As someone who has worked on a full-time basis for the past
25 way too many years, the idea of moving into a “full-time freelancer” mindset brought on a full-blown case of the FUDs (otherwise known as Fear / Uncertainty / Doubt for the uninitiated).
While I have worked on some small part-time freelance projects over the years (mostly in-between “permanent” positions) I never really considered going down this route on a full-time basis until recently. Working for companies both large and small offered me benefits, perks, and platinum statuses that (at the time) I couldn’t ever imagined going without. (To be honest, there was, once upon a time, something to be said for receiving that “extra” level of priority treatment from hotel, airline, and car-rental chains.)
At the same time, I also found myself stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle of drafting & delivering multiple status reports, attending multiple (and IMHO, redundant) staff & team meetings that cut into a large portion of my working hours, and soul-crushing commuting cycles (both daily and weekly) that put a lot of strain & stress on my personal and family life.
After spending a couple of decades at corporate powerhouses, I decided to reposition myself as a freelance consultant, specializing in digital & content management, process management, & social collaboration. This took place at the same time that my wife and I relocated from the northern Virginia suburbs, to the Judean hills outside Jerusalem. Working as a freelancer, I no longer waste time worry about the daily drudge that came from commuting, meetings, and redundant reporting. I now have the opportunity to control my schedule, my projects, and my career.
Do I miss my above-mentioned corporate perks? Not really; the truth is, you can ask for (and usually get) the same level of treatment even without the latest platinum upgrade, etc. The trade-off is, of course, that I now find myself a much happier (and productive) individual thanks to my new status. Working in most corporate frameworks (with cultures ranging from traditionally stodgy to cutting-edge start-up), share at the very least one thing in common: Your boss / team lead / manager will take you for granted, expect you to comply with their directives, and will treat your input & opinion (assuming they even ask for it) as just so much white noise to be ignored. However, as a freelance consultant I am seen as the go-to guy, the subject matter advisor whose experience and advice are truly valued by my clients. Addressing (and fulfilling) their needs on time, on (or under) budget, and with quality results has been fulfilling, in both personal & financial terms.
My favorite scenarios generally involve working with my clients to identify and address their content & information needs, from planning how to bring their strategic initiatives from Powerpoint slides to functional and technical designs that will result in fully usable solutions. I also enjoy being able to help assist my clients in terms of selecting & assembling the best fits in terms of technology, applications, and architecture. With the right level of investigation, discovery, and scoping, I can present my clients with designs that address both their short and long-term needs. In these scenarios, experience and seniority really pays off; two decades of experience in the field, planning & deploying these kinds of leading-edge solutions across multiple projects for a wide variety of clients, allow me the ability to speak with well-earned expertise.
Does this all mean that freelancing is the perfect solution for everyone? Absolutely not. There are way too many stories out there about people whose experiences included encountering the negatives associated with this approach. The fact is, quite simply, that there is no approach out there which will ever fully address all contingencies, issues, and potential pitfalls. Working on a freelance basis means that you need to exert quite a bit of effort in terms of planning, in order to keep your “pipeline” of incoming work properly flowing. You need to accept that, even with this kind of planning in place, you may still find yourself in a “feast or famine” scenario. It’s just the nature of the business.