Just as an early-career professional will have different strengths, advantages and priorities than another staffer with 30 years in the business, considerations for a freelancer will look very different depending on where they are in the contractor journey.
Experience matters, but success for an independent contractor has more to do with how that individual has spent their time in an industry, rather than just a simple measure of years logged. What are your most marketable skills? How do you know what to charge or when to increase your rates? To identify next steps, it helps to think about which stage of freelancing you’ve entered. Here’s a short overview that can help you plot that journey:
Perspective contractor: Never freelanced before? Considering a change? Now might be the perfect time to start your contractor journey. The job market has shifted dramatically in just the past year or two, and contractors are finding more and better opportunities than ever before. Maybe you’re early in your career and just gaining a foothold in an industry. If you’re reluctant to dive head-first, dip your toes instead: take on a small project or light part-time work to see how it suits you. You may find that more flexibility and the ability to work on more of your own terms fits you better than full-time work and office life. By taking on outside jobs here and there, you can begin broadening your network and building out your contractor profile, giving yourself the runway to make the jump from traditional employment to freelance if and when the time comes.
First-time contractor: Once you’ve committed yourself to contract work, you’ll want to continue to establish new relationships, keep up with the old ones, turn in quality work, hit your deadlines and keep your calendar full – without, of course, taking on more than you can handle. Sound like a lot? It can be. But freelancing doesn’t have to be a constant grind, depending on your situation. Contract work could be the perfect elixir for the semi-retired worker or someone looking to ease out of the daily 9-to-5. Instead of the all-or-nothing proposition of a staff job, freelancing allows someone in the later stages of their career to stay in the game while enjoying a lighter schedule and taking on new projects if and when it suits them.
Full-fledged contractor: There’s no rigid timetable for these things, but as a rule of thumb, a year of contract work should be enough to gauge whether the lifestyle and commitments of a freelancer are right for you. If you’ve been able to build on your relationships, secure an anchor client or two and generate recurring business – and if it hasn’t sent you running back to the office or a staff position – contract work could be a sustainable fixture in your life. Full-time freelancing can be a godsend for, say, a working mom who can build her schedule around childcare, rather than the other way around. Cut out the commute. Save on daycare. Spend that quality time with the kiddos. That’s the contract-work sweet spot.
Seasonal contractor: Let’s say your work is in public accounting – a highly seasonal profession. The name of the game is to land and expand: secure work with a firm, build your relationship, get something on the books for next year as soon as possible and keep working to grow your scope of work. As you prove your chops in different areas of the business, the more valuable you become to a firm. Once that happens, you can start to count on bigger chunks of work at regular intervals each year, and soon (gloriously) you can begin raising your rates.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or prospect of the contract space, PeopleCaddie can help identify the best opportunities for you. Click here to contact us.