WORKING as an independent professional is a dream come true for most people.

Who wouldn’t want control of their own time, freedom to decline projects that don’t seem interesting, and the opportunity to make a name for themselves?

But believe it or not, independence has its share of disadvantages.

Working alone can be lonely, and having marketing rest solely on your shoulders is a lot of pressure.

Going freelance means if you don’t close a deal, you don’t get to earn. You also have to forgo benefits like medical and paid vacation leave.

So if you are a freelancer deciding to go back to a regular job, don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with you. Just remember, such a career change requires a big adjustment.

Here are some of the things you have to work on when making the transition from freelance to 9-to-5:

• Don’t present your self-employment as a weakness:

Getting full-time work when you have been freelancing for so long can be difficult. Job recruiters will take one look at your resumé and assume you can’t possibly thrive in an atmosphere of corporate pressure.

Think of transferable skills associated with self-employment.

Initiative, confidence, self-presentation, decisiveness and effective project management are just a few.

And being in charge of your own business means you are well-rounded — you are marketer, worker, customer service and personnel manager all in one.

Emphasise these skills in your resumé and in the job interview.

If the interviewers talk about how hard you will find life in a dynamic company, share with them that self-employment is not exactly a walk in the park.
 
For instance, when they challenge your ability to work with a boss, tell them that freelancing means working for several bosses all at once.

• Anticipate the question, “Why the change?”:

You have to be prepared to give an answer that wouldn’t make you appear as if you are escaping a sinking business (which doesn’t reflect well on you) or you have exhausted your energy and creativity as a service-provider.

Instead, share, for example, how serving a larger company will give you the opportunity to apply your best practices to a larger market.

• Brace yourself — actually doing a project is demanding work:

Many freelancers get a culture shock when reminded how toxic the “real” world can be.

So start your return to regular employment with a reality check — and a large serving of humble pie.

Your industry may have changed significantly since you became independent. Take the time to re-learn old skills. View it as an adventure, like visiting a well-loved place you haven’t seen in a long while.

• Get comfortable working with structure:

Going back to a regular job means you have to surrender a lot of control over how you do things. Unless your company offers flexi-time, you will have to clock in at regular hours.

You will have several heads to consult before you can run with your ideas. There will be protocols, and you may even have to do more paper pushing than you are used to.

The best way to go about adjusting to new habits is to just jump into it. Most psychologists say it takes seven weeks to learn a new habit and about three months to settle into it.

In the meantime, remind yourself why you decided to make the change in the first place.

Structure can be a source of stability. It means, for instance, that you would know beforehand how much work you have to do and when you can take your breaks.

This is as opposed to freelancing where you just don’t know if you will have income or you will have to work through the weekend.

• Review your social skills:

You may have forgotten how to survive little irritants that come with personality quirks, or manage the stress of a diverse team.

You may need to resolve conflicts face-to-face instead of by e-mail.

Breathe deeply and remember you are no longer working alone.

There are perks to anticipate, anyway, such as increased social support and better self-regulation.

Article by Kay Vardeleon, an associate writer with Sandbox Advisors, a firm which helps people with careers, job search and training in Singapore.