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Ep. 27: What Can I Do as a Freelancer If I’m Currently an Employee?

Many people are done being employees. They’re done having someone else dictate when they work, how they work, what they must believe and support in order to be accepted into the office culture. They’re done working 40+ hours per week, and their family needs them at home.

They’ve thought about freelancing and doing their own thing, but they don’t know what they could possibly do as a freelancer. What are my options, you may ask? How do I convert my skills as an employee into starting my own service business? How can I transition to being a freelancer while still providing for my family? This is especially a concern amongst parents who work as employees but want to be home.

I’m going to walk you through a process to help you begin the journey of making this transition by first figuring out what you could even do as a freelancer? How do you figure out how to package the skills you currently have? And what skills do you need to gain?

The first step is to audit your work experience. We’re assuming you’re someone who has been in the workforce for at least a couple of years and you have some professional work experience. Many people get stuck thinking, “Well, I’m not a graphic designer, or web developer, or writer, so what could I possibly do as a freelancer?” The possibilities are endless, truly.

Step 1, throw away your resume. The one you’ve been using to get jobs as an employee, but trash it. I’m not saying to completely delete it, because you may go to it to grab a few things, but what I am saying is that you will not be editing your resume in this first step. Instead, you’ll be starting a whole new document, and that is going to be your portfolio.

So first, you’ll need to get out of the standard employee mindset, meaning, don’t think about your skills in buckets typically highlighted on resumes like, “self-starter,” or “excellent communication skills.” You have to be a self-starter to be a freelancer, and your client doesn’t care what you think about yourself as long as you produce the result they want.

So, you need to get out of the thinking that you’re being paid for your time, and instead, you’re being paid for what you produce and results you achieve. This is by far the hardest part of the transition, because your whole life you’ve been paid to show up and do what you’ve been asked, and if you put in 40 hours you get the fixed salary. As a freelancer, you only get paid for what you produce, and it doesn’t matter how long or short it takes.

So, start making a list of the results you’ve produced for your employers. What projects have you worked on and what were the business results of those projects. As a freelancer, all you’re doing is project after project, helping a business to grow.

Here’s another example of what clients look for vs. employers:

If you’re a video editor, a client wants to see a past video you’ve edited. An employer wants to know if you are proficient with Adobe Premiere (editing software). A client doesn’t care how you edit a video as long as you create one that they like and it costs an amount that seems worth it to them.

As you’re doing this first step and making a huge list of all your skills and all you’ve accomplished, remember to abandon the resume that you’ve been using to get jobs. Don’t open up your resume on your computer and go through it, trying to edit it. Trash it, open up a blank document, and just start making a list of your accomplishments.

If you helped your employer revamp their marketing strategy, which ended up leading to a 200% increase in sales, your client does not care whether you were an employee or freelancer, they won’t ask that. Don’t mention it. Just focus on the accomplishment. Don’t list your work history in proposals and the dates and times you worked for so and so. That’s just another reason to throw away your resume.

Don’t worry about formatting, either. Just make a huge list no matter how disorderly it looks.

2: Forget your degree.

If you went to college, it’s time to move on and let your degree be a thing of the past. Clients don’t care what degree you have. They are hiring you as a business service provider. All they want to know is what skills you have and what you’ve accomplished in your past. And sorry, but getting a degree doesn’t count as one of those accomplishments that they care about. Now, if you’ve just graduated college and have never had an employee job yet, then you’re an exception, but I’m mostly speaking to those who have been in the workforce for a bit. They are likely parents by this point and cannot bounce around their career with ease because their family’s financial security is on the line. So for them, their previous work experience is more important.

Many millennials have gotten stuck in the belief that if they keep getting more degrees then their career will improve. College education is getting very sluggish, so, whatever you learn there is outdated within months. It’s also far more expensive than the education you could get through online courses and coaching programs. You may need some more education to successfully start a freelance business, but that’s not going to be college education. Even at a business school, they are teaching very archaic business practices for only certain types of businesses. They really only focus on businesses that are centered on inventing products and launching a startup with investors. You’re providing a service business, where the only funding you need to get started is an emergency fund to cover your living expenses while you’re finding your first clients.

