How I Made It – Prasanna R. Patil

Tell us a little bit about why you decided to embark on a freelance career!

I would say that it wasn’t planned. I had moved on from my previous job and I was essentially in the market looking for opportunities, amongst those opportunities, I was open to contractual roles or full-time engagements. And I have in the past, pursued similar opportunities. In the late third quarter of 2021, I met Anurag whom I had known from previous jobs. He said there were a few opportunities that would be of interest to me and we took it from there. And it so happened, that I landed a client that I’m still working with.

I intended to get back into doing something meaningful based on leveraging my background and experience. It so happened that Outsized had a role that needed my experience, and it was a good fit. The fact that I knew Anurag from the past was obviously helpful and he and I have developed some good chemistry over the years. So that is how this came along. 

In your experience, what are some of the pros and cons of freelancing?

Pros: One of the biggest pros is you have flexibility in terms of how you utilize your time.

In my case, for example, I just took a full month off from my engagement, and the client was willing to work with me on that basis. So, flexibility is one great advantage depending of course also on the stage of your career

I have begun to appreciate and get along well with the current client and have developed a good working relationship. This may not be the case with other clients, but I can pick and choose what I want to do. I have been approached for other engagements and roles, but I didn’t want to pursue them. I think the flexibility of time and the ability to work on things that you like and avoid things that you don’t like are a couple of things that are pros of freelancing. Compensation has also been fairly good.

Cons: One of the major cons of being a freelancer is that you’re just getting paid your rate and that’s it. There are no benefits either in terms of insurance or any other type of benefit. So, it becomes a challenge sometimes, especially on the health or medical side. For example, Singapore’s medical care is expensive, and not having employment insurance is not always easy. 

The other con is of course access to infrastructures, like an office space or printing. I’ve always been used to working in my own space, so I have rented an office cabin for myself. You’ve got to adapt and deal with what you have. 

Another con of being a freelancer is the lack of belongingness or social interaction. You feel like an outsider even when you work with the core client team. For example, I know there are events that are held by the client, but you don’t get invited to them because you’re an independent consultant.

There is also limited access to resources beyond your work and you are unaware of what is happening within the broader (client) enterprise or your industry. There is also less exposure to training, learning, and development opportunities.

If I were in a corporate job or in a corporate role doing what I’m currently doing, it would be fairly certain that I wouldn’t be working in the office right now. I would be on-site just because it would be a lot more effective.

How do you generally come across opportunities as a freelancer or independent consultant?

I come across opportunities through word of mouth, LinkedIn, and past relationships in the industry. Broadly, it’s through networking. 

Is there anything you still struggle with as a freelancer?

Yeah, I think it’s not an easy balance. It also depends on which stage of your life or career you are in. There is uncertainty when it comes to freelancing. Uncertainty about whether your contract is being extended or do you have to look for a new project. This always keeps you on your toes.

Are there any resources you have found useful as a freelancer?

I don’t really need any resources. I do use Google sometimes, to research certain things. But generally, it’s very client specific and with luck, I think I have all the knowledge needed to be able to support the client’s needs. So, I don’t need access to any of these external tools. 

Are there areas you would like support but haven’t yet found anything useful?

I mean, yeah, I guess one very basic thing would be PowerPoint. At consulting firms, somebody more junior does some of the heavy lifting on the slide work. In my case now, I’m preparing the PowerPoint presentation from scratch. I’ve always been averse to working with PowerPoint. Now I’m forced to do it. So I’m actually learning to make PowerPoint slides a lot more. So, no complaints as such on that. 

Is there anything you wish you had known when you first started out as an independent?

Not really. Nothing comes to mind. But I guess in my case, I’ve been fortunate that I know the subject matter well enough.

Have you ever considered quitting freelancing? If yes, can you tell us why?

Yeah, of course. If a good opportunity comes by, I will absolutely consider it seriously. Most importantly if the role is challenging, I will pursue it. So, nothing is permanent in this world, including freelancing. 

Finally, what are your top tips for people thinking about going into freelancing?

My only suggestion is to take it. Like, take it for what it is. There’s no full-time role or a freelancing opportunity, which is only a bed of roses

It has its own positives, and it has its own challenges. If this is what works for you now, do it. You’ll only learn by doing. I would encourage people to look at it because I found flexibility in freelancing and I am a lot more comfortable with it now as opposed to when I started, which was two years ago. You won’t really know until you experience it. So, it’s worth embracing, it’s worth exploring.