By Eyal Linur (Translated by Ealeal Ginott) / Published May 4, 2018
Why You Should Embrace Independence and Go Freelance – Right Now
Even employees who enjoy stable employment, a steady, comfortable paycheck and benefits, must develop their skill-set and abilities to function as independent freelancers in order to survive in the modern workforce.
With summer fast approaching, there is no time like the present to consider a way out of the corporate golden cage, and plan a way to break out on your own, embarking on the journey to professional independence. Fear is a great catalyst to promote decision-making. So after instilling a healthy amount of fear in you, I will also show you that there is a bright, shining light at the end of the tunnel.
So, Why Am I Telling You All of This?
You’ve been an employee, enjoying a steady job for a decade now. Perhaps you’re in senior management, maybe even C-level. You’ve got a six-figure salary, a generous bonus at the end of the year, benefits, a company car, the works. You’ve got a respectable management title, perhaps one with VP in it, and up until this point your career path has been advancing as planned, the way you’d envisioned since college. Your lifestyle matches this picture – you holiday abroad, you go on ski trips, you’re paying off your mortgage – why risk it all?
But here’s the thing – your professional trajectory is being recalculated as we speak. The only question is, will you be the one to control it, or will someone else show you the door, or make decisions for you? Independence and the ability to freelance are the most important skills one can possess and cultivate in today’s market. Independence is just like a muscle – you have to learn how to develop it, constantly train it and sustain it. Here are a few reasons on why your training program must begin today.
Because Employment Doesn’t Equal Security
Are you an employee because you feel your organization provides you with a degree of stability? There is no bigger mistake you could make than relying on this assumption. Notice the changes taking place around you, and across the workforce at large. Corporations collapse and disappear, often before they see it coming. Organizations continuously pivot, doing a 180° and laying off entire teams and departments. As employees rolling with the punches, you do not have full transparency into the constant tectonic shifts that can impact your destiny from afar. The ability to go the independent route is your lifesaver ring, and you must continue to hold on to it at any given moment.
Because the Pyramid Becomes Narrow
It may be true that you advanced swiftly and with ease through your organization, and that you are seen as competent and excel at your job. But as you move up the corporate ladder, there are less and less roles suitable to your expectations and seniority, and far more competition to get those roles. Just because you’re an SVP now, for instance, does not mean you can count on becoming a CEO within a couple of years. Quite the opposite, actually – statistically, this implies that within a couple of years, you are most likely to reach a dead end at your current company, unable to advance any further. So if you’re not one of the top three candidates for succession, it’s time to reevaluate and prepare your exit strategy.
Because the World Belongs to the Young, and You’re Not Getting Any Younger
You arrived at a hip company in your early twenties, fresh out of school and internships. You were a passionate group of like-minded people, hungry for success and dedicated to your goal of disrupting an industry or changing the world at large. Now, all of the sudden, you’re one of “the olds” in the office, and you’re only in your thirties. How the heck did that happen? It’s called time, and the problem is, time stops for no one – it just keeps moving. At management meetings, you hear the CEO constantly proclaim that the company has to stay with it, innovate, and breathe fresh new life into projects and teams. To bring in new energy, to give the younger folks a chance to prove themselves. You may not notice it, but he’s eyeing you through these talking points.
Because Companies No Longer Fight to Keep Their Talent In-House
Look, everyone is aware of your talent. They know you are the best at what you do. But at the same time, your company may not necessarily want to keep fronting the costs and extras associated with keeping you – reimbursing your expenses, paying for your health care, picking up the tab on your business trips or conferences. Your company knows they could complete the special project you’re leading just as well with an equally skilled outside consultant hired for a few months, ultimately costing the company less. Organizations in today’s climate are no longer buying the cow in order to get the milk – they are calculating costs as they go, and if you don’t spot any other major costs around you, then you are probably one of their bigger expenditures.
Because You and Your Skills Are Prone to Atrophy
Remember when we mentioned that your skill-set is like a muscle? Here’s the great paradox: The more knowledgeable and well-versed you are in your company’s technology, the less valuable you are outside of it, and the less relevant you become to other organizations and industries. Perhaps your company specializes in one core service or product, relying on a limited number of technologies and tools in order to achieve its goals. That may be true, but the world outside keeps evolving, changing and growing. Processes and technologies continue to evolve at a breakneck pace. You may still be in the same organization, but you’ve lost the relevance game.
So now, after scaring you a bit, let’s see why now is the perfect time to break free.
Because Your Skills and Experience Have Value Out There
While it may be true that companies are no longer willing to make the heavy investments required to retain longtime talent, they will still pay handsomely to bring in your skills and expertise on a contract basis. Your experience could go a long way and be highly valued within fledgling companies that have a ton of energy and good vibes, but may not have a solid grasp on management or business operations. Almost all of them would prefer to hire a seasoned consultant who’s among the best in their field, rather than hire for that role on a permanent basis. Your experience and years in the market and in your industry carry significant value.
Because You Can Continue to Learn and Grow
As a full-time employee, your company is your world, while as a freelancer you have the opportunity to interact with many different companies, methodologies, processes and people. As a freelancer on the outside, you gain constant exposure to new information, opinions and technologies. The knowledge and viewpoint you bring in from the outside is a priceless asset to companies thirsty for a different approach. With the knowledge you gain on the outside, you’ll continue to provide value to both your clients and yourself.
Because It’s Where the World is Headed
In today’s world, freelancing is no longer a novelle concept. Walk around most cities, and you’ll notice a new WeWork office, alongside a whole crop of co-working spaces. Stroll through the lobby, and you’ll witness your future co-workers, hammering away at their laptops. In the United States alone, 35% of the working population are freelancers, and studies point to this number continuing to spike dramatically over the next few years. Don’t wait until it’s too late for you to leave your current organization – get out there and claim your place in the new economy.
Because You Can Control Your Lifestyle
Your company may provide stability and a steady schedule you can rely on, but it isn’t yours. Picture a world where you can set your own schedule and agenda – where you can decide when to wake up, when to work, when to spend quality time with your family or loved ones, when to hit the gym, or when to go jam with your band. Where you decide what to wear to work, and whether a dress code of any sort even exists. As a freelancer, all of these decisions are yours, and yours alone. Sure, it doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself pulling all-nighters in front of your computer to meet deadlines – but again, this will be your own decision to make.
Because You Can Adjust to Any Situation
It’s perfectly alright to prefer to remain an employee – this is a matter of preference and personality, and that’s totally okay. But developing your freelancing abilities grants you the option to find work and be compensated for your skills, no matter what. The most critical characteristics in today’s world are flexibility and adaptability. You might stay on for years at your current company, or you may find yourself facing a pink slip informing you of layoffs tomorrow – you need to be ready for whatever comes your way, and able to support yourself and live your life fully through any such changes you may encounter.