3: Pick an industry first before dialing into a specific skill and service.

This might be easy if you’ve been working in an industry that you like as an employee, and you want to freelance in that same industry. However, it’ll take more research if it’s an industry you haven’t been working in. Here is a list of industries that cover the main types of businesses you can start as a freelancer. As I go through the list make a note of which ones you know you can excel in or are interested in. And mark which ones you already have experience or knowledge in and which ones you’re interested in, but will need further education and training in order to succeed in them.

This list covers freelancing businesses that you can do from home. I’m not covering all types of self-employment. These are all jobs that can be done with a computer and the internet. That’s the type of freelancing that I do and that I’m most familiar with. There are many other types like construction and handyman work, or Uber, but that is a very different industry because it takes you away from the home, and for usually many hours. I would consider this to be the brick and mortar of freelance businesses, where you might even have an office somewhere or you’re working out of your van. Either way, you’re away from home. That’s a very different world, and I don’t know the income potential there and how to scale that. There are more limitations in those industries with what you can earn. I DO know the digital freelancing world, so that’s what we’re focusing on. The types of jobs that you could do anywhere, from just your laptop, tablet, or phone, no need for an office, and most of your work can be done at home. These are also service based businesses, not other types of businesses that you can start.

Accounting and financial services
Administrative support and virtual assistant
Project Management (this one tends to just be a role within all the rest of these categories, you might manage Video Production team or a web dev team)
Customer Service
Data science and analytics
Design
Graphic design, illustration, interior design, product design etc...
Video/Audio/Photo Production
Writing and Translation
Engineering and Architecture
IT and Networking
Legal services
Sales and Marketing
Web, mobile, and software development
Coaching and Consulting (which you could provide in any of these categories listed here, or other categories such as life coaching, business coaching, career coaching etc…)
Social Media Influencer
Real estate agent
Investing (crypto, real estate, stock, precious metals etc… These are harder to get into without money, but there are some types like crypto that require very little buy-in)

As you can see, there are a lot of different industries you can work in as a stay-at-home freelancer. It’s not just for writers and web developers. Hopefully, you had a chance to write down the ones you’re interested in or have experience in already.

My tip for you is that if there is an industry you already have work experience in, start with that because you’ll have an easier time finding those first clients. You can always evolve, scale, or change industries later once you have a footing in the freelancing world. I’ve changed. I started out doing video editing and now do marketing, but my change was at least related. I’m doing video marketing specifically and coaching related to video strategy. Unless a certain industry that you’ve been working in is something you have zero passion for and you absolutely hate that type of work, then don’t do it. Spend the time getting education and training to start in a new industry, but it will take much longer because you’ll have to do a lot of practice work to get a portfolio to show potential clients. You won’t get to use any of your previous employee experience.

Now what if you have had experience in multiple industries? Choose the one you either have the most results and accomplishments in or most interested in or some hybrid of those 2 things.

4: Pick a specific service within your chosen industry.

This is where it can get more difficult, trying to match your employee experience with specific freelance jobs. If you were a video editor as an employee working for a company, then this step is pretty freakin easy. Become a freelance video editor and show people the past videos you’ve edited as an employee. That was my story, employee editor to freelance editor.

But let’s say you’ve had a front-desk receptionist job, but you’re most interested in being a creative writer. You’re going to have to put in more work in reframing your experience as being relevant. There are always core skills you’ve learned as an employee that you can pull into your freelance gig.

