How to Smoothly Transition From Your Corporate Job to Full-time Freelancing


It isn't just a trend, it's actually here to stay. As technology keeps on progressing, business processes becomes sophisticated, and work advances in a more efficient manner. The idea more or less started with the SME community and start-ups looking for a way to lessen costs without sacrificing productivity and quality. Presently, a multitude of big corporations have outsourced jobs to remote freelancers and there has been an incremental increase in numbers.

Business analysts and respectable magazines and blogs like TIME, Forbes, and Huffington Post published a number of articles about the rise of the freelancing industry and why it's predicted to replace the traditional employment setup. Countries around the globe, including the Philippines, have a pool of a thousand-plus registered online freelancers. The Philippines is also rising as a top provider of independent contractors next to India. The prevalence in the U.S. alone, as they house a million-plus successful freelancers, makes it encouraging for other countries to model.

These facts may be assuring to those who fancy a quaint way of working. Albeit it's still safe and wise to consider the cons before the pros. (Some of these were written in my previous post, "How to Tell If Freelancing Is Right For You"). If, however, you feel like you are ready and firm with your decision to take this narrow career road, then let me give you the best advice I can think of on how to smoothly transition.

I can't promise it will be a really smooth journey, all I can say is it will lessen your risk and cost. On a personal note, I didn't do the first step written below (I wish I did), because when I started four years ago, my recklessness and impatience got the better of me...

Anyway, here are some tips to have a better chance in succeeding your way as a freelancer in the most sober way possible.

Don't quit your job yet. Instead, make it a priority to save more money and develop your skills.

It's exhilarating to think that freelancing can give you more freedom with your time and helps you pursue your passion, but don't get too excited. There's always a risk in everything we do, and switching career is something not to be taken lightly. Unless you've already established a foot as a freelancer, never take your other foot off your current work.

If you don't have a savings good enough to pay the bills (and buy you extra strong, good tasting coffee) for at least six months, then by all means don't quit your job. Not yet. And even though you have money enough to pay your living expenses for a couple of months, are you willing to let go of that hard-earned cash without the security of replenishment? 

The best thing to do is, while you're still learning your way to succeed as a freelancer, stay put. You need a stable income to help yourself be mobile in exploring opportunities. Do not be hasty; it is never wise to burn bridges without crossing safely on the other side first.

Another reason to stay in your present job is that it will be easier for you to find your passion (if you don't know it yet) without sacrificing a steady source of income. In your current work, you can develop and master skills that you think would be profitable to you. If encouraged in your workplace, you can opt to volunteer for opportunities where you can develop the skill that you wanted to focus on like organizing events, creating presentations, or engaging in project management. 

Know what kind of work you would like to do as a freelancer.

Knowing what you wanted to do, something your passionate about, is very important. Remember, you're leaving a stable job for good reasons, right? And not just because you're looking for a greener grass, but because it's something you really wanted to do. Freelancing can be profitable and the income potential is limitless, but then there's a catch - you have to be really good in doing things.

You're going to be an independent contractor and you have to sell yourself (your skills particularly), all the time. In order to get clients (the good-paying and loyal ones), you have to be able to do the job, and do it so well.

That's why it is imperative to do the work you love, it will fuel you to keep improving and bolster your staying power. Most successful freelancers were passion-driven. Most of the time you will work alone, so you should be result-oriented, take ownership for quality, competence, and commitment. The road is already rough, don't add tough by doing work you don't even like.

Try doing part-time, fixed price, or open as-needed freelance job.

Once you've found out what kind of work you'd like to concentrate as a freelancer, try taking the next small step to transitioning. If you're working eight hours a day for five days, you can jump start your freelancing career by taking part-time jobs for 1-2 hours a day or a couple of hours during weekends (or your rest days).

This will allow you to better assess your readiness in becoming a freelancer before quitting your day job. Also, experiencing it firsthand will give you more insight about this kind of work setup. You can add this too in your portfolio so that when you decided to take more projects after resigning from your present job, you already have a solid foundation of work experience as a part-time freelancer.

Another benefit of doing this is that you will be introduced to clients and learn to filter which of them you wanted to pick and work for a longer period of time. You can also ask them for referral or recommendations, and feedback. And if you're lucky and they like your work, they might hire you for bigger projects.

Secure a full-time or full-load project before quitting your corporate job.

The previous tip is your stepping stone in taking full-load projects before quitting your job. Before you send your resignation letter, make sure that you have a contract with the client you will be working for as a freelancer. It doesn't need to be a full 40-hours-a-week job, what matters is that you get more than enough payment to cover your bills, add to your savings and investments, and personal expenses.

In your contract, for security purposes, make sure the specific time or period is clearly stipulated as well as your mode of payment and your job responsibilities. Do not accept a trial job that does not indicate a payment. Do not work for free and never ever spend any amount of money just to do the work or get an experience. A lot of newbies have been victimized by these schemes, always exercise discernment before agreeing to do some work.

Determine if you wanted to do purely home-based job or be a nomad.

This will help you better recognize what job to take, for how much, and how long. Most home-based jobs require you to have a stable connection at home, login or report to work at specific hours and needs you to stay online for several hours. It's linear to corporate setup with the exception that you are doing the work at home. Many clients also requires you to use a webcam, a headset (for conference calls, etc.) and a very quiet environment.

If staying at home all the time is not your style, then you can instead accept fixed-priced or flexible work hour's jobs. These setup are great for people who wanted to try nomadic freelancing. You can work any time and anywhere, without the need to always stay online or send report in a consistent time-frame. The only requisite is that you complete the job on the agreed time and date. This is my personal pick because if I'm not trekking or beach-bumming, I'm most likely writing some blog posts or managing our printing business with my beau.

Last and most certainly not the least: keep learning and mastering new skills.

Do this for three main reasons: to stay competent, to ask for a higher pay, and to land the best jobs.

You have to keep sharpening the saw if you want to stay relevant. The competition is tough, the more you know the more chances of keeping your job or clients. You have to stay updated especially to trends and new discoveries and techniques on how to do work efficiently and effectively.

You also cannot ask for a higher pay if you're not doing well. I mean seriously that's a no-brainer. There must be something you can offer that clients would willingly want to pay your price just so they can keep you.

And lastly, if you want to get the best projects out there you have to be the best. And in order for you to be the best, you have to keep improving and learning. You have to be a master in your field.

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