How to get a full-time job: Bust out of the freelance trap in 3 simple steps

How to get a full-time job: Bust out of the freelance trap in 3 simple steps
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Freelancing is obviously "freeing" in some ways: There's no boss. There's no start time. There's no end time. 

But then again, those very same flexible characteristics can make freelancing a "living hell" when projects pile up — not to mention the annoying quarterly estimated taxes you might have to pay.

And if you're trying to make a living wage? As one writer for Nieman Lab put it: "Freelancing sucks." 

"You are entirely in charge of your income," Lindsey Pollak, a millennial workplace expert and author of Getting from College to Career and Becoming the Boss, said in an interview. "You have to hustle for all the work. There's no regular paycheck. There's strong months and lean months. You don't know which is going to be which. You also don't get paid on time."

Source: Giphy

Given that freelancing can be a difficult career path, for many it's a temporary one. The real question is: How do you actually move from freelancing into a full-time gig?

Here's what career development experts recommend.

To find a full-time job, be upfront about what you want — to everyone.

The first step in transitioning from freelance to a full-time job is to let everyone in your social and professional circles know you are excited for a change, said Pollak, who freelanced for more than a decade.

"What's really important is on your resume, LinkedIn profile and anywhere else you are representing yourself professionally, you have to make clear that you want and are excited by a full-time employment situation," Pollak said.

Don't tip-toe around it.

That's because many employers are secretly worried about freelancers not being completely committed to a full-time gig. To eliminate this fear, Pollak says it's best to be totally transparent in your enthusiasm for switching from being your own boss — to being assigned one. 

"You have to make it very clear how committed and serious you are," she said. "Even in letters of recommendation... ensure that a person talks about how great you would work with a manager, or even in group settings." 

Dana Manciagli, a global career expert and author of Cut the Crap, Get a Job, also says it's best to be upfront about how you plan to handle the change — in everything from your resume to the in-person interview. 

"[One mistake is] forgetting to tell the hiring manager or interviewer why you want to shift from being a freelancer to a full-time employee," Manciagli said in an interview.

"You know they are thinking, 'I'm not sure they can make the transition from working on their own to working for a boss, working within more rules, and working with others,'" she added. "So address it proactively."

Source: Giphy

Network better by thinking big.

Rather than focusing just on employers that you may already have experience with, Pollak says, you must go beyond your comfort zone and research companies that own the businesses with which you've worked — or even their competitors.

Game the system: One positive of freelancing is you are more likely to have an extensive network — so work it to your advantage. 

"I kind of think of it as a web," Pollak said. "You start with the easy options, places where you have contacts, places where you have freelanced. And then look at the vendors or agencies that serve those companies. And then you apply to the competitors. You want to think about everything in the orbit."

In short, cast your net far. 

Impress your future boss by being kind and confident — and owning your story.

Mind your reputation: More than your accomplishments or your pitches or your previous employers, how people feel about working with you matters most, Pollak said.

"I think your personal brand is everything," Pollak said. "I think even more so when you have a freelancing background, because your references will probably be checked more thoroughly. People describe the experience of working with you."

So remember that the way you conduct yourself outside the interview process, too, may very well affect your job prospects.

Ask any willing references to vouch for your character and work ethic, Pollak said, and suggest to them specific workplace-related strengths you have. 

"I really believe in being deliberate," she added. "You don't want to just hope. You want to prep those people and say, 'I just want to let you know, there may be some concerns about my background.' And then you tell them why those concerns shouldn't be an issue at all."

Now, you might think it's a good idea to try to downplay any previous freelance work. But — per Pollak and Manciagli — that's a big mistake. 

Own your story. 

"[Saying] 'I'm just a freelancer and how can I compete against other candidates who have done this type of job?' That's wrong," Manciagli said. "Hiring companies are looking for you and your skills."

Manciagli said she swears by the motto: "Job descriptions are written for the perfect person who does not exist."

Therefore, "if you meet 70% of the requirements, apply!" she said. "Have confidence and know you will make a great employee. Period."

Source: Giphy

And never apologize for your work history. 

"The big danger is getting in your own way," Pollak said. "People walk into an interview and start with, 'You probably don't want to hire me because I'm a freelancing, but...' And it just damages them." 

"Be confident and comfortable," she continued. "Own your story. Own your position. Rather than saying, 'I know I'm just a freelancer,' position yourself as this special person with this great, exciting career."