(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.
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!
The Rise of the New Contract Worker – Harvard Business Review