I hear a lot about job security these days. Being married to someone in the military, it’s clear government jobs come with an unprecedented amount of longevity compared with the private sector.
Of course, there’s a level of unease in any job, including my husband’s. But that’s because he and many of his colleagues have never held a non-government job; their fear is of the unknown. As a freelancer I’ve got 0 job security. And that’s a good thing for me and my clients. Here’s why.
You show up.
While many people in across industries and job functions are highly motivated, there are plenty of folks who spend a few hours in the office each day searching Facebook, planning their next vacation, or generally daydreaming. I know because I’ve done it. We all have. But showing up and being on is built in to the freelance lifestyle. It’s unavoidable.
You can go into your office and decide to spend 3 hours of your day searching Facebook. But you can’t bill for that, which means you’re not getting paid for it, unlike someone at a salaried job. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work. Efficiency pays.
Not only do freelancers have to hustle to get work, they have to hustle to maintain work. Imagine at any second you could be let go from your job. That’s freelance.
Your job security is only as good as the work you produce. On Every. Single. Project.
Here today, gone tomorrow is a distinct possibility. There’s no formal process your employer has to go through to let you go. No heads up that you’ll be out of work if you don’t step it up. No severance package if it doesn’t work out. So you revise until you know you’re presenting your best work. You meet (or exceed) deadlines. And you prove to your clients every day why working with you is a good choice.
You don’t get complacent.
As a freelancer, you’re always looking for the new idea, a new angle, a new approach to an old medium. Providing something that another freelancer or full-time employee can’t provide is an advantage. Otherwise, your employer can likely find someone who can provide the same services cheaper or faster.
You channel that worry of not always knowing what lies past next month into bringing your best to every project. As a result, you’re always learning and staying on top of what’s happening in your industry. Plus, producing great work strengthens your portfolio and earns you more work. Word of mouth is an extremely important facet of getting new work, too. And when a client likes your work and likes working with you, they’re more likely to pass your name on to others in the industry that may need your services.
You direct your future.
Instead of letting work come to you or seeing where things land, successful freelancers proactively seek out projects they want on a continuous basis. There’s no once-a-year resume update right before applying to jobs. Resume, portfolio, LinkedIn: they’re constantly updated and refreshed because you’re always job hunting. It’s not a one-and-done thing.
You learn that you have the ability to direct your course, that you can look for and take on projects that interest you and turn down work that may not bring out your best. You often take on more projects than your 9-5 peers, and you look for ways you can add extra value.
Are there people that do these things in any job–even those with tenure or guaranteed retirements? Of course. But that motivation can easily wane on any given day. As a freelancer, you can’t let your guard down if you hope to make a living solely from your freelance work. Ambition is an intrinsic part of the lifestyle. It’s this drive that job security can kill. For those with steady work, it’s critical to set goals that ensure you’re constantly working to maintain that spirit and push yourself to bring your best every day.