Laid Off From Work: How to Turn Lemons Into Freelance Lemonade

Written by Elizabeth Wellington on September 22, 2017

Getting laid off from work surprisingly opened an entirely new chapter in my life. When I struck out on my own as a freelancer, I took an “in-between” job to hold me over as I slowly transitioned from full-time employment to life as an independent contractor. I needed some time — and some income — to help me imagine a new future, and working for a study abroad program that summer helped build that bridge. It was a temporary position, and one that I could pick up every year (or so I thought) if I needed the extra income.

After a few summers of assisting study abroad students and freelancing on the side, my boss told me I wasn’t welcome back. He explained that, despite having worked for them before, they needed to bring in some new people. At first, I panicked — but with a bit of time, I realized that being laid off from work could be the push I needed to fully invest myself in a new career. Had I continued to lean on that job, I never would’ve gone “all in” on my freelance work without losing it.

Getting laid off from work is never easy — it’s jarring, upsetting, and financially difficult — especially when you’ve never worked outside the realm of a nine-to-five office before. With a new strategy and a shift in attitude, you can turn this awful moment into an opportunity to create a lucrative career as an independent contractor.

Make a List of Your Skills, Passions and Experience

Even if you’ve only been in the workforce for a year or two, you still have skills and experience worth paying for. The first step in developing a thriving freelance business is to zero in on your best characteristics, your experience and your passions. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a photographer ever since you started photographing your friends’ weddings for fun. Think about offering to assist a photographer or two in your area and feel out the possibility of pursuing the work full time.

Build a Simple Freelancer Brand

So, you’ve decided to become a freelancer, but you need a website to showcase your services. When you think of building a new website, do you imagine a lengthy, expensive process? It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, use Wix or Squarespace to pull together a professional-looking website in a day or two. If that even feels like too much, rely on your LinkedIn profile and build a simple About.me page in an hour. Keep the copy and designs simple, and focus on highlighting your strengths as a consultant. Pair this website with business cards from Moo — they’re easy to customize, and they’re extremely affordable.

Tap Into Current and New Networks

When you get laid off, it’s easy to feel as though you want to bury your head in the sand and never come up for air. As natural as that instinct is, it’s not the way to jump start a new career. Once you’ve taken some time to process this big change, reach out to your network. Talk to former colleagues, friends, neighbors and professional acquaintances. Tell everyone you know that you’re planning on turning your skill set into a consulting business.

You probably already have a network, but it doesn’t hurt to widen it. Join some platforms built for independent contractors, like CloudPeeps, Catalant, Toptal and Clarity.fm. These platforms offer high-paying work for freelancers of all industries and skill sets, and they’re the perfect place to start. By putting yourself out there, you’ll get some extra exposure. Even if it takes a little while to get your footing, it’ll lead to increased opportunities.

Getting laid off is nothing short of terrifying. But no matter how challenging it is, you can take your future into your own hands as a freelancer. If you can get creative about what you offer, build a simple (but compelling) brand and tap into current and new networks, you’ll line up meaningful work — and maybe even snag a job offer in the process.

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