If you’re happy with your job and lucky enough to still have it, this is not the post for you. On the other hand, if your position has been a victim to COVID-19 or you just feel like you need a change, read on. Maybe you’ve thought about taking the leap to contract work but are concerned about the long-term effects on your future prospects.
It’s time to think differently. Here are four ways project-based work could boost your career in the long run:
Get paid to find—or sharpen—your passion
People pay a boatload of money to refine their skills at college. Freelancers get paid to do it! In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shares the theory that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. We can’t vouch for this particular number, but it is a tried-and-true, oft-repeated principle that practice makes perfect. Once you’re established, you get to bid for/accept jobs that seem exciting to you and decline ones that don’t. As you go, you’ll find your lane and have the freedom to develop it to the point of mastery. Then you can either keep running in that lane as a freelancer or take those finely tuned skills you’ve developed to your next full-time job. Highly-skilled workers with a shorter learning curve have a leg up on the competition.
It’s like a paid audition
Freelancing gets your foot in the door at multiple companies without any commitment. If you love a business’s culture or brand, you may want to make their next project a priority. If you don’t like the experience, you don’t even have to put yourself in the running for the job the next time around. You get to develop your clientele with companies and people you enjoy and then have a built-in connection for future opportunities. If you do well enough on your audition, you’ll get job offers—either for more freelance work or for full-time work. From there, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to accept an opportunity or keep working for yourself. The power is in your hands.
Build your network
Once you’ve achieved mastery in an area, the world opens up. People talk about you. Talented freelancers organically build a robust network that includes both decision makers and people in related fields who will send work their way.
P.S. There are tax benefits
So maybe it’s not a direct boost to your long-term career options, but the tax benefits are a pretty enticing bonus. There are mountains of deductions available to independent contractors (home office, business miles, office supplies, and more). You just need to make sure you keep careful records in order to take advantage of them. Keep in mind, though, that freelancers are on the hook for their own self-employment tax, health insurance, vacation days, and retirement plans.
The bottom line
Many factors determine whether freelancing is the right fit for your life. Managing your own schedule, finances, and other complex aspects of your career is not for everyone. On the other hand, it may be exactly the thing that allows you to live the life you want to live while doing work you love. For others, it might be the right thing, but only for a season. After a foray into freelance, you may want to take all your experience back into a company job. Whether freelancing is a stepping stone to your full-time dream position or the long-term career path you didn’t even know you wanted, there’s never been a better time to go for it. COVID-19 is a challenge, sure. But times of transition are a great time to reinvent or redirect your life.