- In the last couple of years, the number of people working freelance or as contractors with multiple jobs has increased considerably.
- The initial reasons behind this trend, also called the “portfolio career”, are mostly practical; people are forced to work this way to secure an income.
But this is changing as people start to recognize other benefits of flexible working.
Many people want to do more than one thing; others love parts of their job but don’t enjoy things like corporate politics or line management. And some people simply want to spend more time at home or on other interests.
Also, in an economy with a growing number of start-ups, freelancers who can offer specific expertise without the costs associated with full-time employees are highly desirable.
Flexible working can be a logical solution for both employers and workers. In many ways, it’s a natural workforce evolution and many people are anticipating this trend to speed up in coming years. In Right Management’s Flux Report, which explores future working trends, nearly 80 per cent of human resource directors said they expect the majority of their employees to have portfolio careers within the next five years. This requires a huge shift in the way we think about work and there are some barriers yet to be overcome.
To develop a successful freelance career, you need to be sure on two things:
1. What do you really like doing?
2. What value can you bring to an organization?
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It’s a well-known fact that those working in an area of interest to them achieve a higher level of job satisfaction. You need to get really clear on what is important to you as this is where you will most likely add value.
What is your proposition?
Deciding to take your career into your own hands and doing only what you enjoy is all well and good, but you need to position this in a way that will be desirable for organizations.
It may be that you can reduce costs by working fewer days or, by just focusing on one aspect of the business and not getting side-tracked, you can get the work done faster and to a higher standard. Working with contractors and freelancers tends to sharpen permanent employees too as the work becomes more structured and time-sensitive.
How can you continue to develop?
While freelancers are in control of what they take on, they are also responsible for their own development — they’re only as good as their last piece of work. There is no room for complacency and people who want to work flexibly need to invest in their networks and constantly keep their knowledge up-to-date.
A freelancer’s career development is very attitudinal; it’s very much about having the right attitude to ensure you’re staying in tune with the demands of the market.
Make sure you’re active on LinkedIn groups and social media, and regularly read industry blogs. Search for local networking events and online forums where you can share your experiences and best practice.
Start by looking into associations and institutes for industries you’re particularly interested in. These usually have a calendar of upcoming events on their websites and often run webinars for professionals.
Becoming a freelancer requires you to adopt an ownership mindset. Control, independence and autonomy are great benefits of a flexible career but this extends to career development as well.
Career progression and development usually go hand-in-hand with permanent employment, but as a freelancer these become your responsibility. It’s important to keep abreast of development opportunities to ensure you can continue to work in a flexible way in the future.