Going Solo

What are you going to do if your job search does not produce the results you want? Motivated by the need to make money to pay bills, maybe you’ll decide to put some effort into finding contract or consulting work. You know you have marketable skills, so why not give freelancing or independent contracting a try? Surely someone is willing to pay you to do what you do. Right?

Well, why not?

Here are some important considerations if you’re going to put yourself out there solo:

How well do you work alone? Ignore this issue at your own peril!
Do you need the daily interaction of other team members, or will you accomplish more being unsupervised and with no one else to share ideas or small talk?
Do you have the physical space where you can work in peace and without distractions and interruptions?
Will your family, and/or other members of your household accommodate your needs and support your efforts?

Before you build your online presence (hang out your shingle) start by finding out all you can about who will buy your service/specialized skill. Is there a market for what you do?

For almost every industry and specialty there’s a website where businesses solicit skilled professionals for legitimate contract work (and in many cases regular employment). From these same sites, and with a little digging, you can also learn:
Who is hiring Independent Contractors (IC’s)?
Where these firms are located.
How much these companies are willing to pay for your service.
The types of projects you could be contracted for.
The skills you’ll need to fulfill the contracts you’ll pursue?
Will you need to be on-site, at their location, or will you be telecommuting?
The anticipated duration of the contract.

Do you have the skill sets needed for success? Now that you have a better idea of what employers are looking for, can you honestly say you can fulfill the requirements? Having the faith and conviction in your self and skills to say, “I can do that!” is one thing. Having the specific skills necessary to make an employer happy is something else entirely.

Do you have the necessary tools (computer hardware, software, whatever) to do the job independently, or will going out on your own require a steep capital investment?

Can you confirm your ability to perform the services you offer?
Start collecting references from those who can support your claims of proficiency and experience. Substantiation from former supervisors or department managers may be more convincing than those from former co-workers, but solicit favorable comments about your work from as many sources as possible that indicate both the breadth and specifics of your relevant competencies.

Don’t forget to let your references know you are planning to use their names, and get their permission before doing so. An unaware reference might supply the wrong information, accidentally hindering your chances of success. So give them an idea of where you intend to focus your efforts so they can provide the appropriate validation.

Expect employers to be equally discerning when hiring freelancers as they would full time employees, so assume an employer will check your references. It behooves them to check the claimed competencies of the prospective hire and make sure they find the right person for the job.

How will you promote yourself to find the jobs (your new clients)? Doing your own promotion and marketing – at least at the beginning – can be very time consuming. In the early stages you may find yourself doing more outreach than actual contract work. But hopefully the quality of your efforts will generate word-of-mouth referrals and more contracts. Put all of your networking skills into play!

Keep searching for a job while you’re trying to freelance. The networking for one can lead to the other.

Be sure to consider all of your personal needs for things like familial support, health insurance, regular paychecks, etc. that will be impacted by becoming an independent contractor. Talk things over with your spouse/partner/family to make sure they understand the changes that working for yourself will influence. If you don’t live alone, all of your household could be affected by the decisions you make.

There are myriad other things to think about before you set out on your own, but these are important first steps that you shouldn’t ignore. Talk with your local Chamber of Commerce, or the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) office nearest you; they frequently have information and requirements for people starting businesses. And maybe call your local zoning office to make sure you don’t run afoul of local ordinances when you set up your business.

Flying solo can be a very rewarding and lucrative experience as long as you’re patient, and can handle the inevitable sacrifices. But don’t let that stop you! A well-executed contract job can lead to additional contract work, and sometimes an offer of regular employment. So, go ahead, and spread your wings and take that solo flight!

For other job search and career tips, please visit us at: hanklondon.com