Want to Start Gigging in 2018?
Here’s How (and Why) I Switched from Traditional Employee to Independent Contractor
I can’t believe I missed his Christmas performance. Dammit!
It was December 9, 2016. My husband and I were running into my son’s preschool from our respective offices, just 5 minutes shy of when my 2-year-old’s performance was supposed to start. Thinking that all of the parents were in the room, the teacher started early. But not us — we ran in as the last notes of “Jingle Bells” were sung.
My son was beaming in his handmade green Christmas tree hat, as he ran through the crowd of parents to greet us. I immediately was a bucket of tears. My husband tried to console me and say, “at least he won’t remember that we missed it.” And while that’s true, it was no excuse. I had to do better for my family.
A few days later, in the midst of the holiday chaos, the conversation began. I had a great job, but something had to change. I didn’t want to continue missing these moments with my two young boys. Approximately six months later, I switched to gigging and I haven’t looked back. Here’s a little bit about how I got there.
First, I crunched the numbers.
To start with, my spouse and I had all options on the table. Do I take a timeout completely from work? Should I try to work part-time? What about full-time? We crunched numbers for all of these scenarios, and the sacrifices we needed to make for each.
I also began to talking to an accountant. She gave me more things to consider. Should I work as an individual contributor or should I build a business and incorporate? I decided that the former would work better for me at this time.
Then, I began my research.
I like to study up before embarking on a new adventure, and being that this was my riskiest move yet, I needed to be ready. I read a slew of business books, the most helpful being “The Gig Economy” by Diane Mulcahy.
I signed-up for websites that offer flexible job opportunities, such as FlexJobs, Upwork, SkipTheDrive and Remote.Co. I followed advice on how to start a business from SoloPRPro and Remotive. I spent at least half of those six months on the research gathering phase. I wanted to figure out some of the pitfalls of gigging, before I made my move.
Next, I did an inventory of what I was good at.
One of the first recommendations offered in “The Gig Economy” is to do an inventory of your skills. I took a pen to paper, and wrote them all down. Ones I felt mastered, others I was experienced at, and those I wanted to learn. I tried building a portfolio that showed my diversity, and allowed myself to be open to new types of gigs and industries. I could revisit a previous career opportunity or start a new one. In this new lifestyle, I had to be open.
Once I set my goal, I reached out to my network.
I knew early on that my no. 1 goal was flexibility, so I could spend more time with my family. In exchange, I was willing to sacrifice pay and perks. I kept that goal in mind as I reached out to my network of personal and professional contacts.
“The Gig Economy” suggests writing down five people you deem successful, and I wrote down at least ten. I contacted mentors, friends, former co-workers and people I admired professionally — especially those that had gone out on their own successfully. I set-up coffee meetings and phone calls; I listened to their advice and took notes. I am thankful I found people that were so generous with their time, so I in turn, try to do the same. There is no substitute for good ol’ knowledge sharing!
Around the same time, I went to work on my brand.
In public relations and marketing, you spend your career focused on making others look good, and its easy to forget about marketing yourself. I was no exception.
Several people that I spoke with said I needed a website, but as an individual contributor, I wasn’t convinced I needed a full-fledged site. Instead I opted for an about.me page, which you can do for free and link it to all of your social networks. I even paid a little extra to buy my domain name for a year— elisabongiovannismith.com. It may be long, but it’s mine!
Around the same time, I also spruced up my other business-oriented social networking sites, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. I rejoined the local chapter of PRSA, and went to more industry events. I began sharing more content related to PR, marketing and media on those channels, and started my blog on Medium. I thought a blog, if I struck the right tone, could showcase my skill set to prospective clients and employers.
Then came the waiting game.
Now that I had set myself up, I knew this wasn’t the time to make a hasty decision. I sent resumes that went nowhere, got turned down by a potential prospect, and even questioned my own decision at one point. Was I doing the right thing? Did I have enough hustle in me to make this work? I found that I had to be patient to find the right opportunity. And I was fortunate enough to find my gig through a former colleague, by being in the right place at the right time.
Lastly, I prepared for the unknown.
Once I finally gave notice on my permanent full-time job, the panic set in. I had always been a traditional employee, so transitioning to be an independent contractor, with no health benefits or pension, was scary. But I had to trust my gut, and make the leap. I had a supportive family that I knew would love me, if I failed or not. I gave myself six months, and here I am a year later with no regrets. If you too are at this crossroads in your work life, I wish you the best on your next adventure. Make 2018 your year to make that change. Anything is possible.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please feel free to share your gigging tips or advice on starting up your business below. Happy New Year!