Freelancing is a step towards entrepreneurship—and a career in itself

Is freelancing just a stepping-stone to bigger and better things? Or should wannabe entrepreneurs instead see the value in what the freelance lifestyle has to offer? Freelancing can provide the crucial experience you need to become an entrepreneur.

It’s Friday afternoon at the office and with one eye glued to the clock and the other glued to the door the day feels like it’s never going to end. That desk job that had promised so much at the start has left you dreading Monday mornings.

Daydreams of running your own small business begin to surface during long, dull meetings, but there’s something holding you back from making that leap. That something is lack of experience. It’s what is feeding a lack of confidence, which could keep you chained to your desk job forever.

A lack of experience is the key factor preventing many people from making the break from their 9-to-5 jobs and setting up their own business.

At CareerFoundry we have heard countless stories from people with big ideas for startups or apps that are going to change the way people order take-away/buy accessories/date but have no clue about accounting, hiring staff or managing a team. However, there is a straightforward solution to help people like these gain experience, contacts and confidence: freelancing.

In this post we are going to look at how freelancing provides you with the skills you need to become an entrepreneur, and the value of a freelancing career in and of itself.

Freelancing—A unique working lifestyle

Working freelance is the best way to get to know yourself, your product/service and to build a network of similarly-skilled professionals, freelancers, clients and advisors. Not only that, but freelancing is a way of life that affords a lifestyle that working for someone else simply does not. Four day weekend, anyone? It’s yours every weekend as a successful freelancer. It is also a way of life that is no longer possible once you are responsible for other people (your staff) when running your own company. Freelancing is a unique working lifestyle, that, when it works, can provide you with the ultimate life/work balance, a great income and a tangible freedom that isn’t possible when working for anybody else, or when anybody else works for you. As Ash Read, respected marketer and freelance guru explained to us about his choice to work freelance:

“The freelance lifestyle has allowed me to take control of my time . . .  I now, where possible, try to fit work around my life, rather than life around work.”

Big opportunities—less risk

There are a number of similarities between freelancing and setting up your own company that make both options attractive to graduates and career changers alike:

  • The opportunity for flexible working
  • Freedom
  • Sole responsibility of financial decisions and budgets
  • The desire to get your name out there as a professional in your field.

The difference, however, is the amount of risk involved. If lack of experience and lack of confidence are what have been holding you back from quitting your job, then you need to start getting some of both. And this is where freelancing comes in.

If you’re a wannabe-entrepreneur, you should try the freelance route first, get a feel for your desired industry, build up experience and a network, and then reconsider whether starting a business in this field is still a viable and worthwhile option. Is it even still what you want to do? Or have the perks of freelancing sold you on the benefits of working for and by yourself? By launching your entrepreneurial career in this way you’re:

  • Reducing the risk / cost of starting up your own business
  • Building up contacts
  • Gaining valuable experience
  • Learning about yourself, your product, your competitors and your clients

This is certainly one way of seeing freelancing as a first step towards running your own business. But we would argue that the benefits and lifestyle of working freelance can outweigh the multiple pressures and responsibilities involved in running your own business. Freelancing should be seen as a legitimate option in its own right, not just a stepping stone. If it works for you, why not keep at it?

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