Getting in the Game: From Freelance Contract Work to Full-Time Employee

Getting in the Game: From Freelance Contract Work to Full-Time Employee

Dennis Nishi

Wall Street Journal, Career Journal logo Becoming a full-time employee after a career of freelance contract work isn't always an easy transition. Some employers view those who've specialized in freelance contract work as a flight risk, or as lone wolves not suited to working in the type of collaborative environment required of a full-time employee.

What's more, some companies have trouble deciphering the resumes of longtime independent consultants, since freelance contract work often doesn't fit into the traditional resume style of company, title, years worked and responsibilities.

Approach Your Clients

To overcome this stigma when trying to become a full-time employee, first tap into your network of employers. Connect with past and present clients who already are familiar with your freelance contract work, as they may be more receptive to considering you as a full-time employee – or might even create a new job for you. Try getting a referral from an employee or trusted third party.

When you approach these contacts and potential employers, explain why you're ready to become a full-time employee now. "Clearly articulate why you're at this place in your life and career that you want to make this transition from freelance contract work," says Diane Adams, vice president of human resources at Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions, a Chicago-based creator of software for the health-care industry. She says it's important for hiring managers to hear that you want to contribute in specific ways and can learn something by being a full-time employee, too.

Make sure you're specific about your experience – both in your resume and cover letters, and in person. Even more than a regular job hunter, it's important to portray what you've done "in a results-oriented way," says Brian Drum, president of Drum Associates, a New York executive-search firm. "Companies will look on that more favorably because it's hard to decipher when you just say you're an accountant."

Mr. Drum adds, "What did you do? What did you accomplish? Show them." Even if your freelance contract projects were short, list them on a resume or discuss them in terms of revenues created, costs saved, new customers gained and the like.

You can use the job description of the position you want to apply for to prioritize your resume and cover letter. "Usually, the skills and qualifications are listed in the order of their needs," says Mr. Drum. Your resume should be tailored to reflect that. "If you don't have the right keywords for that specific job, you might get bypassed, regardless of the experience you have," he says. "Most resumes are not only scanned electronically, they're read electronically." Take some time to add keywords from the job listing to your resume when they're applicable.

Work With Others?

One question you'll need to address quickly – even before an employer brings it up: Can you work well with others? Be prepared to provide examples of collaboration during your freelance contract work, including how you've worked with clients, vendors and other third parties. If you've done community work with a group like the Rotary Club or served on a nonprofit board or helped coordinate a big event at your child's school, use those examples to show you're a team player.

Finally, don't shy away from promoting the skills that have made you successful at freelance contract work. Successful freelancers are typically driven, hardworking and independent, which are qualities that you'll want to emphasize. Use your ability to handle many assignments or contracts as a way to show you are adaptable, and can evolve as a full-time employee.

This article is reprinted by permission from, © Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.

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