How to Make a Seamless Transition
From Full-Time Employee to Freelance Professional … and Pick Up
a New Client Or Two to Boot!

Let’s say you’ve been working on building your own home-based business for several months now.

You’ve put together a solid, well-researched business plan … built a professional looking, lead-generating website … contacted many promising prospects … and landed a few great clients.

Finally, the fruits of your labor have started to pay off … and you’re making enough money from home that you can leave your full-time job and devote 100% of your time to your growing home-based business.

Whoo-hoo!!!

There’s one thing you’ve got to do first, though, before you clear your desk, “punch out” for the last time, and start celebrating your freedom. And that’s to give notice to your current employer.

But before you do that … before you do anything, for that matter … PLEASE remember that to give yourself the best chance of building a successful and lucrative freelance career – right from the start – it’s absolutely essential that you …

Don’t burn your bridges! Everyone’s heard the stories about people going postal and cursing out their bosses, coworkers, the company, the clients, and just about everyone and everything else in between before storming off … or even worse.

Use your head and stay professional. Take the high road. Remain calm, cool, and collected until you go … no matter how disgruntled you may or may not feel. Even if you’ve had an absolutely horrific work experience during your employment (yes, it does happen), don’t use your final weeks as an opportunity to get in “the last word” with those who may have frustrated or wronged you during your time with the company.

Look at it this way: You’re about to start a new life as a freelancer! You’re going to be working for yourself … with no boss, no commutes, no time-clock, and none of that other yucky 9-to-5 garbage. You’re sitting pretty now, and that’s something to feel really good about. Let those feelings run through you instead of rehashing any unfortunate experiences that may have happened in the past.

Here are some pointers for “making the leap” from full-time employee to freelance professional:

Prepare your “departure” speech in advance. Once you’ve decided you’re moving on to freelancing, don’t just storm into your boss’s office one day and say, “I QUIT!” Why? Because you ALWAYS want to leave on good terms, no matter how you feel about your current job.

You see, not only can your boss give you a glowing testimonial that can help you find freelance work in the future, he can also refer potential clients to you through his network of contacts. What’s more, he could also become your next freelance client.

So THINK before you SPEAK! Come up with a plan for exactly what you want to say.

Since each situation is different, you’ll have to come up with your own reasons for leaving. Just make sure to keep things polite and professional.

One more thing to keep in mind. When you do finally give your boss your notice, make sure you go in with a warm, positive, confident, relaxed attitude. Don’t worry … there’s no need to be nervous. Simply state why you’re leaving in plain, simple, honest terms, and you’ll be fine.

What should you say? Here are some ideas:

  • Why you’ve decided to go freelance
  • That you’re grateful for the opportunity to work for the company
  • Your ideas for ensuring all ongoing projects you’re involved with will be completed or delegated – without a hitch – by the time you leave …
  • This one is KEY: How your on-the-job experience could benefit the company in the future in a freelance role

Agree on an exit strategy that works for both you and your employer. Even if you’re financially ready to start working on your own right away, don’t just pack up your stuff and leave skid marks without giving advanced notice. You don’t want to put your company – or yourself – in a bind.

There are several things you must take into consideration before your last day:

  • The ongoing projects you’re still involved with
  • Ensuring there’s a replacement for your position
  • Anything else related to your position that needs to get handled

Do you have a plan to have all of this taken care of … before you go?

Make sure you do. You DON’T want to stain your professional reputation by leaving prematurely. It could come back to haunt you later in today’s incestuous, everyone-knows-everyone business world.

Give enough notice to your employer AND take care of everything you need to take care of in-house before your last day of work. Keep your professional reputation nice and clean.

Tell the boss your plans to move on IN PERSON. This is just common courtesy. Don’t email or call or text message or fax your boss to say you’re leaving. That’s just flat out rude. And no matter what, don’t tell any of your coworkers you’re leaving before you tell your boss, either.

If your boss finds out you’re leaving from one of those “loose-lipped” co-worker types – before you tell him – that could lead to an uncomfortable AND totally avoidable situation. Your boss will feel disrespected to find out about your plans that way … and it could seriously hinder your chances of getting a testimonial or future freelance work from him.

So make sure you go into the office and tell your boss – in person - that you’re leaving … before you tell anyone else.

Conduct yourself professionally in your final weeks. Once you give your boss your notice, the rest of your office will probably soon find out about your plans. Again, just like before, don’t burn your bridges. Speak positively in terms of your experience with the company and your co-workers.

If your co-workers ask you why you’re leaving, just say something like, “I’ve always wanted to work for myself, and I feel now’s the right time for me to do this.” If they try to pry out of you any negative feelings toward the company or its employees (some people just LOVE to hear “office gossip” – especially from those who are leaving), don’t take the bait! Just say you’re grateful for working there and leave it at that.

Get as many quality testimonials as you can. Getting a quality testimonial from your current employer will be a big help to you once you go freelance. It will help prove to your prospective clients that you’re experienced, you know what you’re doing, and you’re worth working with.

By the way, by no means are you limited to just your boss when it comes to getting testimonials from your current job. If you’ve worked with the marketing director, graphic designers, salespeople, outsourced professionals, or just about anyone else, you can ask them for testimonials, too. As they say, “The more, the merrier!”

One thing though: Make sure you get their permission to use the testimonials in your marketing efforts.

Send a “thank you” note once you’ve left. This is such a simple thing to do … yet it pays off in spades. People appreciate it when you show gratitude. And it’s something you should do anyway. After all, your current employer has helped you keep a roof over your head and food on your table.

Make it a handwritten note, too. It’ll show that you went out of your way to show your appreciation in a personal way … and your former boss just may remember that extra effort if he ever has a need for a freelancer with your skill set.

Stay in touch. Once you’ve parted ways with your former company, make an effort to stay in touch from time to time. How can you do that? You can email your former co-workers links to online articles relevant to their industry. Send them a postcard during the holidays. You can even get together with them socially. After all, it’s likely some of your co-workers have become good friends!

In short, you’ll want to let your former employer know you’re still alive and kicking and working on your own. By doing this, if they ever have the need for a freelancer, your name will be at the top of their minds, and they might just contact you to ask if you’d like to consider taking on a new project.

That’s right. If you play your cards right, you can …

Turn your current employer into a freelance client! Just because you’re leaving your company, that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing business with them. In fact, you’ve got a built-in advantage from the start. Think about it. You know the products … the services … the marketing … who the decision makers are … the challenges the company faces … and many other things that will give you an advantage from the start.

State this in plain, simple English to your boss. Before you go, you can simply ask him to keep you in mind if he ever needs a freelancer. Be sure to hand him your new business card if you have one. State what you can do for the company as a freelancer. Point out all the benefits of working with freelancers, if necessary. Get permission to keep in touch. Then, you can follow up with a coordinated marketing plan via email or snail mail.

Also, ask if he knows of any other companies that could use your freelance services. One of the best ways to land new clients is through networking and referrals, so take advantage of this with your already built-in network of contacts at your current company.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll guarantee yourself a smooth transition to the fun and freedom of the freelance lifestyle.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: December 17, 2008

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