While much attention is being paid to the current and expected rate of unemployment in our economy, another longer-term trend is hardly being noticed or measured. Over the last several decades the number of people working as freelancers, consultants, and contractors has risen to 20 - 23% of U.S. workers and is expected to continue to grow. Fast Company magazine talked about it back in a December 1997 article as the “Free Agent Nation” and urged everyone to wake up to the new reality. For our client companies, this trend is great news as it means you can hire highly qualified talent for many of your needs on a short-term, project basis. You can have top quality talent that you can’t afford and don’t need on a regular, full-time basis as virtual members of your teams. This gives you more ability to focus on what you do best while outsourcing many important functions that are not really part of your core competence. If you do it well, you will soon discover the advantages and learn to base most, if not all, relationships around contracts for performance.
For you folks who are out in the market, it means opportunity, if you are willing to create the right attitude and practice a few key disciplines. A Wall Street Journal article Monday, February 8, 2010, entitled How to Succeed In the Age of Going Solo, by Dr. Richard Greenwald is a useful guide.
Whether you are still employed or have recently been given your freedom, realize that your old world of stable employment with full-time jobs and defined career paths is dying. We originally addressed this isssue in our post on May 18th, 2009 about Mike Cook’s book Thrive: Standing On Your Own Two Feet in a Borderless World, in which Mike urges you to recognize and shift your paradigm about employment from one of "entitlement" to one of "engagement." He offers the formula: Technical Competence + Collaborative Skill + Good Reputation = Potential Performance as a guide on your new path.
Dr. Greenwald provides specific actions to take along with a valuable discussion around each one of the following key steps:
1) Think long-term – take on your new life as you would any profession
2) Pick the right skills and keep them fresh – keep educating yourself
3) Join a network – from social media to shared office space, find ways to connect with others with common interests
4) Have your own space – most need space away from the activities and seductions at home
5) Think like an entrepreneur –set yourself up as a business with a clear vision, mission, values, business plan, marketing program, & accurate financial statements
To the wise counsel of these two authors we add "enjoy your newfound freedom!" You have escaped and are in a new world where your creativity and passion need have no bounds. You can work to your highest value. In our firm, we challenge our associates to “be all you can be, fully self-expressed, and let the world choose how much of you it wants and the price it is willing to pay for your gifts. You are the offering. The world has waited for eons for your arrival, get busy.”