Checklist for freelancers: Why change to a permanent position?
The IT industry is constantly growing, but at the same time it is being hit harder every year by the shortage of skilled workers. This means that skilled developers practically have the freedom to choose jobs and employment as freelancers or in permanent positions.
The change from self-employment to permanent employment is associated with some prejudices and first and foremost with restrictions. Why is that? After discussions with people who have become acquainted with and assessed both sides, we have compiled a checklist for freelancers to help you decide for or against a permanent position.
1. Modern corporate culture - how is it communicated, how is leadership practiced? What is the climate like, how high is the turnover rate?
Anyone considering a move to a permanent position should pay attention to their prospective employer's working methods and culture: How free am I in determining working hours and location? How open and transparent is communication and how is leadership practiced here? Since the working relationship is designed for a longer period of time, it's important for permanent employees to represent their own views. That's why it's an advantage to work in a company that's willing to allow new ideas and to keep improving.
One permanent employee, who had previously worked as a solo freelancer for nine years, told us about his work in the new environment. The company lives the philosophies "The employees must be happy", "Family First", "We want the work to be fun". He knew the company from his freelance days and knew that he wouldn't be moving from independence to a machine that ignores its employees. That convinced him.
Nevertheless, many freelancers believe that their usual form of employment offers them more flexibility and freedom. To be able to judge this, it's important to try to assess in advance how leadership is practiced in the respective company. Flat hierarchies as well as transparent and honest communication are particularly valued. It is also important to find out what specific offers and opportunities for remaining free and flexible are available within the company. Our discussions revealed that even permanent employees in modern companies have a free hand and can arrange their working hours very flexibly.
In principle, it's advisable to get an idea of the working atmosphere at the new employer in advance. A look at the fluctuation rate can give a good impression of team cohesion. Are there joint events and activities? How do the employees feel about the company? What's the mood among the colleagues? Is there an opportunity to actively participate in the further development and shaping of the work culture and everyday life? These are all factors that should be considered when deciding for or against employment.
2. What do you prefer: Regular new topics or long-term, fixed projects?
Freelancers are well-versed experts in their field who, thanks to their know-how, are able to quickly familiarise themselves with a wide range of tasks and enhance a company. In turn, the company has experienced employees who, over the course of a few years, have dealt with the various customers, industries and projects in a very comprehensive manner. Everyone has to decide for themselves what's more important to them: professionally experienced, temporary assignments or long-term cooperation with trusted colleagues on ongoing projects.
One of our interviewees told us that he had switched to permanent employment because he likes to pursue projects over the long term in order to get to know different aspects of growing projects over time. Also, there are moreregular interactions with familiar colleagues when working in a permanent position.
3. What kind of work equipment is available and what are the benefits?
Good technical equipment is the basis for good work, especially in the IT sector. The design of the office space also shows how much a company appreciates the work of its employees.
Some tech companies think so far that they don't just want to make work easier for their employees, but they also want to make their lives easier. For this reason, they sometimes put together individual packages of bonuses, special benefits, regulations and subsidies that provide relevant advantages for each individual. Although there are also special payments for freelancers in the form of cash bonuses and benefits in kind, these are rarely given. You should be aware that the possibilities of benefits are limited here.
4. What opportunities for further development are there?
Especially in a rapidly developing industry such as IT, whether as a freelancer or as an employee, you need to constantly educate yourself, to keep abreast of modern working methods and the latest developments in the industry.
Our interviewees were interested in the company's attitude towards further training. Some companies offer the opportunity to participate in tech conferences or promote the community, for example by organising meetups. This creates valuable contacts and a network in the industry from which their own employees can benefit. Freelancers, on the other hand, are more or less left to their own devices, have to pay for further training themselves and build up their network on their own.
5. How attractive are the technologies used, the projects and the customers?
The use of modern technologies is important if you want to be able to work at the latest standards. The colleagues who were interviewed stressed that as permanent employees they're happy to work on long-term, growing projects. They also greatly appreciate the constant exchange with trusted colleagues. Being able to develop your own products can also be exciting and the opportunity to gain experience in different customer teams can be a huge plus. These factors can undoubtedly be contrasted with the high degree of freedom a freelancer has in their work.
Last but not least, the view of the company's clients is also important. The attractiveness of the daily work and the successful implementation of a project are largely determined by the client. Can you identify with the products and the mentality and imagine working for it? Answers to these questions can help in deciding on the step to permanent employment.
6. The right time for a change - How can a permanent position help me when starting a family? What kind of salary level can I expect?
In the end, the question of what form of employment to choose is, of course, also a mathematical decision. Some freelancers earn astronomical amounts. But it goes without saying that they take care of their own retirement provisions, health insurance, further training and office equipment.
What is the net income, how many unpaid days for vacation, illness, further training that you get paid as a permanent employee do you have as a freelancer? For this purpose, the effective hourly wage should be compared arithmetically, in order to then decide on the cooperation with a company. Both parties must find a compromise here.
When it comes to starting a family, the freelancer will undoubtedly benefit from having the freedom to organise their time, but young families also have to cope with a number of challenges, in addition to the general lack of security and the erratic income. To keep secure their livelihoods, parents are dependent on getting back into work quickly, as in the worst case scenario, they can lose regular projects and clients. The situation is made even more difficult by the fact that earnings of any kind during parental leave are deducted from the parental allowance and taxes and levies must also be paid. For many people, an early return to work is therefore more of a double burden than a relief. If you want to have enough time for your children and no additional costs for child care, you need to consider well when to start a family.
7. What does a change of this kind in your CV look like? And does it even matter today?
For some years now, CVs have no longer been linear, but rather situation-based. Thus, a change between freelance work and a permanent position is possible at any time - and not just once. The time when people had to be ashamed of their previous professional career or of gaps and terminations in their CV is long gone. The belief in your own strengths and abilities is nuch more important than a perfectly designed, content-optimised CV. Negative experiences shouldn't be suppressed and concealed, but reflected and positively processed. The professional past enables the potential employer to gain insight into the applicant's professional and experiential knowledge and allows the assessment of a successful cooperation. Calmness and self-confidence in your own abilities form the basis for an impressive application - no CV, however perfect, can replace this.
In summary, each person should make a conscious decision in favour of what is best suited to their individual needs when deciding whether to switch from self-employment to a permanent position. This can also mean looking for a longer period of time and getting to know the company beforehand in order to sound out whether it's a good fit for both sides. Nowadays, many companies offer their employees numerous opportunities to enjoy freedom and flexibility. Rigid structures and a lack of adaptability on the part of the employer are outdated, and nowadays the focus is on the long term and mutual satisfaction.
The author Julia Lees is a member of the management team from sum.cumo. She is responsible for the People & Culture division and has been on board since the company was founded.