Being your own boss. Working from your couch. Taking as much holiday as you want, whenever you want it.
To the desk-bound employee, going freelance can seem like the ultimate dream. Until you look into it, and realize how much hard work it is. Constantly hustling for clients and worrying about making rent this month? Suddenly, that morning commute doesn’t seem so bad. As an employee you might be working for someone else’s vision, but at least that someone else will still pay you if you come down with the flu.
But just because you’re not a freelancer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever act like one. Taking a little time to invest in yourself will allow you to grab many of the benefits of freelancing without ever leaving the employee safety blanket.
- Appoint Yourself CEO of Company Me
Not literally. (If you start handing out those business cards in the staff room it’s going to get a little weird). But visualizing your professional self as a business helps you to focus on planning and implementing a clear career trajectory in the same way companies develop and follow business plans.
Think about your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. Where do you want to be in the next year, five years, fifty years? Be ambitious in your aims, but realistic in your timeframes. Then, work out exactly how you’re going to get to those stages. There’s likely to be significant obstacles to overcome: perhaps you’ll need to undertake extra education or training, or even need to switch careers entirely.
It takes time to save up for a new degree or find a new job. But by planning ahead you give yourself the time and opportunity to make whichever changes are necessary for you to get to where you want to be.
- Think of Your Company as Your Client
Businesses may value and invest in their employees, but their ultimate priority is the well being of the company. Employees should have the same mindset.
Always remember that your focus is your own goals and interests. This doesn’t make you a bad employee; on the contrary, workers who are striving for personal achievement tend to work harder, take on more projects, and succeed more. Whether you’re aiming for an internal promotion or cultivating the skills and experience which will make your CV shine when job-hunting, you’ll need to become a star employee to get there. And star employees are very good for business.
- Negotiate Greater Flexibility
Being able to manage your own work time and space makes you more productive. Fact.
Anyone who has ever tried to complete an important project in a noisy office already knows what many employers are belatedly catching onto – allowing flexible working is good for business.
In this digital age, more and more employees can complete at least some of their work away from the office. If you fall into this category but your company doesn’t offer options for flextime or remote working, propose a trial project to your boss. Ensure that you don’t just get more done but that you compile proof that you got more done, and then present these statistics to your employer. The trick is to make them see it as something that will benefit them, not just something that will benefit you.
- Build a Portfolio / Personal Website
Almost all freelancers will have a personal website, and often a portfolio of their work, which they can show clients. Even if you’re never planning to leave your current employer, you should follow suit.
Personal websites make you look professional. They are also a great way to impress client, especially new or prospective ones. Moreover, compiling your achievements and best work means it’s easy to keep track. If you’re looking for leverage to gain an internal promotion, it’s handy to have all the facts on hand, especially in a visually spectacular way.
There are multitudes of free, easy-to-use websites designed to help everyone set up their own website and/or portfolio. A quick Google should point you in the right direction.
- Keep Learning
It’s not just job-hunters who should keep updating their CV and skimming through job postings. The best employees are constantly improving and adding to their skill set. One of the most effective ways to do this is to locate gaps in your knowledge and work to fill them.
Regularly compare your CV against job specs for similar roles. Are any of them asking for expertise you don’t have? Could learning a particular software program or other skill boost your current work abilities? Have a look at job specs for the level above you as well.
Once you’ve identified your areas of weakness, work on strengthening them. This could even be done within the office – if you present a business case to your employer about why the extra training would enhance your productivity, they may support or even pay for you to undertake it.
- Keep Your Options Open
The world is constantly changing, and the world of business changes with it. Just because you aren’t currently planning to leave your current job doesn’t mean that some unforeseen future event won’t force your hand.
Never get caught unaware. If freelancing is something you think you might want to do one day, or something you could fall back on if necessary, be proactive and start working at it now. Cultivate relationships that could become clients, keep your CV and work portfolio updated, and do some basic research into what you would need to get your freelance business off the ground.
You may never stop being an employee. But adding a bit of freelancing flair to your work ethic will make you a better and more successful worker; regardless of who signs your paychecks.
Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specializing in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs listings for roles. Or; if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.