I have been freelancing for over 15 years, but recently accepted an offer from one of my customers to join their team as a full time employee.

I am worried that after so long being self employed that I am going to find it hard being part of a team again, where I am no longer independent or an outsider. That perhaps I have lost some of the skills needed to survive and excel in the permanent workplace.

What can I do to ensure this transition is a success. In particular, what common mistakes have you seen new team members do, that might help me avoid some of the pitfalls I might have overlooked.

The team I am joining is very good. I am committed to this and want to do well, but am now nervous that perhaps my self employed mindset might manifest in strange ways, or that actually stepping back into the workforce will be more difficult than even I am expecting. It has been a very long time since I have worked in a big organization. I am trying to prepare for it as much as possible.

Edit: In particular, what steps can I take to best prepare myself for this transition, in joining this new team?

  • You haven't given us a specific problem we can help you solve.
    – keshlam
    Oct 10, 2016 at 21:34
  • I have tried to edit the question and yes, I know it might fall foul of the 'opinion based' criteria. I realy would value any insights though. The particular problem is "How can I prepare myself for joining a new team after such a long time self-employed" - I should add that.
    – PaulD
    Oct 10, 2016 at 21:42
  • 3
    Good question. Taking total control. Being independent. Working very hard but never clock watching (often in my pyjamas until the early hours of the morning). Delivering above expectations. Being able to say no. Choosing who I work for. Planning my own tasks. Being the consultant/expert on my topics. Giving advice. Maximizing profits. Doing everything, from marketing and networking to fixing the toilet. Devising new things to sell. Changing things whenever I fancy, or because I am a bit bored. Doing whatever I like, whenever I like. Activities that are not very "employee" like.
    – PaulD
    Oct 10, 2016 at 22:33

3 Answers 3


I'm sure others will have additional comments, but I would say that you should avoid the assumption of tenure, seniority, and familiarity with the owner.

Just because you've freelanced for them - the outside guy who can do something the inside people can't - doesn't mean that your ideas are better than those of the full-time employees.

Just because you've freelanced for them for 3 years doesn't mean you have more seniority than a full-time employee of 2 years.

Just because you're friendly with the owner, and may have dealt with him/her directly as a freelancer, doesn't mean you get to step over the chain of command. Be especially careful to even avoid the appearance of this.

  • 2
    Thank you. That is very good advice. I had not thought of that aspect. I will give that considerable thought. I edited out some of the things you are responding to here from the original question, but what you describe here is something I almost certainly would have fallen foul. You are absolutely right in that I can no longer just get on the phone and discuss stuff with the owner. That would no longer be appropriate. Thank you again.
    – PaulD
    Oct 10, 2016 at 21:44
  • To this I would add, get to know them and make sure you impress them with your capabilities and competence before trying to engineer any kind of major change in how they do things. You are used to your own standards, etc, but you need to follow theirs. Suggestions for change from newcomers are never welcome. Build a solid reputation with your new coworkers before disrupting how they do business.
    – HLGEM
    Oct 11, 2016 at 17:58

There's three major things people seem to have an issue with.

Firstly time. Just getting up every morning and going to work, where before you got up when you wanted, left when you wanted, worked at night if you wanted. All that now becomes set hours and can take some getting used to.

Secondly, other clients. You may have been involved with multiple clients on multiple projects, you may even still be expected to support things. This can get pretty messy. For instance I couldn't take a full time job even though I'm offered them regularly. I have too many commitments which would hurt several companies if I neglected and my reputation would take a huge hit.

Thirdly is the loss of authority, your status basically just dropped from CEO to worker. This isn't too difficult to master though. The rest is just basic common sense, you'll get used to working as part of a team quickly enough.

  • I must admit the drop in status really missed me by. I have closed my company and emptied my offices, am about to contact existing customers etc and that has been strange but also a bit of a weight lifted to be honest. I did consider being told what to do, fixed hours, and reporting to people, but had not thought about 'status' per se. So thank you. As for getting up and set hours, the plus side is 24 days holiday and 8 bank holidays. That is nearly a month and a half of pay for nothing! I had completely forgotten about holiday pay. No wonder having employees is so expensive!!! What a bonus.
    – PaulD
    Oct 10, 2016 at 22:14
  • 2
    Status affects your interactions with all and sundry, it's important, as a freelancer you talk to CEO's and financial controllers as equals, your status is basically higher than anyone under them. So your personal network often consists of very powerful and well connected people. Your status amongst your erstwhile peers will take a hit. Apart from family, my wedding was attended by several CEO's and financial controllers for example.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 10, 2016 at 22:35
  • 1
    Yep, so after you have hard earned it, you lose it, that's my point. It does make a difference socially, and life isn't all about work. I can leverage my personal network for all sorts of things outside work. Once you get a full time job that status changes.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 10, 2016 at 22:40
  • 1
    I see your point. Especially about socially, I am no longer a small business owner but an employee. Yes there is a drop in status. However this is not an issue for me because after so long self-employed and loving it, for the last 6 months that passion had waned considerably. I needed a change. To be part of something and to help build something bigger than me, to be part of a team again. Now I want to make sure, having committed to the change, that it is as successful as I can make it.
    – PaulD
    Oct 10, 2016 at 22:57
  • 3
    Best of luck, if you had the guts to go it yourself for so long, you can handle anything
    – Kilisi
    Oct 10, 2016 at 23:00

I've been freelancing for about 5 years and only recently got a real office job. I love it. No more dealing with the stress of budgeting time between client meetings, finding contracts, and, most importantly, actually working.

Being able to come in, do what I'm told, and leave has been truly liberating for me.

Starting out, I thought the biggest hurdle would be getting up in the morning and dealing with the commute. I couldn't have been more wrong. For me the biggest issue is dealing with "closing time". At my company, you can only stay as long as the managment stays. If they want to leave at 5, you leave at 5. It may seem like an odd complaint, but I am used to having the freedom to sit down and work for 18 hours straight if I want to.

Oh, and make sure you keep your days straight. There is nothing more frustrating than thinking its thursday when its friday. You'll think Oh, no problem I can finish this in the morning. But come saturday morning, you realize your mistake and that thing you didnt finish will be hanging over your head all weekend.

  • 1
    Some great points there, thank you. And you are right, I can already feel the weight lifting from my shoulders as I am closing down. I hope it will be as liberating for me. I also think getting up in the morning is going to be an issue, so great to hear that from you. Also, about working 18 hours straight, absolutely, when you are in the zone you keep going.Thanks for those comments. Much appreciated.
    – PaulD
    Oct 11, 2016 at 13:25

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