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Freelancing in the Networked Economy

Updated on April 5, 2013

The real difference between freelancing and employment is flexibility - for you and your clients!

I don't have to tell you how bad the job market is. Since 2008, you or someone close to you likely lost a decent job. And if you were fortunate enough to find another one, chances are you're underemployed and probably earning less. Unfortunately many of those "good" jobs that evaporated with the Great Recession are never coming back - ever.

Wonder why the politicians aren't talking much about jobs? The real jobs "recovery" will follow a long and agonizingly disruptive transition to the networked age. And it will look radically different from what we've experienced before.

The new reality for many people is finding a good job means creating your own employment and earning opportunities - most likely from several sources - both online and offline. It's daunting and takes time, but it's doable - and rewarding.

(photo by author)

My story

I went straight into a retail job after graduating high school in the mid-1970's. I was managing a shoe store by age 19 but I couldn't see myself doing that long-term. So I hit the road playing rock and roll for a few years. It was fun but financially unsustainable.

Having no other skills or experience under my belt, I found myself back in retail again managing the same store in the same mall. Knowing this was not the "career" I wanted to follow, I invested my spare time in "self-education", learning about anything and everything that struck me as interesting. Back in the 1980's, that meant hauling armloads of books back and forth to the library every week or two.

By 1987 I'd had enough of retail (again) and took the plunge into self-employment. I started my own desktop video production business - failing miserably within just a few months.

Experience vs expecting - Mug

I'm not a front man - I'm a figure-out-the-details guy.

Send me out to pitch a business deal and I'm a stressed out bundle of non-confidence.

Give me a problem to solve, no matter how ridiculous it seems, and I'll pull three all-nighters to come up with a solution. Creativity and critical thinking skills are my best assets - along with a do-my-very-best attitude.

Books from Amazon

We all have multiple skills and interests. Assess your experience and abilities beyond what you consider "work".

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
We all need a bit of inspiration. Watch what others have done and put your own spin on it!

So what did I do?

I'm still self-employed - as a freelancer - and loving it 25 years later.

My unconventional "career" path would look disastrous on a resume but I've embraced it and have earned a living doing/learning a bunch of wildly different things. Through a combination of freelancing for clients, part time gigs and jobs, a blog or three, and just plain stick-to-it-iveness - my partner and I have been able pay off our modest mortgage and tuck at least a few bucks into our "retirement" fund - although neither one of us can imagine ever retiring. The key to that thinking is - we both love what we do to earn a living.

Without any formal training, I've applied myself to "learning to earn" on the job over the years - taking every opportunity to learn from others and expanding on that experience through experimentation and investing the hours to polish my craft(s).

The New Economy Could Rock Your World.

Many people spend their whole life working for an employer while daydreaming about being their own boss.

Have you ever thought of working for yourself?

See results
Home Office CC BY 2.0 By Johan Larsson
Home Office CC BY 2.0 By Johan Larsson

The Freelance Life

Be your own job creator

While self-employment isn't everyone's cup of tea, the "job for life" days are pretty much done. The millenial generation typically changes jobs every few years or so, continually looking for something "better". Employers are maximizing profits and eliminating pension obligations (ie. employees). Older workers, squeezed out of the workforce but too young to retire may not have much choice, with very few opportunities available - along with a largely outdated skill set based on the industrial economy.

Both young and old may find the answer is to build your own custom-made "job". That could mean working for several clients on a contract basis or combining various income sources like part-time jobs and online activities such as sharing your expertise on a blog or squidoo. It takes sustained effort, and it won't happen overnight, but anyone who really works at it should be able to establish a relatively stable income stream over time.

To survive as a freelancer you need to be self-motivated, organized, reliable and a good communicator.

The client that depends on you is your lifeline - do a great job, make yourself indispensible, and it'll be better than having a boss ever could be. I've worked with two main clients over the past fifteen years, the first in video production (as a video director/editor) and more recently in residential cabinet design (as CAD designer). In both cases I've developed a working relationship that engenders enough trust that it feels more like a partnership - that's invaluable.

Photo: Home Office By Johan Larsson [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0] on Flickr.

Freelancer Tip - Become a linchpin in your client's business

If you invest your knowledge and creativity with enthusiasm and integrity, you'll become an integral and indispensable member of the team - make that your goal with every client.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
Seth Godin knows what he's talking about. Just ask....well...Anyone!
This sign was pinned above my father's desk at work.
This sign was pinned above my father's desk at work.

- Women's T-Shirt (dark)" />PLAN AHEad
- Women's T-Shirt (dark)CHECK PRICE

- Men's T-shirt (dark)" />Experience vs expecting
- Men's T-shirt (dark)CHECK PRICE

- Mug" />The lack of planning...

choose any two - Mug" />Good Fast Cheap -
choose any two - MugCHECK PRICE

Click here to learn how to easy it is to personalize Zazzle printed products.

Three rules to remember....

1. Take the time to plan - believe me, haste really does make waste

2. Be a team player - whether leading or following, be an asset - not a liability

3. Details matter - if it's worth doing, it's worth doing your best

(Excerpted from my Stonehaven Life About page)

Online opportunities

Those three rules apply whether you're tiling a tub in exchange for a few pieces of furniture or sharing your expertise on a blog or squidoo lens. The world's too small and competitive to put up with unreliable people, crappy attitudes and slap-dash work. Blow it and you're done.

But don't be afraid to fail - honest effort shows - and help will be available to those that appreciate it and truly apply themselves to learning new skills.

The online community is going to give you the benefit of the doubt and help you over the bumps because your success is beneficial to the community as a whole.

The main things to remember as you're planning your strategy are:

- there is no fast, easy (and honest) way to make money on the internet

- it's a "sweat equity" investment that will take time and effort

- the world's biggest library is at your fingertips - use it to your advantage

- be honest, reliable, respectful, and helpful

- learn from your mistakes and share what you learn

The good news is once you get the ball rolling you can actually make money while you sleep :-)

Freelancing can set you free - Take steps to get to where you want to be

The Freelancer's Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams―On Your Terms
The Freelancer's Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams―On Your Terms
Author, Sara Horowitz, is the founder of the national Freelancers Union. Sara was recently appointed to the New York Federal Reserve as a class C director.
The (7L) The Seven Levels of Communication: Go From Relationships to Referrals
The (7L) The Seven Levels of Communication: Go From Relationships to Referrals
Business is all about relationships. If you're good at what you do - the referrals will come to you!
My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire
My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire
Freelancing has traditionally been the norm for writers, graphic artists, and web designers.

The Bottom Line

Don't restrict yourself to old ways of thinking about work, hobbies and home.

Experience is experience - whether it was from 20 years on the job or 30 years pursuing a hobby.

And don't underestimate the power of "passion" - working at something you "can" do may be OK, but working at something you "want" to do will provide the motivation you'll need to actually achieve your goals.


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