There comes a point in our career, especially during the mid-career stage, when many of us think of quitting the corporate job and look for a more fulfilling career or set out to move on and devote their time to pursue things close to the heart. After all, not everyone is cut out for a typical, rather predictable, 9-5 job. When this feeling hits hard, it makes many to take the big leap, even ignoring risk factors such as fear of failure or the comfort of losing a steady paycheck.
The main factors that drive people towards this change are creativity, passion, a need for bigger challenges, and seeking new adventure in their work life. At this stage, a majority of them are mostly left with three choices to make – to quit the job and either start working as a freelancer, work as a consultant, or become an entrepreneur.
Being a Freelancer
Freelancers are independent contractors who provide concrete and tangible deliverables. There are quite a few advantages of being a freelancer. The first and foremost is that you have flexible working hours. You need not work in the usual 8-hours day job. Instead, you can actually work during hours which result in better productivity, and those hours necessarily do not have to fall in during regular business hours. This option allows you to choose your customers and work remotely. Besides, there are no managers who will micromanage your tasks. Freelancing allows you to define your own rate plus you get to keep the complete share of the profits. Unfortunately, at the same time, being a freelancer means that your income and source of work or workload are unstable and inconsistent. Identifying new clients to find work can be a daunting task. Also, not having enough work can put one in a financial risk. While working in the corporate sector you are usually entitled to benefits like health cover, annually paid sick and vacations days, etc., but with freelancing, the day there is no work there is practically no money. Thus, freelancing empowers professional freedom but it also invites instability and the risk of dealing with regular career ups and downs.
Being a Consultant
Consultants offer professional and expert advice to management of the companies to help them make informed decisions or accurately forecast an outcome. A career in consulting can be a dream come true for many people but at the same time, it can hamper your career if things do not fall into place. For example, a wrong decision taken can put your position in jeopardy in front of the senior management of the organization. However, a consulting role helps you to gather the inside information and help build a strong network within the specific industry. Having a solid network always makes things comfortable and helps to get things done in a quick span of time. A consultant is presented with new learning opportunities. You are not stuck with the same kind of work for a long duration. Consulting knowhow can guide you effectively in challenging future endeavors. Consulting also gives you more flexibility to work from home or a remote office or even a hotel if you are on the move. Challenges in this field could include poor work-life balance, extensive travel, and pressure from the executive team. However, while evaluating the pros and cons of being a consultant, it is important to note that some of these key factors that are relevant for an individual may not necessarily matter to other individuals.
Being an Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship is a different game altogether. As Seth Godin has mentioned, entrepreneurs work towards building a business bigger than themselves. They work towards building systems and hiring people that can replace them. Entrepreneurs have the general tendency to take risks and they manifest their vision in the form of a business. The vision, motivation, and goals behind the career path differentiate between a freelancer and an entrepreneur. The greatest advantage of being an entrepreneur is the opportunity to be your own boss. You create your own pathway to success. When it comes to managing your own business, you can choose everything from the marketing strategy, delivery methodology, timelines, and product design. Entrepreneurship is usually an exciting opportunity wherein each day brings in challenges to test your abilities, skills, perseverance, and determination, and somehow work does not seem like work because you are doing what you love to do. Entrepreneurship also gives one freedom to work wherever and whenever they want. In addition, your income is directly linked to your efforts and success. The flipside to this is there is no source of a steady income and one has to give up the comfort of drawing a regular paycheck. Also, you need to be ready to face the competitive market, bring in sales, and turn your business into a profit-making venture. Consequently, there are no fixed work hours and most of the times entrepreneurs spend more time at the office than most of the employees.
Every choice has its pros and cons and there is no right course of direction to be taken. One simply needs to be 100% sure and choose wisely about the next choice to be made. The right answer here is the one that works best for the individual.