Freelancing – risky business or your best decision yet?

Do your transition plans automatically discount the idea of going freelance? Ever find yourself wondering if you can make a living working for yourself? Or maybe you’ve already transitioned and feel that now could be the right time to find something more gratifying by working for yourself.

If you can charge for your knowledge and expertise, what’s stopping you from becoming a freelancer?
The OA explores what it means to go solo and the most important points to consider before making the decision to do it. It may be your best career decision to date, or it could be that the uncertainty isn’t worth it.

If you’re able to offer a service that businesses will want to buy, you will possess particular skills, knowledge and experience that will give you a good living. Perhaps you can build a website or generate code? Maybe you can write content, manage projects or build business networks for different organisations. There are countless ways to do it, but going it alone can prove difficult.

It may sound like an obvious question to ask yourself but, would working alone actually suit you? Of course, you shouldn’t expect this to be the case in all circumstances; some jobs will require you work in-house during your post, but when this is the case, while the idea of working remotely may sound appealing, it certainly isn’t for everybody.

The downside to freelancing is the lack of financial security you may well encounter. If you have a family, mortgage or any other commitments that are likely to suffer from potential dry periods in your work, you should ensure that you have funds or savings to keep you afloat. And then there’s the matter of starting out with an open mind. The work you want will not always fall into your lap, so it’s a smart idea to be flexible with the kind of work you decide to take on.

Gather together as much advice and guidance you possibly can before embarking on your freelance career. Knowing the right people is vital and if you have them, take advantage! Anna-Marie Watson (former officer in the Royal Logistic Corps) is a great example of this. After opting to specialise in performance coaching after working on a variety of learning and development projects, Anna-Marie followed her Postgraduate studies with the start up of her own consultancy business Reach for More in 2013.
I began by reaching out to people that could support me from a professional development point of view – i.e. other coaches who had their own businesses in the area so that I could learn more about the British market, how to position myself and what the coaching environment is like.”

How you market yourself as a freelancer will determine whether you win the work. Use the skills gained in the military to give you a head start. If you’re expert at time management or a communications guru, be sure to use this in your marketing.
As the face of your business, it will be down to you to build an effective online profile, to create a portfolio exhibiting your best work yet. Consider the power of advertising through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and be prepared to establish a pipeline of business with which to expand your network of contacts.

Don’t just focus on the work you’ve already won – plan ahead. Once you’ve tracked down relevant business and referrals that are in-line with what you want to do, go ahead and exceed their expectations. If you’re good, you’ll see your network of clients begin to grow; recommendations circulate, so if you’re unsure on how to secure future work, the message is simple – keep the quality consistent.

Working on a freelance basis offers you a number of benefits such as flexible working, potential to earn more as well as having greater control over your life generally. On the flip side, a freelancer does not have the same protection as an employee so you’ll need to weigh up what works best for you. Remember to talk to colleagues and our team of expert careers consultants to ensure your conversion to working freelance is as easy and effective as possible.

Look out for our webinar on 24th January which will provide further information and tips on how to succeed as a freelancer.