – my rationale, what is permanent these days? Since the financial crisis of 2007-2008 the dynamics of the employment market have shifted; it’s still the progressive growth of the the gig economy and a multi-generational workforce that no longer finds satisfaction (or a work-life balance) in the standard 9-5 job.
The Gig Economy
Definitions of freelancers range from ‘mercenaries’ to ‘riders of the gig economy’; to those actually working as a freelancer or in the gig economy there is a clear distinction between the two. A recent study by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) created a working definition in consultation with the Institute for Employment Studies;
“The gig economy involves the exchange of labour for money between individuals or companies via digital platforms that actively facilitate matching between providers and customers, on a short-term and payment by task basis.”
And don’t be fooled folks, regardless of the polarising press attention relating to flag bearers such as Uber and Deliveroo, the gig economy is thriving. In the UK, press reports state that there were over 5 million people working in the gig economy, and that number is growing.
Whilst the definition of a freelancer can be articulated as a self-employed person offering services, usually to businesses and often to multiple clients at a time. The type of work freelancers do varies, however, it can include marketing, social media marketing, copywriting, and publicity, writing, such as articles and blog posts, technological support, such as web programming and design and creative works such as graphic design.
Back to the question of why would you make the change from permanent employment to freelancing, I think many will be surprised to learn there are a number of very good reasons and these include;
- Set-up is quick and easy: Establishing your own Limited Company in the UK is a pretty straight forward process and you can often have the company name registered within 24-hours on the Companies House website.
- Stability through diversity: By growing and expanding a diversified portfolio of clients and companies you are engaged by, this becomes more secure than one employer as you are beholding to the changes by that one employer.
- Tools to deliver: If you’ve been working in your chosen profession or have been training to start in it, chances are you already have the tools to delver for your clients. Whether this be software (i.e. access to social media or online software tools/packages) and the tech kit (i.e. laptops, smartphone, digital equipment), you invariably have everything you need to start.
- In demand: While the marketplace of freelancers is competitive, the need for quality, reliable freelancers is growing. Many businesses don’t have employees and instead have a team of freelancers.
- Work-life balance: Because clients typically focus on your outcomes and deliverables, there is less emphasis on ‘when’ you do the work as long as you hit the deadline. For this reason, whether you’re a ‘morning person’, or you prefer to work late into the night or on the weekends, you can structure your schedule to meet the target date/deadline; this can allow more flexibility for those ‘life’ activities that might only be available at 10.00am on a Tuesday morning or start at 3.30pm on a Thursday afternoon.
- Choose the clients you want to partner with: While in the beginning you may take any client that will hire you, as you grow and your reputation affords you the opportunity to partner with people, clients and companies that really interest you and share your purpose driven goals, your portfolio becomes full of great people and interesting project work. Additionally, you can choose not to take on difficult clients and even fire them!
- Deliver your way: While you need to deliver what the client asks, how the work is done is up to you. As you have been engaged by a client, they clear have the confidence in your ability to deliver what they need.
- Learning new skills: Working in one company, you become reliant on the training on offer by the business; as a freelancer, new skills and being able to utilise new software / tools is essential to the development of your service offering. Investing in your skills is valuable and not a ‘tick box’ exercise.
And the why not…
Of course, there are always acknowledged challenges and potential downsides to freelancing and these can include, taking time to build a portfolio of clients willing to pay for your services and this can lead to inconsistent periods of being in work. Additionally, the economics of simply earning the right and reputation to charge what you think you’re worth compared to the market may take time, alongside managing multiple clients and delivering consistently. However, if you are pragmatic and balanced in your approach, you should be able to mitigate against these potential pitfalls through active networking, doing what you say you will do, ensuring high levels of quality in your work and delivering on time.
My personal motivations combine all of the aforementioned positives with an acknowledgment that the negatives may impact me at certain points through this journey. I’m confident the former reasons will sustain me through the latter challenges…I’m ready to jump!
Thanks to RR and CG for the opportunity!