Three years ago I found myself in a frightening situation. I had been laid off two months prior from a failing web development company where I had worked as a content writer. After a few months without income I was feeling the squeeze and my funds were starting to run dry.
Potential employers kept asking me, “What have you been doing for the last few months?” in interviews and I could only lamely respond that I had “been looking for work.” Luckily for me, a colleague from the company that laid me off was starting his own web development business and needed content written.
After agreeing on the payment for the work provided I got to writing on my laptop and it hit me: I was working as a freelancer.
Was the pay good? Not really, but it took care of the bills and rent, and after that first job was done I picked up another one from the same client. This naturally led me to market myself as a freelancer and I continued to pick up more and more odd jobs writing and editing that kept me afloat.
I knew that I did not want to freelance indefinitely, but I saw that freelancing could be a viable means to generate some sort of income while looking for a full-time position. So I embraced freelancing temporarily and I learned a lot from it.
Show Employers That You Are Motivated
An important aspect that the freelancing experience provided for me was the opportunity to show potential employers that I was a motivated and industrious worker on my own.
When asked what I had been doing since my last full-time position I could confidently say that I was working as a freelance writer, and I could back it up with a current writing portfolio. This made me much more desirable to employers and I received many more callbacks than when I was merely unemployed.
I could also be selective when looking for a job and I actually turned down full time positions that I might have taken had I not been freelancing due to one important fact…
I Found Out What I Was Worth
Instead of defining my time by an employer-determined dollar-amount-per-hour, I was able to discover what my time was actually worth as a freelance writer. Dealing with potential clients who wanted to low-ball me was not all that different than dealing with employers who were trying to do the same.
While my freelance portfolio was not extremely deep, I was knowledgeable enough about the market to know what my work was worth, and avoid clients that would try to take advantage of me. I learned to do the same in interviews for full time positions until I finally landed a job I wanted, with pay that matched my worth.
Freelancing Is Not For Everyone
While I was able to pay my bills and stuck it out until I picked up a full-time job, I quickly found that freelancing is not for everyone, including myself. I regularly worked at least 60 hours a week, and maintaining that type of a schedule was difficult for me.
I am the kind of person that benefits from being in a controlled environment and I am a great team player who likes to hash ideas out with colleagues. Those elements help keep me productive and I missed them immensely.
Learn Valuable Skills
As a content writer at my previous job I had absolutely no contact with the company’s clients. The chain of command merely told me what was needed and I provided.
As a freelancer I went through a baptism by fire, where I had to communicate with clients as well as maintain productivity. It was rough at first, but the communication skills that I developed proved invaluable to landing a great job.
While utilizing freelance work as a means to obtain full-time work was originally unintentional (and something that I do not believe happens very often), it is something you can do as well. Now I do not want to suggest that you can just quit your job and start freelancing to make ends meet, because freelancing is a fickle beast at best.
However, if you do find yourself without a job and prospects look bleak, taking the matter into your own hands can keep you sharp and above water.
Thomas McMahon is a writer living in Boise, Idaho.