Making the Transition from Freelance to Full-Time Work

Wondering why people would want to transition from freelance to a full-time job?

Working as an independent professional is a dream come true for most people. Who wouldn’t want control of your own time, freedom to decline projects that don’t seem interesting, and the opportunity to make a name for yourself? Yup, it’s easy to understand why those “tied” to corporate life look with envy at those who do freelance work.

But believe it or not, independence has its share of disadvantages. Working alone can be, well, lonely, and there’s nothing like the company of faces you get to see every day.  Having marketing rest solely on your shoulders is a lot of pressure; going freelance means if you don’t close a deal, you don’t get to earn. You’d also have to forgo benefits like medical plus dental, 13th and 14th month salaries, and paid vacation leaves.

So if you’re considering a transition from freelance to go back to a regular 9-to-5, don’t worry: there’s nothing wrong with you. But you have to remember, such a career change requires big adjustment. Working for a company versus being self-employed are two drastically dissimilar things.

Below are some of the things you have to work on when making the transition from freelance to 9 to 5.

Don’t view (and therefore present) your self-employment as weakness.

Getting full time work when you’ve been freelancing for so long can be difficult. Job recruiters will often take one look at your resume and assume you can’t possibly thrive in an atmosphere of corporate pressure. And yes, this may be true. But this doesn’t mean you’re completely unqualified or you can’t bring something extra to the company.

Think of transferable skills associated with self-employment. Initiative, confidence, self-presentation, decisiveness, and effective project management are just a few. And being in charge of your own business means you’re well-rounded — you’re marketer, worker, customer service, and personnel manager all in one.  Emphasize these skills in your resume and in the job interview.

And if HR wants to talk about how hard you’ll find life in a dynamic company, share how self-employment isn’t exactly a walk in the park. For instance, when they challenge your ability to work with a boss, tell them that freelancing means working for several bosses all at once! Yup, you’re way ahead of everyone else when it comes to managing up.

Anticipate the question: why the change?

As mentioned earlier, many people look with envy at the self-employed, so transitioning from freelancer to employee means HR will have to do some mental gymnastics. You have to be prepared to give an answer that wouldn’t make you appear as if you’re escaping a sinking business (which doesn’t reflect well on you) or you’ve exhausted your energy and creativity as a service-provider. Instead, illustrate how the career change is actually going up the career ladder. You can share, for example, how serving a larger company will give you the opportunity to apply your best practices to a larger market.

Brace yourself: Actually doing a project is demanding work.

If you’re a freelance consultant, you’re probably used to visiting clients only when requested. Being an outsider and an expert, you’re in a position to assess what’s going on in a company and provide qualified advice. The thing is: the perspective from the outside is radically different from the inside. Many consultants, especially those who have not worked from end to end of projects in a good while, do get culture shock when reminded how toxic the ‘real’ world can be.

So start your 9 to 5 with a reality check — and a large serving of humble pie. Your industry may have changed significantly since you went independent; it’s best to start with a blank slate. Some of your work-related muscles may have atrophied from underuse, so take the time to re-learn old skills.  View it as an adventure, like visiting a well-loved place you haven’t seen in a long while.

Get comfortable working with structure.

Going back to a full time job means you have to surrender a lot of control over how you do things. Unless your company offers flexi-time, you’d have to clock in at regular hours. You’d have several heads to consult before you can run with your ideas. There’ll be protocols left and right. You may even have to do more paper pushing than you’re used to.

The best way to go about adjusting into new habits is to just jump into it. Most psychologists say it takes 7 weeks to learn a new habit and about 3 months to settle into it. In the meantime, remind yourself why you decided to make the change in the first place. Structure can be stifling but it can also be comforting — it’s a source of stability. The structure, for instance, means that you would know beforehand how much work you have to do and when you can take your rest. This is as opposed to freelancing where you just don’t know if you’ll have income or you’ll have to work through the weekend.

And lastly, review your social skills.

Not all self-employed individuals have rusty social skills. But those that do (e.g. writers who work at home for online companies) may need to re-learn how to interact again with humanity!

You may have forgotten how to survive little irritants that come with personality quirks, or manage the stress of a diverse team. You may need to resolve conflicts face-to-face instead of email. Breathe deep and remember you’re no longer working alone. There are perks to anticipate anyway such as increased social support and better self-regulation.

With these tips in mind, you should see a smoother transition from freelance to full time work.

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