As a front desk receptionist or office manager, you have to be very organized, so write that down as a skill. You’re able to organize many files and come up with systems of streamlining organization. Start making a list of core skills developed from your previous work. If you have dealt with people on the phone, then you can pull out communication skills, but don’t just say, “I have good communication skills.” What does that mean? Instead you can say, “I’m great at figuring out what someone’s needs by asking the right questions and then directing them to the resources they need.” Include something more specific within communication.

For some of you, this won’t be an easy process, and you may need someone to coach you through it. If so, reach out and we can start a coaching group or something. But overall, just get it all out of your head on paper, no matter how messy. Really dig and don’t get hung up only listing skills that you think are related to the freelance job that you’re wanting to do.

You’ll be surprised at how many skills you can link to your desired freelance business when you dig to the core. So don’t say, “Well I want to do freelance writing, but I haven’t been writing as a receptionist.” Maybe not primarily, but you’ve sent emails right? You’ve read documents or even created some?

One thing I did that helped me transition is that I started out freelance video editing, and I wanted to get more into video strategy and marketing. Those are two different skill sets, creative and technical vs strategy and consulting, so what I did was reframe my video editing experience to be relevant to video marketing strategy. One way I did that was by saying, “As a video editor for small online businesses, I was often a part of the conversation in coming up with ideas for videos and I got involved in tracking performance and making suggestions for how to improve the types of videos we did. So I didn’t lead in the strategy, but I was at the meetings, I was a part of the marketing conversations, and as a result, I learned a lot about marketing.”

How can you reframe your previous jobs into relevant skills for a freelance portfolio?

This step could take you weeks, so be patient with yourself. And beware of the “I’m a fraud” syndrome, also called “imposter syndrome.” You feel it. You will feel dishonest trying to reframe your past experience, but that’s only because you’re doing something out of your comfort zone, so it feels foreign to you. You’ll feel like a fraud for a while, even when you get your first clients. Just remind yourself, you’re not lying, you’re not coming up with fake accomplishments or skills, you’re simply thinking of better ways to communicate your skills. You’re looking at your skills, accomplishments, and work experiences from a different angle, a different perspective,
Still true, not a lie, not false. Simply another angle on the same truth.

You need to constantly be mindful that you aren’t exaggerating your accomplishments while also being okay with talking about it differently than you’re used to.

And I’ll have more content to help out with this part specifically, and even workshop opportunities because this step needs further training that can’t be properly covered in this post, but reach out with any questions.

And one area that you can default to depending on your experience with is consulting. Have you helped businesses improve their operations and systems? Project management? You can reframe many things into being a consultant on certain aspects of business and just get paid to share your knowledge.

Now, one action for you to take that will help narrow down ideas is go to Upwork.com and Fiverr.com, and scan through the categories they have for freelancers. Click the dropdown arrows and start jotting down specific jobs you are attracted to or that match your experience. Don’t think the categories listed here are the only ones you can do. My job on Upwork doesn’t actually match any of the ones here, but it’s related to video production and also related to content marketing. As you can see, they don’t even have coaching or other types of industries we discussed, but this does give you a lot of ideas.

5: Try some things. We’ll get into other aspects of the transition in other videos, but as a part of figuring out what to do as a freelancer, try some things, and dabble with editing a video or doing a creative writing piece. These aren’t projects you’re getting paid for, but while you still have your employee job, start playing around with different types of freelance gigs to see if you click into one. Plan out a specific amount of hours you’ll spend each week experimenting, researching, and figuring this step out, even if it means waking up 30 minutes earlier or going to bed earlier.

Hopefully this was a helpful first step in transitioning you from employee to freelancer, especially if you’re raising a family. I understand. You want to do it right. The stakes are high when you’re providing for a family, so the process does look different, and you can’t take the same types of risks that a 22-year old living with their parents after college can. So, yes, if you’re not a parent or married supporting a spouse, then you can still learn from what I’m saying, but it’s not going to line up exactly the same way. You’re in a different boat, and you’ve likely not had previous work experience yet.

Tune in for more videos in this series, and be sure to subscribe!

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