One of the most asked question as regards freelancing or the gig economy is the “How do I get started?” People ask this question because they are scared of the unknown; they don’t want to leave the ‘devil they know’ to become trapped by the supposed angel – freelancing – that they don’t know. Katja Berlinger puts perspective to this as she answers some questions about the gig economy.
Katja Berlinger is a great example of a successful transition from a full-time job to a freelance career. From a regular and traditional career that started from working with her law degree in 1999, she has used it as a base to launch into a freelance career offering professional board membership services for different enterprises across multiple industries.
I asked how she made the switch from law to portfolio management. “I used my legal mandates to create trust and then I used the trust to change into new roles, “she says. Katja reckons that her success has much to do with her being an “entrepreneur by heart” despite having law as a base education.
At present, she either heads, or is a part of the board, for 9 companies. This feat is a testament to her work over the years and her uncanny ability to build bridges with every job – no matter how small they seem. In her words, she says “Sometimes I observe that people hesitate to engage in jobs because they are waiting for the big great one. They end up waiting for a long time. Starting projects on a small scale gives both sides the opportunity to test whether the benefit is mutual. Oftentimes, small opportunities can develop into new exciting and big projects.”
Her primary goal in these companies is to help them “re-invent” themselves. She opines that reinvention is a critical need for established companies and thus provides ample opportunities for freelancers to tap into. This also means freelancers need to constantly reinvent themselves, primarily by updating the skills they have and by learning new ones.
Her endeavours have also been noticed back home in Switzerland. In 2012, she earned the Generation CEO award - an award sponsored by the German Ministry of Equality to promote German-speaking women in business. Lastly, I asked her what she enjoys most about being a freelancer. “The greatest benefit is to be able to choose whom you want to work with and that your daily life is never boring,” she says. On the downside, however, she believes it’s “that things can change and that you need to invest time into the acquisition of new mandates that are not paid.”
In summary, here’s her advice for freelancers already started or looking to start:
Have an anchor skill. In her words, “An anchor skill is something that you are 100% good at and that you bring to the table in any case.” She says that every client who wants to engage you must know what they’re getting when they do.
Don’t be afraid to start small: Start from where you are and use every job/opportunity to build a bridge to the next opportunity.
Be flexible: Stretch yourself by engaging in collaborations. Learn new skills and don’t be afraid of new challenges.
Trust is a valuable currency in the gig economy; earn it and use it to your advantage.
Our special thanks to Katja for this very informative and inspiring interview.