Freelancers' Questions: How to explain you’re quitting for self-employment?
Freelancer’s Question: I’ve read up on the tax side of transiting from employed to self-employed, but it’s the two big conversations in between I’m worried about!
Primarily, I am just not sure how to go about bringing up with my employer that I wish to leave and become a freelancer. What should I actually tell them?
Also, how should I broach with my freelance client that I am already employed, and under my current contract, would have to give a month's notice to my employer before I can begin working for them independently?
The background to all this is a bit bleak. I’m fed up with experiencing that harrowing feeling I get in the pit of my stomach from continuously turning down freelance jobs I would love to do, but don’t because I choose a sense of security for a job that I don't really enjoy anymore.
Expert’s Answer: This is such a relevant enquiry right now, as the covid-19 pandemic is shaking up long-standing ways of working for many individuals. So you are not alone!
Firstly, regarding where you are employed now, try to be clear with your employer from the outset about your own transition timeline. That means being coherent and up front about what you currently have going on and how you plan to finish -- or how you plan to efficiently pass on your workload or knowledge. The latter will help reassure your employer while it will also begin to manage your departure from the workplace and your eventual move to freelance working.
Plant the seed, don’t drop the bombshell
But keep in mind -- it is not always helpful nor as effective to have one BIG conversation.
You can start ‘seeding’ where you’re heading. For example: “I’m considering becoming freelance for my own personal reasons but haven’t quite decided yet” -- just to see how this statement lands.
You don’t have to explain or apologise, you’re offering information and the key is to get your own head straight that this is about your future, your career, your way that you like to work, and want to work. It’s not about you being selfish or letting anyone down.
After your initial seeding, look for opportunities like one-to-ones or appraisals and use these to build the picture a little further. The trick here is to make sure you don’t procrastinate and don't waste your time and your employer’s time.
Start with a new client as you mean to go on – with ‘the best policy’
As to how to broach the delayed start with your prospective client, your best bet is to be honest. That applies to all clients, not just those of single-person business owners.
With a new client, you want to build your future relationship on trust and being open with each other. It depends where you’ve got to with your negotiations but in your question you state ‘freelance client,’ which makes me think you’re already engaged or very close to being engaged as a freelancer.
Flashpoints? Here’s three phrases freelancers can deploy to snuff them out
Further relating to the date when you can start actively supplying the client, keep in mind that if they want to work with you, they’ll simply have wait until they can. And from what you say, it’s not going to be too long.
With potential flashpoints such as these, it’s all about how you position things. The following few phrases, which you can use separately or all together, should get you off to a good start:
“I’m so excited to support you with your projects and I’m passionate about what you’re planning.”
“I’ve just resigned from my current role and I know you’ll understand I have 4 weeks’ notice to serve – so by X of December, I’ll be ready to get hands-on.”
“Let’s get all the expectations, fees and project scope agreed in the meantime so we can hit the ground running then.”
Future-pacing (a.k.a. managing expectations)
So with the above key phrases, you’re future-pacing your freelance client with positive actions and timelines, again without the need for an apology.
As you exercise your freelance muscles, you’ll get used to these kinds of sensitive, respectful and critical conversations.
Managing people’s expectations comes from a place of service so they don’t feel left hanging, frustrated or – worse – duped.
That harrowing feeling…
Finally, let me address that “harrowing feeling” you get! Taking a chance on yourself and your ability to do work which you love is what so many people wish they had the courage to do. It sounds as if you’ve already decided and your questions relate to the ‘how’ to communicate your decision.
Well, good for you and let me wish you all the very best as you take that leap of faith and trust in yourself! Running your own business is one of the biggest self-development exercises you can ever undertake and – if you find you’re not enjoying it – you can always pivot, again. It’s your career and wellbeing, no one else’s.
The expert was influential communication expert Kay White, the author of two bestsellers – The A to Z of Being Understood and It’s Always Your Move. Kay works with corporations, SMEs, and private individuals to show them how to become more savvy, influential communicators. For more details and to connect with Kay, please visit www.kaywhite.com.