The American dream is no longer anchored to a traditional 9-to-5 job, as countless millions of once-salaried employees can attest to. While the economy is showing signs of improvement, the bloom is off the rose.
Workers are now well aware that swearing loyalty to a single company is a gamble in many respects, and as a result they are flocking to the freelance world in droves.
After all, working a series of gigs or consultancies offers many compelling advantages -- including the freedom and flexibility to work where, when and with the people you choose, as well as the ability to market yourself across an array of organizations, instead of just one. Striking out on your own and securing your niche in the world of freelance is the new call to action for the motivated.
If you are among those considering leaving your 9-to-5 job and pursuing a freelance career, the two key questions you are likely facing are when and how to make the transition from one employment paradigm to the other.
When to leave your 9-to-5 job
Knowing when to leave your 9-to-5 job is a critical, very personal decision with some leading indicators including one or more of the following:
- Your health is being compromised: If the stress associated with your job begins to take a toll on either your physical or mental health, then making a change is urgent. Escape with your health before it is too late, and instead channel your energy into making a career shift that will serve your body, mind and spirit in the long-term.
- Your career is at a stalemate: If you have reached the so-called glass ceiling and one or more factors are preventing you from advancing within the confines of the traditional framework of your industry, investigate how working in a non-traditional capacity within your industry or a related field could open the door to new, exciting possibilities.
- You are bored at work: If you consider the fact that the vast majority of our waking hours each day are spent engaged in work-related activity and that we also spend the vast majority of our adult years working, then a boring career is akin to a boring lifestyle in many ways. Imagine how dramatically your life would change if you were excited about your work. A life lived in Technicolor instead of monochrome awaits you.
- Your thoughts are consumed by work: The political wrangling that often accompanies a 9-to-5 work environment can pollute your thoughts both on and off the clock. These thoughts may interfere with your ability to enjoy your everyday life or to initiate bad habits. Bitterness about work may cause you to distance yourself from family and friends or lean on substances such as medications or alcohol for relief. Instead of sacrificing everything in the name of work, embrace a freelance career in order to feel energized and excited about your work and free yourself from much of the politics that traditional employees face.
- You just know: Sometimes the best gauge of when to leave the 9-to-5 world of work is something you just can't explain. We all know when we have reached our limit or when we are ready for change. Follow your intuition.
How to leave your 9-to-5 job
Once you know that the time is right for you to make a move to freelancing, it is important to take calculated steps on your way out the door for a successful transition. Here are a few steps to get you started:
- Test the water: Take on a few part-time gigs before you quit your day job. See if the world of self-employment is a good fit for you. Do you have the personality, determination and marketable skills necessary to make a go of it?
- Land a few regular clients: Set a foundation for your leap into freelancing by having a few projects on tap to get you started. It will make the transition easier professionally, emotionally and financially.
- Leave the door open: Leave your current position on good terms. Now is not the time to tell off your boss and storm out of the building. Burning bridges scars the reputation you carefully built up and protected while on the job; don't blow it in the last few moments. Exits leave a lasting impression that can rarely be repaired.
- Leave a trail: Just before you exit from your current position, be sure to let your co-workers and clients know that you are going out on your own. This will allow them to potentially throw business your way or tell you of opportunities they may become aware of.
Leaving your 9-to-5 job requires some careful thought well in advance of the big day when you walk out the front door of that office building for the very last time. Knowing when and how to leave are keys to a successful career transition.
Related Stories from Readers Digest