Boss Lady

Turning your corporate profession into a freelance consultancy

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If you are a services-based professional working in the corporate landscape, it is possible to turn your expertise into a freelance consultancy, become self-employed, and enjoy all the great benefits that this style of flexible working has to offer.

Becoming a freelancer is looking more and more appealing to professionals in service-based roles, and the global freelance economy is booming. In the US, according to the latest ‘Freelancing in America: 2019’ (FIA: 2019) report, freelancers are likely to be skilled, white-collar professionals and the majority are freelancing by choice.

At USD1 trillion, or five per cent of US gross domestic product (GDP), freelance income contributes more to the economy than industries such as construction and transportation and is on par with the information sector. What’s even more interesting is that the younger the worker, the more likely they are to freelance. In the US, 53% of gen Z workers are freelancers — the highest independent workforce participation of any age bracket since FIA’s 2014 launch. Millennials want the freedom and lifestyle that freelancing has to offer.

In Australia, as the workplace evolves with organisations looking to create a more agile and cost-effective workforce, an increasing number of executives are also looking to create freedom-based flexible working lives so that they can work from home or elsewhere, and on their own schedules.

However, before you move forward, there are a few things that you should understand first and plan for to avoid unnecessary stress. Having spent 12 years’ in the corporate sector and now being a freelance consultant and coach, I’ve learnt a few lessons along the way. I pivoted my career because I wanted more variety and greater challenges, as well as the flexibility to pursue other interests, build additional income, and create a freedom-based lifestyle – all things that I’ve been able to achieve as a freelance consultant and coach. However, like starting any business from scratch, there have been obstacles along the way.

Here are the top five things to consider before you take the leap from corporate to freelance.

1. Understand the financials.

How much do you absolutely need to earn? How much would be nice to earn? The first figure is your initial goal as a freelance consultant, and the second is your stretch target. Make sure you do a budget and understand the numbers to reduce any potential financial stress.

I recommend securing your first one or two freelance clients prior to leaving your corporate role, if possible. I also suggest finding yourself a trustworthy accountant from the start. Unless that’s your field of expertise, your taxes and expenses are going to be a lot more complicated once you’re self-employed and you’re much better off leaving it to the professionals. Plus, they can provide advice on what you can claim which is probably more than you’re aware of.

2. Consider your location and where you work best.

Working from home is not for everyone, and you may not have the funds right at the beginning to invest in an office or co-working space if you’re looking to bootstrap costs.

However, don’t let this stop you from pursuing your freelance goals. There are some simple pre-emptive tactics you can employ to prevent any issues – such as procrastination or loneliness – before they occur. Plan plenty of time working from cafés or similar, and book in coffee meetings, lunches, and after-work gatherings. Make sure you’re also attending as many industry events as you can in order to network and get your fix of face time with people.

I personally love to get outdoors and exercise with a group. I also recommend setting a routine of working hours – particularly when you first start out. This will help to prevent procrastination around things like laundry and housework because it becomes a boundary.

3. Create a solid network of freelance consultants.

Your network will be a sounding board as well as potentially referring overflow work to you and vice versa. If a valued client comes to you with work and you don’t have capacity, it’s much better to have reliable freelancers in your field that you can refer them on to rather than simply saying no. Similarly, your freelance network can refer any additional client work to you if you’re having a lighter month.

Make sure that you approach your freelance network as colleagues and collaborators and add value to them – don’t consider them competitors. Create the mindset that there is enough work to go around, and there will be.

I have found it’s super important to surround myself with other freelancers and entrepreneurs to help up-level my mindset and support myself with the resilience required to start and maintain a successful business.

4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

You’re going to need to get outside of your comfort zone to make this work. Particularly if you’ve been in a corporate role for a long time, I recommend fostering a flexible, growth mindset. Instead of responding to a freelance role with, ‘that’s not my area of expertise – I can’t do this,’ look at it as ‘how can I do this?’. This is going to be particularly true when you start out and are still gaining momentum, before you can hone in on the specifics of what you really want to work on and start to say no to other jobs.

This is true in all client services work, but start to think about how you can differentiate yourself and add value for your clients to be of the highest service to them.

5. Big fish to small fish.

If you’re at the top of your corporate game, or even somewhere in the middle, you’re probably used to being the big fish in a little pond and one of the go-to people in your industry.

When you’re a freelance consultant you are competing in a much bigger pool of fish, and you’ll need to prove yourself again as a consultant for prospective clients (at least to start with). This is a good thing because it enables you to try new avenues to achieve even greater levels of success – but be prepared that it can feel out of your comfort zone.

Keeping these things in mind, becoming a freelance consultant is an incredible way to develop new skills, expand your earning potential over the longer-term, and enjoy a more flexible style of working on your own terms.

About Bec Sands

becs@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Bec Sands is a Certified Career Pivot Coach and award-winning Senior Freelance PR + Communications Consultant with 12 years’ corporate experience working with some of the world’s biggest brands. She helps her clients pivot to successful careers and businesses they love and to promote their businesses through media and marketing. Bec holds a degree in Media in Writing from Macquarie University, majoring in PR and journalism, and is a Certified Coach with the Beautiful You Coaching Academy, an approved education provider with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) - global leaders of coach education. Visit www.becsands.com. Connect with Bec on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

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