Five tips on how to make your career more flexible

Five tips on how to make your career more flexible

From the perfect personal qualities to managing a varied income, our experts share advice on working for yourself Freelancing is one of the best ways to take control over what work you take on and when. Experts in a recent live chat shared advice on how to make your career more flexible. Here are their top tips:


1. What qualities do you need to be a freelancer?
Joe Wiggins, senior community manager Glassdoor: "Freelancing is not for everyone – you have to have charm, tenacity, commitment to excellent customer service and confidence." Lucinda Moores heads up the interim management practice at global corporate and marketing communications recruiter, VMA Group: "You need the ability to be flexible, adaptable and be able to cope with uncertainty. You also need confidence selling yourself and your abilities, while still being honest. Networking is crucial – always look for opportunities to expand your contacts." Lydia Fairman, founder of Fairman Consulting: "Motivation and resilience are essential – you've got to keep on going. There's no one to kick you if you're under performing. Keep focussed and have a plan, daily and long-term."

2. How can I build up freelance work in marketing and events?
Joe Wiggins: "The crucial thing is to get some client work and case studies under your belt early, so reach out to contacts you have in your industry first." Jon Norris, editor of Freelance Advisor: "I'd urge you to set up your own website, so people can find you. Also, get a very visible public portfolio going. This can be on your website or somewhere else."

3. How can I get into freelance writing/blogging?
Jon Norris: "Finding your niche is the best way to get ahead in such a crowded market place. Start pitching, and as long as your ideas are good, most editors are really receptive to outside pitches. Even if they don't pick you, a relationship is established. Most publications will have guidelines on their websites about how to pitch to them. It normally involves sending an email to a section or commissioning editor." Joel Dullroy, is a co-ordinator of the European freelancers' movement, a campaign to improve conditions for independent workers: "One way is to join a co-working space. There are hundreds of them all over the world, and they are full of freelancers and startups. Even if you don't have much work, it can be useful to visit a co-working space regularly. You'll instantly expand your network and will find people looking to hire."

4. How do you manage the transition from a salary to a freelancer's income?
Jon Norris: "Save up a bit of money before quitting your salaried job. A few month’s worth at least. That way you'll be okay if it takes a while to get your business off the ground." Frank Fenten, managing director of We Love The Web: "Have several months work lined up. It's important to realise that 'cashflow will kill you'. Most businesses pay 30 days after presentation of the invoice and will react badly if you ask for 14-day terms or similar. So, ask for regular, phased invoicing, expect to be paid 45 days after submitting your invoice and plan accordingly. Then, if you are paid after 30 days on the nail: rejoice. Some people pay faster, but very few."

5. Should you be a specialist or a generalist?
Joe Wiggins: "A study by a professor at the University of California, Berkley, found that the freelancers who got the most jobs were those who moved between related job categories. These workers labeled 'incremental generalists' captured more work than 'erratic generalists' – freelancers with work history in a range of unrelated categories. Perhaps more surprisingly, 'incremental generalists' also captured more work than 'specialists' – workers who never ventured away from their core job category."

This article was originally authored by Ruth Martin and appeared in in Guardian Professional..

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