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6 Ways to Transition from Corporate Employee to Freelancer

You’re ready to take your first steps out of the corporate office and into your new freelancing career. And, according to Forbes, you’re not alone. In 2016, Forbes reported that there were 53 million American freelancers. Three years from now, that number is estimates to increase to half of the American workforce. That said, it’s safe to say, you are one of many. Even still, you may be wrestling with whether you should become a full-time freelancer or do this on the side? That and how do you tell your boss your next career moves, especially if some clients are more loyal to you than the company? Read on to get the answers and learn steps you need to take to transition from corporate employee to freelancer. (That and why you may want to do a Virgin Islands Secretary of State business search.)

1. Create a Business Plan

We can’t say this enough; an action-oriented business plan will make the intangible tangible. And, according to Harvard Business Review, it does pay off—with 16% who do create one being more likely to follow through with it compared to those who don’t. So, outline what your business growth goal is from the get-go of your freelancer career. That way, you aren’t spiraling with stagnant (or even negative) results. To help you accomplish this, avoid using the standard spreadsheet. And, instead, opt for logistic growth model, in which you estimate how long it will take you to reach the halfway mark. Again, this will make your freelancing career more feasible, especially if you’re just starting off and have some apprehension about the move.

2. Set Funds Aside…Ahead of Time

What you don’t want to do is just jump ship and say goodbye to your corporate job. Because, let’s face it, one of the benefits of a corporate job is the ever so steady bi-monthly paycheck. When you enter the world of freelancing, this perk goes out the door (however setting your own hours and being your own boss do make up for this). To alleviate some stress when you are making the jump, set funds aside. In the best case scenario, try to have 6 months of living expenses saved up. At the very least, aim for 3 months. Less than that and you may be scrambling. Still, everyone’s situation is different and some can definitely make a smooth transition with less saved (although it is not recommended).

3. Figure Out the Startup Costs

In other words, what upfront costs will you have when you first launch your freelancing business? Unlike the corporate world, yes, everything from office space to office supplies come out of your pocket. It’s best to know these costs before you start so you know what you’re walking into and if you need to stay in your corporate job or start off freelancing part-time before making the full-time jump.

4. Talk to Other Freelancers

Get the word out that you are thinking about pursuing a freelance career. Not only will this word-of-mouth networking help attract clients but you never know who has also taken the freelancing route—remember, there was roughly 53 million American freelancers in 2016. Nonetheless, you want to talk to freelancers to get their perspective on what the freelancing path is like. It can help you become more prepared when you take those first steps as well as know what you can expect.

5. Talk to Your Boss

While most of this article has been focused on steps you need to take to get your freelancing career off to a good start, the truth is, as of now, you probably have two feet in the corporate world. That said, what do you tell your boss? Better yet, do you tell your boss about your change of paths? The reality is, transparency is key, especially if you suspect there could be a conflict of interest. Specifically, this goes for those who decide to freelance in the same industry as their corporate jobs. However, even if you do decide to venture off into another job sector, you may still want to clear the air. In terms of how to approach your boss about the news, you know him or her best. Then again, according to Forbes, when potential conflict does arise, assess the risks and know your timing. At the end of the day, you may not want to break the news right before a conference call with a major client or if you notice your boss is flustered or stressed out. This could only add fire to the flames, so to speak.

6. Tread Lightly with Corporate Clients

While your corporate clients may be excited for your new career move, some may even express a desire to jump ship with you. Again, this goes back to the conversation you had with your boss. In most cases, you want to leave on good terms—(burning bridges often isn’t the best way to go; it could sneak up on you later when you network). Meaning, you may want to advise your corporate clients to stay. At the same time, review your contract to see if a (very persistent) corporate client does become a personal client, are there legal ramifications? Even if you weren’t a fan of your former corporate job, a cease and desist letter is the last thing you want to (also) deal with during your first days as a freelancer. (Speaking of which, if you do receive (or send out) a cease and desist letter, read “5 Scenarios When It’s Acceptable to Issue a Cease and Desist Letter.)

Final Thoughts

Roughly 34% of the US workforce dabbled in some form of freelancing in 2016; as mentioned, this figure most likely will be on the up and up. What this means is that you are not alone in your career change. Remember to seek out other freelancers for advice, set funds aside, and be open about your career path with your boss. What other tips do you recommend? Leave a comment.

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