Testing the Waters of the Freelance Economy

The environment we work in and the people we surround ourselves with can shape our future. Asking whether your current environment aligns with the learning outcomes you are seeking is not a lofty conversation to have with yourself. In fact, it can help spur a healthy internal dialogue to make sure the content of your work and life are operating within the right context. 


Working at a large and established organization can have considerable benefits, especially early in a career. The learning opportunities you seek, however, often evolve in tandem with the development of your experience, interests, and industry. As this occurs it is important to reexamine whether you are still in the right environment to create the work you are committed to bringing to life.
 

The freelance economy, or 1099 economy, has been a subject of interest and scrutiny in particular over the past two. Common questions range from the implications on Human Resource departments to the long-term impact on the labor force and its distribution. For the purpose of this article, the question at hand is whether a freelance work structure may be beneficial for you. If you are considering making this transition, here are a few steps to help you leave your current job with your career intact and with confidence for your next chapter.
 

1. Learn to listen to your gut
This may be the most important lesson. We all have very different goals and ideas of how we want to live our lives. Without an awareness of our own personal values and mission, the decisions we make can become a reflection of influence from our current environment or the ambitions of others. The professional coach I worked with called this “guided decision making”. This happens when we become very clear about our values and goals and can make confident decisions that reflect them.
 

2. Check your impulse at the door
Choosing to leave a stable job does not have to be an impulsive or quick move. Plan a timeline that feels right for your own circumstance. To have a revenue stream in place and test the waters, it can be beneficial to secure freelance jobs in advance of leaving your full time job. Making this transition requires preparation; so build in time for this.
 

3. Give more than two weeks notice when possible
When leaving a job, giving two weeks notice is considered the industry standard, but this does not have to be taken as the golden rule. While giving additional notice is not always an option, doing so allows your employer to plan strategically and sets your team up for a smoother transition when you leave. I gave two-months notice, which felt right for my own situation. What is important here is remembering to navigate your transition with integrity.
 

4. Embrace uncertainty 
Uncertainty is a large factor that arises when leaving a secure job within a large organization. Many things that you have become accustomed to become unknown. Uncertainty simultaneously brings the excitement of the possibilities of the unknown. Learning to embrace the uncertainty of your new environment opens up space for positive developments to enter that new environment, rather than a slew of anxiety provoked fears.  

 

5. Have a plan, execute it, but be flexible (except with your goals)
In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi lays out a great framework for goal setting. A 30-day, 3-month, 6-month and 1-year plan with different benchmarks can provide the structure and goals that you may have become used to in your old work environment. That being said, sometimes plans have to be diverted from and adjusted, so remain flexible with your plan, but hold strong to your goals.

 

In summary, yes, you can leave your corporate job without leaving your career. But, during the process, focus on taking steps that will set you up to transition to this new chapter with integrity and intention.   

 

Posted on January 10, 2015 .