How safe is your “job security”? Is it time to start freelancing?

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Hands down, the most common reason GDB readers haven’t made the change to start freelancing is because they fear the loss of “job security.”

And while I’m a huge advocate of having a day job (only if it adds value to your life and lets you pursue your passions in life…remember, don’t hate freelancers with full-time jobs), I have to wonder why job security seems to be such an issue.

I mean, think about it for just a sec:

Which is more secure, a job where you punch a clock every day (metaphorically or not) or one where you work your tail off every day to find new business, build avenues of passive income, and define your own success?

At any minute…

You see, at any minute your boss could decide to fire you.

Your company could decide to downsize.

Your company’s clients could go out of business or customers could stop buying.

And then what are you left with?

How secure is your job when your success or failure can be determined by so many external factors?

Not that secure.

The real fear

So the real fear that seems to be creeping up is not the fear of losing job security, but fear of taking complete control of your success.

If you’re working for someone else, you don’t have to chase customers and clients (usually).

You don’t have to market the business, build a client base, and track revenue and expenses.

All you have to do is come in everyday, try not to suck, and get your job done well.

So what you’re really afraid of, possibly, is the responsibility of managing a real business.

And you should be scared

Frankly, it’s ok to be afraid to start freelancing.

It’s not easy.

But to say that it’s any less stable or “secure” than a full-time day job is just smoke a mirrors.

You’re really afraid you can’t live up to what it takes to start and run a business.

The truth about job security

If you can get past the fear that you feel when you think about breaking out on your own, you’ll realize that a freelance gig is actually much more secure than a standard day job.

Chance of getting fired? 0%

Chance of getting let go through downsizing? 0%

Freedom to start freelancing and build your business and you career exactly like you want to? Priceless. (I know, cheesy. I couldn’t help myself.)

So real job security lies in creating something for yourself. Something that depends on you and you alone. And then it depends on confidence. If you believe you can do it (and I believe you can!) then you can do it! You can start freelancing right now.

A day job isn’t bad

But a day job isn’t evil.

I have one.

Lots of freelancers have them.

But what if my boss (knock on wood) walked out of his office tomorrow and fired me.

Would I be completely lost? No.

Would I be able to pay my mortgage and feed my family? Yes.

Because I also freelance part-time and could easily transition it to full-time if I needed to.

Now that’s job security!

How secure is your day job? Is it worth putting off your your dream to start freelancing? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. I think the biggest fear is not about job security but about having enough work as a freelancer to bring in a consistent pay cheque.

  2. Great Article. It really hit the nail on the head for me. I have a full time job and do freelance design work on the side. I’m not as afraid of starting my business as I am losing my day job (which I hate & it barely puts food on the table…) I constantly question why I keep my day job and your article makes me question it more.

    The biggest reason I still have my day job is because I haven’t build up my freelance clients enough to quit my day job. The bad thing is that I have several connections at my day job that would use me for freelance projects, if they only knew I was available. However, I know that if anyone at my day job finds out that I freelance on the side, they would fire me in a heartbeat. How do you tell your day job clients that you freelance on the side but to keep it quiet so I won’t get fired?

    • Depending on your day job responsibilities, it is none of their business what you do in the evenings as long as you are not making a conflict of interest, or in other words, stealing your day job’s business. Tell your co-workers that you do freelance on the side. Tell them proudly! I have my day job and my freelance business both on my LinkedIn account. Just don’t work on freelance stuff at your day job and you’ll be safe.

      • Thanks Tim.

        I design billboards at my day job and do all kinds of graphic and web design work on the side. I don’t think it’s a conflict of interest (it’s not like any of my billboard customers would pay me on the side to design an ad for them that I could do for free during the day), but I think the owners of the company would think it’s a conflict of interest although I agree that it’s none of their business what I do after hours.

        In the end, freelancing is what makes me happy, not my day job, so I am going to stop living in the fear of losing my horrible job & focus my efforts on doing what I enjoy…freelancing.

  3. Freelancing is specially relevant if you don’t live in big city. When you’r freelancer your location is less important.

  4. I agree with your assessment of the Fear Factor, as a reason for not starting a freelancing career. I graduated with my degree in design in 2008. I could see that the economy was going down, hence I secured an internship with ended 5 months sooner. I realized that I may have to become self-employed, so I purchased as much equipment as possible to start my own business. It has been a struggle. I have worked for three clients, all of which I made mistakes with. However, I do not regret the mistakes, I have gained valuable information from my mistakes.

    I have found one thing to be true in my case. You have to acquire a backbone to be self-employed, hence I work part-time in the late evening (6:00-10:00 PM) to support myself, which leaves the greater portion of my time to build my business. I work part-time in retail so as to improve in my sell skills and it is a great place to network with people working in many unheard of professions.

    One retired couple gave me great advice, “Start small and build up.” They said that too many small business owners try to grow their businesses too quickly, which can lead to failure. This is what brought me to your website. I was seeking information concerning how to approach business owners using business to business selling techniques.

    I hope that you will continue to be a source of support to us Freelancers. I hope to be of encouragement to other designers who are desirous of starting their own business.

  5. i agree 100% thats why i love to be a freelancer being my own boss is the best thing i ever do

  6. So funny this landed in my inbox the day after I was notified as of June 2013, I will no longer be employed and my job has been outsourced. Funny thing is I’ve been freelancing part-time on the side for the last 2 years. While I have a good amount of time to find a job, I’ve built up my business to the point I’m always turning down clients because I don’t have the time to take them because of my full-time job. I think I can do it full-time if I needed to. I think I might actually do that because of the reasons you’ve outlined in the post. I guess we’ll see!

