The most significant factor that sets freelancers apart from employees is that, as freelancers, we are responsible for finding work for us to do.

There’s no boss sitting over us saying do this now, then do this, then on to this.

When the work is done. It’s done. And it’s time to move on to the next project. However, lovely the client is, and however good a fit we are with that company, when the work is completed then we must move on and find the next opportunity. That’s a freelance mindset.

As freelancers we need to be hustlers – keeping our ears to the ground and being open to new opportunities. Like sniffer dogs we sniff out opportunities that are hidden in plain sight.

Whilst this mindset has traditionally been the preserve of freelancers. Increasingly, it is creeping into the world of jobs and employment. The current uncertainty is changing the way businesses think and more companies than before are hiring employees on fixed term contracts, where previously they would hire into permanent positions. A fixed term contract being an employment contract that ends on a given date as opposed to an indefinite, permanent contract of employment.

The world of TV production, where I started as a freelancer, is an example of a sector where businesses (production companies) continually grow and shrink according to demand. Production companies operate with minimal core staff (permanent employees). When the company gets commissioned by a broadcaster to make a TV series, they grow by hiring in a freelance team for the duration of that production. Making a TV series has a very definite end – completion and delivery of the video files of each episode to the broadcaster ready for transmission. Once the show is delivered, the work is done and that freelance team must each find the next series to work on, most likely at a different company.

Those who work in TV production, however they are paid (some as sole traders invoice, some on fixed term contracts through the payroll) operate with a freelance mindset as they know that when the production is completed they will be moving on and it’s up to them to find the next production.

Increasingly, this option for flexibility in the workforce is being taken up by many more companies, in a vast array of industries, given the current uncertainties.

The challenge facing many employees on fixed term contracts, is that they are entering into these contracts with an employee mindset – that they’ve got a job for life. They assume the fixed term contract is an initial/trial period and that ‘by the end of [6] months they will have done a great job and made themself so indispensable that the company can’t possibly want to end the contract’.

This is a dangerous assumption, particularly in an uncertain market. There is no guarantee of further work beyond the [6] months that is why it is a fixed term contract.

Employees on fixed term contracts would be wise to adopt a freelance mindset. Rather than expending energy trying to make themself indispensable during the current contract, these fixed term contract employees would do well to redeploy that energy towards keeping their eyes and ears open and sniffing out new opportunities with other companies. It minimises risk, as they aren’t reliant on one company, and may well open-up unexpected and exciting new opportunities.