Is Freelance the New Corporate?

(As featured on Monster.ca)

Welcome to the freelance era. It’s a time when career-driven men and women are deciding to leave the corporate world, to take matters into their own hands and become their own bosses.

A conversation I recently had with an American-based headhunter /recruiter confirmed this trend: she told me that in the past 10 years of headhunting, this is the year where she’s seen the biggest increase in companies hiring contract workers to do the job.

So Why the Sudden Surge of Freelancers?

A 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review focused on this phenomenon, in an article called “The Rise of the New Contract Worker.”

It explains that while one reason is the difficulty in finding full-time employment, more and more people are willingly choosing this lifestyle. Even leaving stable and secure jobs to pursue it.

One of the biggest draws might be right there in the word “freelance.” Free to manage your own time, be your own boss and be in control of your schedule.

Work-life balance is definitely a major objective in taking the freelance route.

Freelancers Are Taking Over

The people taking the freelance world by storm boast a well-honed skillset. They would rather choose their projects according to their interests and expertise. They are strategic, they are experienced and they are driven. They are everything from HR managers and accountants, to creatives like graphic designers, PR and social media specialists, to copywriters and bloggers/influencers/brand ambassadors.

And with more people saying “peace out” to their corporate jobs and becoming entrepreneurs, the tech and work landscape have become better suited to fit this need.

Today’s freelancers are very well set up for success thanks to new businesses and technologies that make it easier for contract workers to stay organized and thrive.

They include:

Co-Working Spaces: Communal office spaces are popping up in urban cities, eliminating the loneliness and isolation that might come from working as a freelancer. These spaces provide an alternative to working at a café all day, and offer freelance workers an assigned desk or cubicle. They also provide IT support, conference rooms, and an actual address and place to meet with clients (making freelancers seem more legit). Another added bonus: the other freelancers in the shared workspace provide a great sounding board for creative brainstorming sessions and can even become potential clients.

Breather: If you don’t need an actual permanent workspace, the Breather app allows you to book a meeting room in your city. These designated rooms in urban cities are set up for meetings, presentations, or even to serve as a spot to pause and take a “breather.”

Easy and free accounting platforms: No need to be intimidated by the thought of hiring an accountant or worrying that your invoices won’t be trackable. There’s a wide range of free online accounting tools & apps, with clear dashboard functionality to create and track invoices.

Millennials Are Setting the Example

The thrill of the unknown seems to be appealing for many today, especially millennials and “yuccies” (a subset of millennials who have been dubbed “yuccies” a.k.a. “young urban creatives”). Millennials love to be in control. They embrace change and are more likely to be risk takers, movers and shakers, as opposed to staying in the same company for years. The notion of being with the same company, hoping to retire and get the proverbial “gold watch” is becoming an archaic concept.

Millennials have witnessed first-hand what the corporate life has done to their parents and they’re not interested or impressed by people claiming to be “workaholics,” clocking more than 50 hours of work per week and dealing with a staggering inbox of emails.

They are more impressed by young entrepreneurs who are launching companies and start-ups, and have the freedom to travel and work from anywhere.

But How is it Perceived?

In an era where women are encouraged to “Lean In,” is leaving the corporate world in favour of work-life balance a form of “Leaning Out” and doing the opposite?

Is being entrepreneurial and having an independent spirit a form of “taking a step back”? This would be a sad perception!

For many of us, careers make up a strong part of our identity. But when considering the freelance life, part of this decision-making process is to let go of the expectations you set for yourself and look for happiness, balance and personal fulfillment instead.

So how about we flip this notion on its head, and position success as being your own boss, managing your own schedule, taking on new risks, and loving what you do.

Are You Ready to do It?

Freelancing is not for everyone. So before taking that step take in consideration the following tips:

Do some soul-searching: Take a step back to think about what drives you. You might have always thought you wanted to climb the corporate ladder and land that corner office, but now that goal or objective no longer seems appealing.

List the pros and cons: Assess whether you have enough contracts lined up or enough of a safety net to go a few months without steady income.

Recognize the financial instability: It needs to be said that some months will be harder than others. Ask yourself whether you can handle this.

Why do you want to leave your job? Are you tired of your current job, your boss or the corporate world at a broader scale?

Are you driven by the unknown? Remember that the entrepreneurial life can be scary and intimidating (it can also be awesome and exhilarating). Recognize the amount of work you might have to put in to build a sustainable network of contacts, as it can take years of hustling before you reach the “5-year hump” of success.

Do you have a backup plan? If going the freelance route doesn’t work in the end, do you have the skillset and experience to easily find another corporate job?

So You’re Ready to Take the Leap. Now What?

To be 100% safe and cautious, ease into the freelance route.

Consider taking on as many freelance contracts as you can while staying at your regular 9 to 5. You will eventually reach a fork in the road where your part-time / independent endeavor will take up too much of your time, making it impossible to juggle both your full-time job and your side gig. It might all become more than you can chew.

