Freelance versus Employee

Museum of Scotland by Mama Pyjama under Creative Commons Licence

For 14 years I worked as an ‘in-house’ fundraiser and enjoyed working in a range of jobs and sectors – including a stint at RNIB Scotland; raising sponsorship for the National Museums of Scotland; and heading up the fundraising team at Edinburgh Napier University.  So why leave a secure job – with a pension – to the relatively unpredictable world of a freelancer?

Well, first of all, I’d gained a huge amount of experience during the preceding 14 years and wanted to have an opportunity to build upon those.  There were really only two options.  The first, was look for a Director’s position while the second, was work for myself and build a client base.  It was the second that had more appeal, not least because I’d always wanted to work for myself and I knew that if I didn’t make the move when I did, I’d probably lose my nerve or get too used to the regular pay cheque to ever do it.  I’ve always enjoyed the variety that fundraising brings to a job – different projects, donors and deadlines – and I knew that I’d enjoy working for multiple clients on a range of projects all at the same time.

Handing in my notice without having a job to go to was a strangely liberating (if not slightly terrifying) experience.  I’ve never resigned without having had a job to go to and usually when I’d resigned in the past I was going off to what was effectively a promotion.  What on earth was I facing?

Luckily, I hadn’t worked in a vacuum for the past 14 years and had built up a good network of former colleagues, board members from previous organisations and of course, donors that I’ve worked with in the past.  I made sure that everyone knew that I was now working for myself and was lucky enough to have secured my first contract within two months of resigning from my old job.  And I’ve never looked back.

What I enjoy most about working for myself is the opportunity to work with organisations whose work I have an affinity with – and whose work varies enormously from one client to the next.  I’ve worked with educational charities, heritage organisations, galleries and children’s arts organisations – and everything in between.  I’ve developed fundraising strategies; delivered training sessions to staff and board members on fundraising; run focus groups and interviews with stakeholders; developed feasibility studies and, of course, carried out fundraising for clients – from developing projects for the fundraising ‘market’ to raising the money they need to deliver their key goals.

However, not only have I had the chance to use my skills to help my clients but I’ve also had the opportunity to learn a huge amount about different organisations and their needs.

Yes, the hours are often long when I have deadlines to meet and I have missed the chance to bounce ideas off colleagues – as well as the banter.  But trading that off against office politics, commuting and missing out on family events has made it all worthwhile.  It’s quite liberating knowing that you have to rely on your own resources to land a piece of work and see it through – and I’ve been lucky enough to work with other freelance colleagues on various projects, which has helped increase my skills while also providing a good sounding board too.

Would you like to go freelance?  What’s stopping you?

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