Today, Alex Butler wants you to forward this to a corporate cubicle friend
We talk a lot on this blog about why there is no beating the freelance, independent life, the thrills and spills of freelancing, the camaraderie, and the clients that won’t really ‘get’ you. We espouse following your passion, and being remarkable.
Sometimes I feel like I want to put some blurb at the bottom of the page that says:
‘Hey, it’s great. It really is. And we want you to do it. To leave that job you hate and go and change the world with your loveliness. But don’t blame us if it does wrong’.
Because leaving a career that you’ve nurtured for years, sticking your laptop on your back and heading for the bright lights of freelance-dom is easier said than done. I think most of the freelancers that I’ve spoken to would agree that they wish that they’d been more prepared.
So I want to start by telling you why you shouldn’t do it (do you like the reverse psychology there?)
You may have responsibilities, a mortgage to pay, kids who want the latest stuff and who you want to see at University. It’s especially hard to risk your carefully secured creature comforts, especially later in life.
Still, you may be really unhappy in your job or with your life in general, and you might have reached a crunch point where it’s now or never. You might have decided that money isn’t everything and that it’s the quality that counts.
So, we might as well prepare you! Here’s our short checklist. Find somewhere quiet, and tick them off. Then start composing your resignation note.
Who are you?
No I don’t mean name, rank and serial number. I mean do you know yourself? Are you being honest with yourself about your motivations? Because if you are just trying to escape then you might not be tackling the underlying issues that are making you unhappy.
Have you always battled the system? Then you’ll make a great independent, and you’ll find it liberating. But maybe you’ve just found yourself in this position. Many do. The important thing is not to see freelancing as a second best until you find a ‘proper’ job. You need to be comfortable in your freelance skin. Even if that does mean dealing with the fallow periods. It’s the difference between saying ‘I’m a freelancer’ and ‘I’m freelancing (at the moment)’.
Understanding who you are and what you want will help you and your family–an important part of the equation, to decide whether it’s right for you.
Now is the time to be you
I don’t buy the idea that you sit it out in your cubicle and then suddenly decide that you want to be yourself. The reality is that we change as we grow and what changes is the context. The time has to be right, and several things have to come together to be right for you.
My career working for big organisations was multi-faceted and never quite worked out as I might have planned it. But I did learn all sorts of useful things along the way, and that’s what’s shaped the freelancer that I am now. Suddenly, within the space of a couple of months, the stars aligned and I thought – my time is now.
The key thing to remember is that you don’t change. Circumstances do.
Don’t expect to get rich doing what you did before
There’s an urban myth that the way to make it as a freelancer is to do what you did before, but for multiple clients. The theory is that your customer base is your previous company network. The flaw in this is that that is a finite resource and in any case, to be brutal about this, you aren’t front of mind once you aren’t there every day.
This is your chance to do something that solves a problem. That way, you will ooze passion for it. And if that problem is something that you are experiencing as a consumer, then you will probably have an idea how to solve it.
Try not to make it about the money either, by which I don’t mean that you shouldn’t worry about making money, just that it probably isn’t the best motivation. Otherwise you fall into the trap of having to swop your time for money. That’s a big mistake that a lot of freelancers fall into. Again, your time is finite.
I know you want to change the world too. It’s a laudable and champion thing to want to do and I’m with you all the way. Just one step at a time! Trust me. If you try and do it all at once you’ll give up because you’ll feel like you are failing most of the time. Remember that it’s often just you working on your motivation.
You still need your clan
The biggest mistake that we often make as we become independents is that we assume that we have to do everything ourselves. It’s all part of the transition from having everything done for you.
I can’t underline this too much. Unless you enjoy your own company, you will find this the single most difficult adjustment.
You must build your team around you. Believe me. People will be lining up to help you get flying. Take them up on their offers of coffee, sounding board sessions, practical help getting your name out there and advice. Sometimes you will feel like it is time wasted because you should be looking for the gigs. It isn’t. It’s an investment in your freelance future.
Another thing. We don’t do the hierarchy. Don’t expect people know how talented you are on the basis of your last job title. You are starting again in terms of building respect for your abilities, but on the plus side, people will generally give you the benefit of the doubt.
Time for a plug. This is where KindredHQ comes in. We are a growing community of people just like you. We meet online and at our coworking events. If you can get along to one, give it a try. You’ll find lots of people who, just like you, decided to go it alone.