Your freelance business should start with employment.
I know that runs in the exact opposite direction of what you might expect around here…and yeah…we want to shake off the most detrimental employer habits from how we treat ourselves. As freelancers we should be the best employers we’ve ever had. But employers do do some things right.
If we as freelancers pay attention to how they move, we can pull some invaluable clues that will get us over some of the worst and most common freelance hurdles before they even trip us up.
That’s because employers have done a TON of the work in figuring out a market for you. This works whether you’ve been employed or just want to use employment trends as a guide.
Before we get into it, make sure you check out our Employment Value Extraction Worksheet. It’ll help you take a more objective look at your employment experience and find opportunities to translate your experience and perspective into your freelance business. You can grab that here.
They’ve already figured out the jobs.
Aside from a few outliers, most employed jobs can be done freelance. Yes, some translate purely, but if you see a job that exists across multiple companies, it’s reassurance that the output is valuable to the people who’ll pay you as a freelancer.
The converse is also true. If there’s a career that has a high proportion of freelance workers, it’s a red flag that that job isn’t a reliable path to a stable and sustainable freelance career.
They’ve set the rates.
Lots of freelancers struggle with setting their rates…and a lot of the frustration is needless.
You know that formula that says you get your hourly rate by figuring out a salaries position’s hourly rate and doubling it ? It works because employers have already figured out a general market rate for labor. You’re just doubling it to adjust for business expenses and the profits employers keep off employee labor. (But if you do need help setting your rates, try this post.)
They’ve told you how to market.
If you use employment to guide your freelance career choices, your marketing gets a lot easier.
You know who you’d report to, so you know who to connect with via email on on social sites like LinkedIn. You can look at job descriptions to figure out the responsibilities an organization might want you to take on and the results they value. There’s a lot less guesswork if you simply listen to what they want and let that shape your business decisions. (And if you want guidance on marketing your freelance business, start here.)
They’ve removed some of the risk.
I tell people all the time that I’ve gotten more full-time job offers as a freelancer than I ever did as an employee. My network is stronger than it’s ever been and I’ve got an understanding of my industry that I never had working a 9-5…and that’s all from running a freelance business that’s aligned with my employment experience.
One of the negatives about going out on your own is the risk of leaving the safety of a career…well that’s the beauty of using employment to shape your business.
If you’re keeping up with a niche, making contacts, and building your skills…well there’s a much better chance that if you do want to go back to employment, you’re better prepared than if you’d just chosen a “passion business” and run with it. You might even be in a better position than when you left. (Check out the “Enlightened Employee” section here to learn more.)
All this can work with any job or industry but you get an even bigger leg up on other freelancers if you use your personal employment experience to sling shot your freelance career. (It’s how I was able to replace my employed salary while working part time in under two years.) Here’s how you turn your employment experience into freelance elevation.