  7. Hello,

    First excuse my english (french is my mother tongue).

    Well I am a bit disappointed reading that you are (only) a part time freelancer. Which in my point of view makes your post quite useless. Your are describing the bad sides of being employee vs being freelancer but your leave both situations at the same time… Every situation has got good and bad sides, in your case you are taking advantage of both.

    You should maybe know, or not as you are a part-time employee, that the biggest concern of freelancer is to get clients and work. I think you cannot fully taste how this can turn into a fear until this responsability is holding only on your own shoulders and you don’t have any B plan (part time job as employee).

    Sorry but it this situation I think it is impossible for you the be fully accurate with this.

    Despite of this, I fully agree with the fake idea about the job security. I was an employee during almost 20 years. I was fired of all my jobs, not because I was performing bad, all employers were very happy with me, but because of downsizing the company, need better performance for the stock quotation of the company, and other business related reasons.

    Yes being a freelancer is quite hard because you have to have the will to regularly go to find new clients, but I prefer this kind of stress because I feel I am in charge of my destiny. Being employee gives you peace of mind, well until you get a burn out, or you get fired, which is usually lived as a big Tsunami in everyone’s life, compare to the waves you go through as a freelancer.

    I was reading your post regularly as I thought you were giving good advices, but again I am disappointed to read that all those good advices are coming from someone who is not leaving the situation at it’s full taste ! I am very happy to take advices from people who were going through the same experience than mine…

  8. Very inspiring article, the truth is so clear that self employement is safer than employement.

  9. I got tired of knucklehead owners sinking the ship and having no say about important things.

    Here’s my work history:

    Company A 1975-1986 closed by bankruptcy, lost job
    Company B 1986-1992 imminent bankruptcy, got new job
    Company C 1992-2003 imminent bankruptcy, quit, began freelancing
    Company D 2003-present My own business, all Photoshop production work. Happy, secure, only work with folks I like.

    In my case, the benefits have far out-weighed the “security” of a normal job.

  10. Love this article; great points! I must say, if I were still employed at a day job, it would be a lot more difficult to accept the truths mentioned above. However, after losing my job when the firm I worked for went bankrupt, I discovered how sucking it up and struggling through the startup process was the most relieving and free experience I could’ve had! I love being my own boss, and as many have said before, I’m sure I’ll never go back to my old way of life. To anyone reading this article and considering a change… Do it already!

  11. Can’t agree more, Preston! It happened to me:

    I wasn’t happy at the company I was working at, so I started looking for another full-time job. Within the month, they told us they’d be downsizing our department from 4 down to 1. Three days later I cleaned out my office (crying), severance check in hand.

    I was so scared. My “security blanket” was gone, or so I thought.

    Now I’m a freelance designer and I officiate youth sports. I’ve got more job security than I ever did at my full-time job, better health insurance, and I’m happy!

  12. When my business partner and I started our business almost 2 years ago we both committed to making our business the “day job” and then make up for any lost income by working side jobs. Knowing that there are always other means of making money is reassuring. I waited tables all through college and I’ll do it again if necessary. Owning a business is hard work but when your own success is on the line, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

  13. I appreciate that your writings cover not just design but all aspects, mental and physical, of running a freelance gig.

    This is the very thing that I have been struggling with the past month or so. I’m an inch away from making the leap to freelancing part time. This line of thinking could be therapeutic for some (it is for me). Bringing all the fears out in the open and addressing them is always the best way to move on.

    I am employed full time in print production and I constantly run into freelancers and small business owners of all ages who work their tails off to make a living and integrate with the community. I’m proud of all of them because they each have a lot to lose but do it anyway. This decade will be won by those take a hold of their circumstances despite the economy and try to build independent enterprises.

  14. I started my own freelance business this past April. I just got my first client on Thursday. I had everything in place months ago, but I was scared to take the plunge. For me, the fear is failure. Not getting enough clients, not being good enough on my own. Luckily, my first client approached me because of my reputation at my day job. Now I feel the addiction to getting more business. If I knew it would feel like this, I would have pushed myself months ago.

    It’s definitely hard to let go of the day job. I plan to keep mine forever, but some people have said not to write off the idea of being a full-time freelancer. I think it’s a matter of taking things slow and steady. We’ll all get to the point where we can say, “Now’s the time to let go of the day job.” Or we won’t. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone’s different when it comes to security. It’s a matter of what suits the person.

  15. Also as a freelancer it is very important to know when to say NO! In the everyday pursue of a getting projects I as a freelancer just agrees to whatever the client as to says. I have ended up with loads of bad clients just because i wanted to bag in the project at that particular time. Until recently i learnt its good for both , the clients n me, to understand the needs properly n to say NO whenever in doubt

  16. My hours at my “day job” have been recently cut. I would love to do more freelance and for that to grow into my primary job, but I’m unsure at time of how to go about getting clients. Suggestions?

  17. In this economy, the greatest asset you have is your talent.If you’re talented at what you do, and there’s a need for that talent, then you’ll always be able to find work,especially freelancing job.The security problem is a problem but the advantages surpass the weak points.I think we should do freelancing jobs.
    We can work flexibly and have a better control of our income.Also,we can creat a strong network of contacts.And we are happy to do that,so why not?
    I sincerely recommend some websites we can get access to the freelancing jobs,like Witmart,Elance,Odesk,ect.

  18. Alonzo Perkins says:

    Wow this was great!! I needed this!

  19. I have to say… Thank you Preston for making you website font a comfortable size. Kimberly’s is friendly and personable. Selena’s is a bit jumbled.
    Anyways, the rows of small images in the porfolios were somewhat of an overload for me. I like it simple and one by one. I wonder if graphic design is suited for me.

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