Transitioning from freelancer to full-time employee: do’s and don’ts

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When you were in college, you started doing small developer gigs now and then, both for the experience and the money. Now, eight years later, you’ve built a successful freelance career as an app developer. You have a roster of steady, loyal clients who rely on you to always find a solution and meet deadlines. You’ve got an outstanding portfolio of work that never fails to impress. And you’ve achieved a work-life balance that allows you to work where and when you want—even if it’s on your rooftop terrace in the middle of the night—so long as you get the job done.

For the one third of the U.S. workforce who work as freelancers, this scenario or one like it will sound very familiar. In the past nine years, an increasing number of companies have begun hiring freelancers. As a result, being your own boss has become a viable career option for many professional and technical workers.

However, even if you’re doing well on your own, there can be reasons to move out of free agency and instead, accept a full-time job. For example, maybe you’re about to become a parent and you want more stability and security for your family. Or perhaps you’ve bought a home and want to be absolutely sure you’ll always be able to make your mortgage payments. Or maybe you already have children, but your freelance income doesn’t allow you to set enough aside for their college funds each month.

Whatever the reason, if you’re about to make the switch from freelancing to being a full-time employee, you should keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:

  • Do be adaptable. Even if you’ve spent your entire career doing things your way and getting great results, working for an employer means being part of the team and fitting into the company culture. Note that most bad hires are a result of a poor culture fit, so be open to suggestions and alternative methods. Who knows? You might even learn something new!
  • Don’t lose sight of your position. Even if you worked for this company as a freelancer before, you’re now an employee with a supervisor—not the company’s decision maker. While it’s okay to offer your perspective on things when asked, don’t overstep your boundaries by offering an unsolicited opinion or assuming authority when none has been awarded.
  • Do keep an entrepreneurial mindset. As Elena Bajic states in her Forbes article “7 Ways to Raise Your Visibility and Advance Your Career,” your ability to think strategically—which you’ve honed as a successful freelancer—will help you advance. Be alert to opportunities you could benefit from, and maximize your skills and knowledge so you become a valuable asset to your employer. It’s also important to note that because you’ve been your own boss, it’s easier for you to understand your supervisor’s point of view and concerns. And that in turn will enables you to make his or her job easier—making you even more valuable.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for flexible work arrangements. If you’ve worked alone for years, it can be difficult to get used to working in the physical environment of an office. However, since you have a proven track record of getting good results when working remotely and independently, it’s perfectly fine to ask for some flexibility in terms of when and where you work. Be prepared to be disappointed, though, since some employers don’t support flexible work arrangements.
  • Don’t give up. Even if you’ve had the worst possible day, don’t give up. You chose fulltime work for a reason, remember? Plus, many of us have a tendency to look back on the past with rose-tinted glasses. So when you feel the need to hide and reminisce about the “good old days of freelancing,” think back to those worrying times when none of your clients had work for you or those 24-hour days when you had to meet impossible deadlines. Then take a couple of deep breaths, and remind yourself that if you could make it as a freelancer, you definitely have all the skills, knowledge, and stamina to make it as a stellar employee!

Switching from freelancer to full-time employee is bound to involve some challenges. So keep these do’s and don’ts in mind, and you’ll improve your chances of making the transition a smooth one.



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