The Pandemic’s Silver Lining: You Work for Yourself

You would never have dreamed of becoming your own boss, except you got laid off. You’d been a Wile E. Coyote employee, giving your employer your all, your legs wheeling as fast as you could until you looked down and realized there was nothing beneath your feet. No job. No paycheck. COVID-19 taught you a painful lesson, that you might never have true security working for an employer.

            You struggled for a while, sending out dozens, then hundreds of resumes, lurking on every job site. No employer wanted you, but you wanted work. You needed the money, and work gave you purpose. You widened your search, found a few gigs, and then a few more. Although your upward career trajectory evaporated, you discovered you liked contract work.

            One day an acquaintance mentioned a job opening and after you hit send on your resume, a realization hit you—you didn’t want to return to working for someone else. Like 59 million other American workers before you, or 36 percent of the U.S. workforce, you began wondering if you could make a solid living as a full-time freelancer. According to the Edelman Intelligence’s 2021 research, 53 percent of Gen X workers (those born between 1965 and 1980), 46 percent of Baby Boomers and 46 percent Millennials view freelancing as a long-term career choice.1

            Here’s what’s possible—you can create a viable career as a freelancer. Freelancers work in most industries. For example, 75 percent of those who work in art and design, 55 percent of entertainment workers, 52 of those working in construction, and 42 percent of those who work in architecture, engineering, computers, or mathematics freelance.1 

            Before you leap off the traditional employment cliff, to a freefall in which you’ll miss the security of a steady paycheck, employer-paid health insurance, and paid vacation and sick leave, decide whether you have a strong enough “why” to freelance long term. This answer will help you keep going when things get tough. Perhaps it’s the freedom to make your own decisions and declare independence from corporate rules and micromanaging supervisors. Possibly it’s because you want to work from home and on a schedule that fits your lifestyle. As a freelancer, you can do so if you find the right clients and projects. Maybe it’s security—if you’re able to land enough steady clients, you can secure financial stability for yourself.

            You may not enjoy everything you’ll have to master to be a successful freelancer. If you don’t have “sales” in your DNA, you may not like hunting your own projects and clients, or “hitting on” your friends, family and acquaintances for work. The amount of work it takes to set up accounting and administrative procedures might stun you.

            You may struggle with setting rates. You’ll need to learn how to collect from clients that stiff you. If you’re a handshake kind of person, you might learn from painful experience that you need to spell out in an advance contract the work you’ll do, what you need from your client before you start, how much you’ll charge, and what your client can expect from you in terms of interim updates.

You may bounce between work overload and project dry spells if you devote all your time to current projects and don’t keep an eye out for future work. You may learn you’re a lousy time manager and employer, and swing between putting off work until deadlines force to work twelve-hour days.

But you’ll have independence. And you’ll know you can count on your new employer.

1 Number of Freelancers in the US 2021/2022: Demographics, Platforms, and Trends – Financesonline.com

© 2021, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Managing for Accountability” (Business Experts Press);” “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM)” and www.workplacecoachblog.com. Curry is President of Communication Works Inc. Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10. www.workplacecoachblog.com.

A note for our readers:

Lynne Curry’s newest book Managing for Accountability: A Business Leader’s Toolbox (Business Experts Press),gives business owners and managers a toolbox containing everything they need to hire, inspire, manage, and retain accountable employees that do what they say they will and who invest 100 percent effort into their jobs.

This book is perfect for those who want a roadmap detailing exactly how to: choose exactly the right employee; set expectations for accountability as part of their company culture; inspire employees to “own” their jobs; effectively address problem behaviors that get in the way of maximum performance; retain their top talent; and create accountability in members of Gen X, Y, and Z. Each chapter provides useful, practical, field-tested strategies and solutions that can be immediately implemented.

Written for owners and managers who have little time to read, Managing for Accountability is chockful of useful tips and well organized to enable readers to return to them for a quick reference when they need an immediate tactic or actionable strategy.

The author, a nationally respected organizational consultant and executive coach, offers explicit guidelines for coaching employees to work their hardest to achieve breakthrough levels of performance, maintaining employee commitment at a high level, and bonding employees into high-performance teams united in achieving their employer’s business goals and creating an accountability culture.

Readers will find the real-life stories engrossing and the checklists and tools immediately actionable and will walk away knowing exactly how to inspire employees, how to maintain employee commitment at a high level, and how to create an accountability culture in their organization.

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