According to the Freelancers Union, 54 million Americans, 35 % of the workforce, engaged in Freelance work in 2016. Of that number
- 45% were Freelancers who consider themselves self-employed
- 27% were moonlighters, doing Freelance projects in addition to their primary employment
- 18% were considered “diversified” workers, who cobbled together three or more revenue-raising activities to support themselves
Businesses large and small continue to eliminate full-time employment and push Americans into learning how to support ourselves independently. Some workers have an entrepreneurial mindset and an independent spirit and would strike out on their own regardless. Maybe that describes you? Whatever the circumstances, the time may be right for you to plan to work for yourself. Here are some signifiers:
You are confident You’ve honed a set of skills over the years that you are certain others will pay you to provide. You have access to potential clients who are familiar with your work and you are fairly certain that you can build an organization that will yield an income that will allow you to pay your bills and maybe even exceed your current salary.
You have a very good professional network and colleagues who will make referrals for you (and you will be able to make referrals in return). You believe in yourself and your abilities and you are not afraid to go it alone.
You are self-motivated You want to be independently employed. You are a self-disciplined leader who is comfortable working alone or in a team. You are accustomed to deadlines and you enjoy the challenge of meeting or exceeding client expectations.
You cannot get a better job The new economy has been unkind to so many. Middle-class jobs have been disappearing since the late 1980s as a result of computer technology, globalization, the off-shoring of labor and most of all, unprecedented corporate greed that has driven down wages, restricted merit raises for the vast majority and made billionaires of the 1%.
Age, race and gender discrimination are real and well-documented. The pervasive use of “search committees” that control the hiring of even administrative assistants, whose members apparently aim to hire minimally competent functionaries who are incapable of out-shining the committee members, effectively block the employment of many talented workers.
Regardless of your skill set and experience, work ethic and track record of producing results, you may be unable to obtain either a promotion or a new job anywhere. Breaking into a new field with “transferable” skills is usually limited to either the enormously well-connected or the very fortunate.
You’re a good salesperson Freelancers and business owners are salespeople, first and foremost. Creating and implementing a marketing plan requires that you promote your venture in ways that will put you on the radar screens of potential clients and referral sources. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you must effectively talk up your business, in particular to those with money and motive to do business with you.
You have money saved You’ve been able to save the equivalent of 6 months or more in wages, that will float you during the business ramp-up. To further cushion your Freelance experience, you would be wise to identify and pursue other revenue streams, better known as flexible part-time employment. Teaching is a popular sideline for consultants, but do not be embarrassed to take a low-level job that does not bring you into contact with potential clients. You just want to discreetly make money as you build your enterprise.
Flexibility matters You may have aging parents who need your help; you might be the parent of young children; or you could prefer to work intermittently (or all three). Being saddled with the ongoing responsibilities of a full-time job may not blend well with your personal obligations.
If you think that you have a marketable skill, arrange to let potential customers know and try to get hired for a few projects while you still have traditional employment. Join the 27% of Freelancers who moonlight and beta-test your business concept. You could be pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoy running your own venture!
Thanks for reading,