Ask the cubicle expat: I started freelancing by default. Now what?

December 20th, 2008

My pals Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears, authors of The Boss of You book and blog, ran a Q&A with me this week. I loved that they asked me this question so much that I’m reposting it here. Before you read it, I’d like to point out that Amazon is currently running a deal where you can pick up both my books + Lauren and Emira’s book for just over $30 — in other words, you get all three books for the price of two. To snatch these up and start your year off right, see the Amazon page for My So-Called Freelance Life or The Anti 9-to-5 Guide.

Okay, enough with the Billy Mays impersonation. Here’s the post…

Lauren and Emira ask: We hear from a fair number of freelancers who got into their careers unconsciously — it’s like they woke up one morning and realized they’d become a freelancer, without necessarily planning it that way. What advice would you give someone in that situation?

I answer: I agree. So many people find themselves freelancing in the wake of a layoff and before they know it, they’re running a full-fledged business. If you too are an accidental freelancer, take stock of the work you do and the clients you do it for. Are these the types of projects you want to be working on and the types of people and organizations you want to be working with? If not, list the kind of freelance projects that interest you most and the names of at least ten organizations you’d love to work for. Then tap your professional and personal networks to see if you can find a way in. If you need to acquire any additional skills or portfolio samples to make yourself attractive to these organizations, get cracking.

Even if you are happy with your clients and workload, it’s important to revisit your freelancing goals – income, creative milestones, client wish list, and so on — at least once a year. (January is a great time for this.) Get too comfortable and you’ll quickly get bored, burn out, or start to feel like an employee all over again.

Entry Filed under: Ask the Cubicle Expat,Book

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dan Erwin  |  December 27th, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Accidental free-lancing is not an inherently negative situation. It may be informative for you own career–teaching you what the market rewards and what you find challenging and enjoyable. Many of us in long term consulting (more than 25 years for me) got into the business on a fluke. I was asked to bring my expertise to a few situations while teaching in grad school–and found those situations fascinating. I spent some time thinking through the marketplace, got to know some smart marketing and research people who helped me strategically, and figured out a full business for myself that continues to this day. Clients are fascinating, industries differ, objectives change, and learning curve stays near vertical. Of course the income is something in excess of five to 20 times teaching–depending on the year–and that’s another intriguing aspect of free-lancing. Even when I work more than 60 hours a week, I’ve never been bored. Furthermore, free-lancing eventually provides opportunities to change the direction, product, or service of your orientation.

    I began to realize some years ago that unintentional consequences are as often positive as they are negative!

  • 2. Cecelia  |  December 27th, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Though I can’t imagine giving up my career in education, I do admire those whoa re able to move outside “the box” in life and wish I were so brave!

  • 3. Ananda Leeke  |  December 28th, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I really enjoyed reading the interview. I am going to order your book. It looks like something I can use for myself and with my creativity coaching client sessions. Enjoy the new year.

  • 4. Michelle Goodman  |  December 28th, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks, Ananda. Enjoy the book. Hope you and your clients find it helpful!

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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