Do your existing role as a freelancer
One option is to do the role you currently do, for the same company, but on a freelance rather than employed basis. Perhaps you base the contract on a specific number of days per month or, even better, a specific set of outcomes.
What matters to your existing employer is not the number of hours you do, it’s the output or results you produce and the quality of your work. If you know your job takes you less than 40 hours per week, see if you can turn your employment into a contract instead. Not only will this free up your time to find other clients, it means you can make better use of your time and achieve more with less.
Cutting out the mundane aspects of employment can be efficient and more enjoyable. Saying no to team-wide meetings, performance reviews and appraisals and needing to clock in and out at a certain time might be the flexibility you’re looking for. This baby step could lead to giant leaps and new opportunities opening elsewhere. If you approach the conversation in the right way, your employer will understand the benefits of not having you as a member of staff.
Join freelance marketplaces
Assuming you want to stick within your current field, you could join freelance marketplaces where you build a client base from inbound leads. People Per Hour, Fiverr, Upwork, 99Designs and many others allow you to list yourself and your skills and secure project-based or ongoing work.
Particularly effective for roles including designers and writers, this approach involves you backing yourself to win clients and putting the work in to create an impressive profile, complete with work examples and references. Once that’s done, it could be an abundant resource of future clients. Securing the first few will lead to reviews on the platform, attracting more people to make enquiries.
Whatever your skills, whatever your industry, there are companies and individuals looking for them. Put yourself out there to make sure they find you. Set up your profiles without handing in your notice, then make the transition to self-employment as your workload dictates.
Work as an associate of other self-employed people
Want to do the work but not the business development? Rather than focusing on finding clients for yourself, create relationships with people doing the same work who may have too much to handle. Busy service providers only have so many hours in each week, and they may be happy to pass you clients on a white label basis, or for a finder’s fee.
See collaborators, not competition. Someone doing exactly what you want to do could be your biggest source of income if you get in with them at the right time. Don’t be afraid to ask the question; you never know where it might lead.
Seasoned self-employed professionals are often looking for ways they can make more money and impact without simply working more. Be confident that your proposal is a win-win situation and be exceptional in every interaction with them. They will be looking at you through the eyes of their clients, so be sure to impress.
Become a contractor for other companies
As well as asking your current employer if you could contract for them, make a shortlist of similar companies you could also approach. Graphic designers, for example, could receive regular work from multiple agencies. Same with telesales professionals, business development, HR and legal experts.
Having a range of companies who know your style and pass you work will mean your weeks are varied and flexible. It gives you freedom over your time and freedom over which gigs you accept.
Start with small projects and build up. Enquire about overflow and see if you can lend a hand, then prove yourself and win bigger commissions. Trusted suppliers are worth their weight in gold, and being the favourite contractor of all your clients will mean the work keeps flowing.
Know your ideal client mix before you begin. One day a week for five separate clients or less regular work with more? Perhaps something in the middle? Collect recommendation and keep meeting new companies until you have the ideal amount of work for your revenue and lifestyle goals.
Create a membership or retainer offering
Could what you do take the form of a membership? Imagine a legal advisor starting a $99 club, where businesses can have ad hoc advice in return for a small monthly retainer. As well as taking their calls, you send out helpful summaries and pre-empt problems that may occur. How many clients could you serve and how much value could you have?
This business model could work well for multiple areas of work. Human resources, accountancy, graphic design, research and intelligence. Mind map your membership club and what members receive, then run it by some prospects and see what they think.
Set your revenue goals and work backwards from there, to ascertain the members required and the monthly fee. Aim to add 10x value so the cost to subscribers is a no brainer. Think about what you could throw in. Think about the benefits your clients will access, being part of your club. Ask your current employer and ask your existing clients. Having access to your wisdom on a regular basis might be exactly what they need.
Five ways to go from employment to self-employment without starting from scratch, so you can take the first step right now. If you’re still not sure, think about the worst-case scenario, and what you’d do should it come true. It’s very likely that, as long as you don’t burn any bridges, you could still go back, in which case there’s no reason not to try. Could one of these options be the one you’ve been looking for?