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The Gig Life: How to Move From Full-Time to Freelance

Jul 22, 2020 | 11m

Gain Actionable Insights Into:

  • How to position yourself to attract the projects you want
  • What Scope Creep is and how to effectively tackle the issue
  • Why freelance work may not give you the kind of flexibility you dream of


Laying the Groundwork

Why does freelance life call out to you? Most people want to be gig workers because we crave flexibility – to do the kind of work that gets us excited, while also being able to take time off when we want to. This sounds great on paper, but ground realities are slightly more complicated. To understand the nuances of gig work, you’ll have to take off your rose-tinted glasses and accept that gigs will take up your time, effort, and energy in the same way that full-time work does.

However, you will have the ability to choose the kinds of companies and projects you work on. In India, the gig economy is still in its early stages, so the culture of working for three months and taking three months off isn’t viable yet. However, you can choose to space out your gigs in a way that gives you more flexibility than a full-time job would. It’s crucial that you understand (the sometimes unglamorous) realities of gig work before you decide to quit your full-time job.

If you’re in finance, data analytics, project management, or communications, the good news is that companies are fairly open to taking on gig workers at all levels for these functions. HR strategy is another field that is increasingly being outsourced to gig workers. Swiggy, India’s largest food delivery platform, approached me to set up their Talent Management strategy. This goes to show that companies are willing to take on gig workers not just for junior, scripted work, but also for strategic and analytical roles.

How to Prepare for Gig Work

Before you take the plunge, it’s important to clearly define your personal purpose. What do you want to experience and learn beyond a corporate life? You should know your “why”: why do you want to shift from a full-time job to freelance work, which is not a very mainstream choice? To discover your purpose, look at the past jobs you’ve had, and what aspects of the work struck a chord close to your heart. What areas made you happiest?

I was previously the Head of L&D, Culture and Diversity and Inclusion at Diageo India. In my journey of discovering my purpose, I asked myself these very questions. My answers led me to a few insights: I was passionate about building capability and transforming culture. I wanted to live my dream while enabling others to enjoy their work and achieve their aspirations. My purpose guided me to make the choice to step out of a full-time corporate role to help others achieve their growth potential.

So the first step you should take if you’re looking to transition from full-time to freelance is to clearly articulate your personal purpose. This will help you define your area of expertise and attract the kind of work that truly resonates with you.

The next step is to make a list of the pros and cons of freelance work. Come at the decision from a practical perspective. Stepping out of corporate life would mean giving up the comfort of a regular paycheck at the end of every month. How will you sustain yourself without it, especially during periods when you don’t have a gig lined up? You would also need to think about how freelance work would impact your household income and expenses. You should also list out the benefits you expect to gain from being a gig’er.

After 20 years of corporate life, I wasn’t sure if I could pull off being a freelancer while sustaining myself. I grappled with whether it was worth the risk of not having a stable income. I planned my exit from corporate life a year before I actually quit my job, and within the first month of quitting, I had second thoughts. But eventually, I found my bearings. Stories of people who were successful gig’ers – learning immensely with the projects they took on – empowered me to keep going. Knowing that my husband supported my decision and had my back was also comforting.

After you make a list of pros and cons, take time to introspect on which factors bear significant weight to your life. What is important to you? If you’re someone who derives immense peace of mind from a regular paycheck, then gigs may not be for you.

One of the most exciting opportunities that gigs afford is the ability to choose the kind of projects you take on. In corporate jobs, people tend to be largely restricted by their job descriptions, and usually spend their time meeting goals and deliverables. Gigs allow you to do what you love, but across various companies. In order to make the most of this prospect, you should narrow down your areas of interest and expertise from the get go.

Uncertainty can be daunting, and taking a plunge into the unknown world of freelance is no exception. The great news is that there are a lot of successful gig specialists out there who can help you visualise what to expect. Reach out to these gig specialists, most of whom you can easily find on LinkedIn. You could ask them what a day in their life looks like, and about the challenges and benefits they experience.

These conversations will give you a better sense of whether the gig life is for you, at this point in time.

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Rukmini Giridhar

Former Consultant




Making a Career Switch