Freelance to Full-time: 6 Red Flags from a Recruiter

job interview

While I certainly love freelancing, working a regular full-time job has certain advantages that you just can’t get anywhere else. With health insurance, retirement plans, and growth opportunities on the table, switching from freelance to full-time might make sense.

Personally, I took a full-time job after years of digital nomadism and loved it!

However, hiring managers may be hesitant to bring on former freelancers. After all, if this lifestyle is so great, why would you ever want to leave?

Last week, I spoke with Devan Deratany, a Digital Marketing Manager and former Technical Recruiter at BlueWave Resource Partners. It’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about hiring freelancers.

Common Red Flags When Hiring Freelancers

According to Devan, hiring managers may be hesitant to hire former freelancers. 

“The main benefit of being a freelancer is the flexibility and playfulness of your projects. You can work with WHO you want, WHEN you want and in a lot of ways, on WHAT you want. That is rarely the case when working for one employer.”

Because this lifestyle is so flexible and fun, it sometimes can be confusing why anyone would want to go back to a 9-5 job.

Unless your resume or cover letter explicitly outlines why you’re making the switch, hiring managers will likely have the following thoughts.

Will you return to freelancing?

As with most enjoyable things in life, it’s hard to quit and never look back. Working for yourself means freedom. You set your schedule, choose your clients, and can work from every corner of the world.

Hiring managers know this all too well. The company interviewing you may have seen several people jump ship and return to freelancing shortly after being hired.

You can calm your interviewer’s fears by stating why you want to work full-time and that you plan on staying for the long haul. Now is the time to talk about your career development goals and using your entrepreneurial spirit to benefit the entire company.

If you plan on going back to your past life, that’s okay! Just be honest about it and explain when and why. That said, I highly suggest you reconsider making the change to full-time. Perhaps working a contract role would be better suited for you.

Are you able to work well under others’ direction?

This one might be tough for some of us. I know having bad bosses in the past motivated me to jump ship and work for myself, but you cannot let this motivation turn into resentment. Hiring managers want to make sure they bring on team players, and even an ounce of contempt will be a red flag.

To quell any fears, explain that freelancers often take instructions from others. While you may have more freedom than the average worker, you still have to do what your clients ask of you. You have to meet deadlines and adhere to the client’s standards. After all, if you don’t deliver the work, you don’t get paid.

If you’re still freelancing, will you be spread too thin? Will you give all of your attention to this role?

The modern business landscape is changing, and it is not uncommon for people like programmers or creatives to use their skills on the side. However, you should not plan on freelancing when you take a new full-time job. No matter how much extra time you may think you have, you want to focus all your attention on your new role.

Aside from these time constraints, many companies have strict rules regarding freelancing. Your employer may require you to sign a Non-compete Agreement that forbids you from working in a similar role for their prospective, current, and past clients. Other forms may prohibit freelancing altogether.

While the enforcement of these agreements is questionable, you should honor your word. Be honest about your ongoing commitments and ask if the company allows moonlighting.

You’re just taking the role for benefits/stability

I’ll be honest — I took a full-time job in large part because I wanted health insurance and a mortgage. Although this wasn’t my main reason for transitioning, it certainly motivated me each time I submitted an application.

Your interviewers may ask about this, and it is totally fine to say you want benefits. Companies offer benefits to entice applicants and retain their workforce, so there is no reason not to use them.

Any organization can offer you stability and perks, so make sure you prioritize why you want to be at that specific company when addressing this issue. Now is the time to talk about aspects of their business that appeal to you, such as their history, leadership, or products.

You’ll get bored

If you’re like me, freelancing appeals to you because there is so much variety. No two days are the same, especially if you work short-term contracts.

Are you sure you’re ready to work 9-5 every day in the same office with the same people? How long do you plan to stay with the company?

Your interviewers may bring this up, and your response will be quite telling. It’s certainly fine to leave a company for better things, but this does not mean jumping ship after a few months.

Hiring is expensive, and companies want to retain their workers. Make sure you inform the hiring managers that you are ready to commit and cite specific reasons why you won’t get bored with the work.

For example, I took a full-time job at a creative agency after years of freelancing. We had a constant rotation of clients, so I always had something exciting to look forward to.

You’ve been working for yourself for _____ years, what is making you want to all of a sudden work for someone else?

If freelancing is so awesome, why are you ready to give it up?

Here’s a tip from Devan:

“The best advice I could share with a freelancer wanting a full-time opportunity is getting your story straight. Simply saying ‘I’m ready to get a normal job again’ isn’t going to cut it. Know your WHY. What’s the catalyst for this change? A hiring manager needs reassurance that you won’t dip out after 6 months for something else.”

No two people will have the same answer, and you will want to be transparent with the interviewers. That said, it helps to prepare a statement that addresses your motivation in concise detail.

To start, jot down the reasons why you are making the switch.

Some common factors include:

  • Finances
  • Family
  • Benefits
  • Career Goals
  • Relocating

After this, write up a short paragraph that addresses your motivation and outlines why now is the right time to make the switch. Read over it a few times and try to memorize the key points.

Once it comes time to interview, keep this answer on hand. With it, you can show the hiring manager that you’re prepared and have thought long and hard about this switch.

Want more hiring tips?

If you are making the switch from freelance to full-time and need some more support, be sure to follow Devan on LinkedIn. Every day she is posting helpful advice and hilarious memes to help you get through this process.