I am a software developer in the USA with a lot of focus on .Net I've been doing it for fun since I was a kid and am about 10 years into a career now, but I've only worked as a corporate programmer. This means I'm not only underpaid and treated like a technician instead of a content creator, but I've also discovered that it means there are big gaps in my experience due to intense specialization in the needs of the companies I've worked for.
This would be fine, except layoffs have hit me twice in the past and my spider sense is tingling about my current job of 3 years. Its a private company that was 6 months late giving us annual reviews and most of those reviews listed only bad things and ignored accomplishments. There have been suits walking around our privately owned company for three weeks, management is in constant meetings, and our DBA of 18 years put in her notice yesterday. Over half of the IT group got bad reviews and were given unrealistic goals (like 2 days for projects slated for three months). All of the reviews have the same followup week, precisely at the end of a business quarter.
I may be paranoid but that looks like firing to prevent layoffs to me. I'm in a red state so dirty pool to avoid unemployment payouts is common. Unfortunately, local jobs in my industry have dried up as well. I decided maybe this was a sign it was time to freelance, but sites giving tips on the topic all suggest saving money I won't be able to save before starting. I have a wife and two kids and a mortgage so I'm somewhat anchored to where I am. Her income is meager and just covers groceries. I also have social anxiety and have a dead Facebook that mostly exists to make me seem more mainstream to potential employers who check those.
I'm obviously not in the ideal situation to start freelancing, but with a doom clock ticking and few other options I might need to anyway. All the advice I find online seems to lean on assuming there's a nest egg to fall back on. What would be the best approach for someone who doesn't get to have that nest egg?