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How to Go Freelance After Being Laid Off

So far in 2023, it seems like there's another round of massive layoffs every week. The worst part? So many workers are left trying to decide what's next for them. For some, their layoffs were handled terribly, leaving them wondering if another full-time job would yield the same negative outcome. For others, maybe it’s time they became their own boss instead. For anyone looking to become a freelancer after being laid off, we’re here to say it’s a great time to make that pivot—and anyone can do it. After all, right now there are still around 9.9 million jobs open in the US alone, not including all the remote opportunities you might find outside the country. Freelancers offer companies the ability to follow through on projects while hiring. Plus, if you’re a great fit, you might even get to stay on full-time, that is, if you want to go back after experiencing the freedom of freelance.

So, how can you set yourself up to be a successful freelancer after going through a layoff?

Step 1: Assess Your Skills (and Pump Yourself Up)

After being laid off, you’re allowed to grieve as long as you need. Don’t skip the grieving process—but do make time to invest in yourself. Make a list of all the skills you already have that you’re proud of. Then make a list of things you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t had the time. Freelancing offers the perfect opportunity for you to make use of your favorite skills while learning new ones, giving you an edge over some of your competition. Decide exactly what you want to do as a freelancer, become a specialized generalist, and decide who your dream clients are. Finally draft a few sentences that state (1) who you are, (2) what you’re an expert at, and (3) who you’re looking to work with. This paragraph will be your true north when marketing yourself.

Step 2: Revamp Your Resume and Portfolio

Once you know the clients you want, tailor your present-day resume to show them how you’d fit perfectly on their projects. Add that you’re now self-employed and tailor your experience to show off your best skills. Mark your freelancing experience from today onward and never look back. Nip any impostor syndrome you might have in the bud here. You’re not lying about your skills or experience at all—you have just become your own boss, you’re self-employed, and your resume should reflect that. As you progress through working with new clients, remember to come back and add any new skills you’ve learned that make you stand out in your field.

Step 3: Create or Update Your Portfolio Site

Tailor your portfolio for the job you want, not the job you think you’ll fall into. Say it again: you are your own boss! This is a great time to tackle personal dream projects and add them to your website on top of any past job-related projects you still love. Again, you’re not an impostor—you’re showing clients what you are capable of! Just be honest about which ones are personal projects. Then, in your interviews, speak on all your projects equally with clarity and passion. Clients love to work with freelancers who (a) know themselves and their strengths and (b) are continuous learners who are unafraid of challenges.

Step 4: Get Familiar with Freelancing Finances

Many say that the unpredictability of freelance is what prevents them from choosing that career path in the first place. We’re not going to lie, finding clients and keeping clients is an ongoing roller coaster you’ll just have to get comfortable with. But there are some things you can control! Take time to learn when your taxes are due, what type of medical benefits you will need, and tally up your monthly budget, including every necessary living expense. Then decide how much you need to charge in order to make a living where you live. Finally, you can break down what you’d charge per project or on the hour. Find your numbers and don’t settle! You have to do what’s right for you, boss.

Step 5: Reach out to Your Network

Even if you’ve been laid off, you have the benefit that most newbies might not: a network of former coworkers to tap into. Keep in touch with them on social media, meet up from time to time, and let everyone in your network know you are available for freelancing opportunities. Get specific on the opportunities you’re looking for. Also, keep in mind your negotiables—projects slightly outside your scope that you’d still work on and projects you absolutely won’t go near. This way you can stay true to your freelancing career goals and yourself.

Consider everyone at Artisan a part of your network, too! Our recruiters are always here and looking to partner freelancers with our best-in-class clients. Let us help you make some serious career moves…

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