If you do still like your job, is there the opportunity of a flexible work schedule? Can you speak to your manager and tell him/her that you really love your job and the company you work for, but would simply like to manage your own time and schedule, and want to work freelance. You never know: they might become your biggest client!

And if you take the freelancer route, remember these important tips:

  • Ignore the haters. There will always be people who try to spread their negativity. Do not get discouraged!
  • Trust your gut. It will lead the way.
  • Believe in yourself. Have the confidence to make your own decision and feel good about it.

Whatever you choose, remember to list the benefits and risks, and come up with a proper plan. Always keep a door open with your employer. You might end up loving what you do and having the flexibility to manage your own time. Sounds like a win-win!

Resources:

The Rise of the New Contract Worker – Harvard Business Review

4 Reasons Millennials Are Telling Bosses Where to Stick Their Jobs – Inc.com

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Why Are Millennials Leaving Your Company?

(As featured on Monster.ca)

A mass exodus is occurring right before our eyes: millennials are fleeing the building. They are leaving their cushy corporate jobs in favour of launching their own start-ups or going the freelancer route. Don’t call them self-entitled job hoppers though – they’re simply looking for new experiences, fulfillment and personal growth.

To be transparent, lately my daily online reading further drives this point home: a barrage of articles have started filling my feed, with titles like “How to Be Happy at Work,” “How to Start Your Own Business” and “How to Ensure You’re Finding Your Purpose.”

It seems that instead of articles on how to get ahead, articles about becoming your own boss are going viral. Which begs the question: Are Google searches for “how to land the corner office” being replaced by “how to work in your own home office”?

Are millennials tired of the regular corporate life? And what can you do to ensure your company is appealing to this thriving sector of the workforce – and retaining top talent?

How to Keep Them

1.- Why Do They Want to Leave: The 9 to 5 office structure stifles them

Solution: Allow (and encourage) flexible hours

One of the top disadvantages often listed about working in a corporate environment is the inflexibility.

Some companies are stuck in an era where physical “face time” is appreciated – and even recognized. But with today’s technologies, employees can be even more productive when working from home, even if it means a couple of days per week. I’ve heard many people complain about how long their daily commute is, to the point where this actually becomes an employee’s most stressful part of their day. If they work from home, they might even be able to log on by 7:30 / 8am, rather than rolling in at 9:30am.

Meetings and communication are no longer challenging, thanks to efficient online messaging tools like Slack, and Google Hangouts and Skype (or even simple  “dial-in” numbers).

Companies like Flexwork Global are trying to change this mentality as well, by helping companies adopt a more flexible work structure and create effective mobile workplaces.

Moving away from an old-school “9 to 5” mentality will definitely make your company more appealing to current and would-be employees.

2.- Why Do They Want to Leave: Unfulfilled Goals

Solution: Foster personal growth

Millennials – and especially yuccies – thrive on loving what they do and being passionate about it.

Encourage your managers to have more regular personal assessment meetings with their team members, to stay on the pulse of what their employees are interested in and what drives them.

Trying to foster their personal growth from an intrinsic point of view will appeal to them. For example, “lunch and learn” workshops about “lifestyle” topics geared towards self-improvement could be motivating.

Also, try to implement recognition programs where employees who have made a difference and “walk the walk” are recognized with an award. By achievements I’m not referring to who had the best sales quarter, but rather who made a difference by leading by example and fostering a positive environment and attitude.

3.- Why Do They Want to Leave: They have other interests

Solution: Allow side projects

Many millennials are driven to work on passion projects – encourage this mindset. For example, if someone on your team is passionate about a cause or hobby, encourage them to talk about it. If you allow your team members to nurture their side projects, they will feel appreciated at work and as if they’re getting the best of both worlds. Win-win for all.

Of course, this is acceptable as long as the side project is not a conflict of interest with the person’s primary job.

4.- Why Do They Want to Leave: They are stressed out – to the max

Solution: Encourage wellness like yoga or mediation at the office, or an on-site nutritionist

Unlike previous generations, millennials are not motivated by stress. They aren’t interested in burning out or burning the midnight oil (unless they work for themselves). Their parents likely never achieved work-life balance, but millennials wouldn’t have it any other way. They work hard, but don’t live to work.

With that in mind, offer yoga or meditation sessions at the office. Or implement a program where employees go for group walks or jogs at lunchtime, to take a “breather” and break away. Since the 2000s and the start of the start-up era, companies are getting better and better at this idea, but there’s still a ways to go to allow employees to work hard without burning out.

Foster Change & Be Disruptive

Millennials are a talented bunch.

They are the future of the workforce, and no doubt will soon be judging the next generation to follow, now known as Generation Edge (or Gen Z).

Ensure you stay attractive to this cutting-edge, innovative generation of people – it just takes an open mind and willingness to adapt to their needs.