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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...
- MugCHECK PRICE

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.

I'd love to hear your comments.

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    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @Vikk Simmons: Thanks vikksimmons. The way things are going, people are going to have to learn how to pull together an "income" from a variety of sources. For many, it's going to mean accepting a radical change in lifestyle.

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 4 years ago from Houston

      This is a great idea for a Squidoo page and I like the way you've explored the idea and offered readers more opportunities if they want to delve deeper.

    • cgbroome profile image

      cgbroome 4 years ago

      I've been trying to establish myself as a freelancer for several years now. Problem is - there are a lot of scams out there. I haven't lost any money because I know if they want money, then look the other way - but I have lost a lot of time. Recently I've started finding some great freelance sites and, within 3 weeks, I was given 2 small assignments and then was hired on by a magazine to write weekly articles and am currently working with a small publishing company that may or may not pan out. My point being - things are starting to finally bear fruit. I'm no where near being able to give up my day job but hopefully in the next year or two, should things go sour, I'll have a built-up client base to keep me going. It does take a lot of work but, so far, it definitely seems worth it!

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @Deborah Swain: Ha ha ha! Thanks for the good intentions.

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      ps...Sorry...looks like you've exhausted your blessings for the time being under new Squidoo rules! Good job!

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I've been self-employed for most of my adult life...it's tough, but I can honestly say I love what I do! BLESSED!

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks. Just about everyone can do something well and the Peter Principle still applies to many businesses and employees.

    • Tamara14 profile image

      Tamara Kajari 4 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

      So well said Rick. I'm from Croatia and we're about to officially join the EU in July. I see more and more people thinking, actually being sure that there's some kind of a promise land waiting for them once we become a member. Well, many of them will be very disappointed to learn the opposite. Spain, Portugal, even France and Italy are facing such a hard times and there's no way one can just hit the road for some other country and then simply apply for a dream job and get it. Online endeavor is something else though. Look at Squidoo for starters :) Seriously, I couldn't agree with you more, the new era is already here and the main problem for those unfortunate regarding their jobs will be the mindset i.e. the will to adapt. After all, old habits die hard. Excellent lens! I hope you continue writing within the same micro niche soon :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Nice lens :) yeah its all about confidence !

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @anonymous: It would be pretty hard to go back to working at a "real job" after a couple of decades of freelancing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Excellent advice, very much reality based. Terrific lens.

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Bless you Val_Bonney! (the old kind with no actual effect on search results) :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Really great lens, Rick, and I shall be back for a more in-depth read! Blessed :)

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @JoshK47: I try to imagine myself in a "job" now and I just can't come up with a vision that would work for me. Having the freedom and flexibility to decide what work you take on is a wonderful thing. It's a financial roller coaster, especially as you get established, but you may also find that quality of life trumps owning "stuff". Good luck!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this information - as someone striking out on my own, this is all invaluable!

    • sikiriki profile image

      sikiriki 4 years ago

      I work for myself it is much beter.

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @Synergise2011 LM: Big corporations are making huge profits while cutting wages to employees. Any job that can be done by a robot will disappear soon. I believe we're about to see a resurgence in "local" economies for small scale, quality goods and services. Freelancing is ideal for that type of economy.

      (I don't buy ANYTHING without researching online first either :-)

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @Charmcrazey: Look back occasionally - just to make sure you're learning from your mistakes. But other than that, looking forward is much more productive. Best of luck!

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 4 years ago

      I absolutely hear where you're coming from! I was self-employed for three years before throwing in the towel and taking my current position with a small, local ISP. I found that I was, as you so perfectly put it, "not a front man." Nor am I much good at billing. My current job offers a lot of the flexibility I enjoyed while self-employed, with most of my work perfectly do-able from home... but I draw a paycheck and someone else handles the sales and billing. For me, it's the best of both worlds.

    • Synergise2011 LM profile image

      Synergise2011 LM 4 years ago

      I'm watching small businesses in the real world fail around me all the time. However I believe that the internet opens up potential for those who want to be their own boss.

      I sometimes feel overwhelmed by how fast society is changing and the impact technology has but feel that if I could stay one step ahead of the game there is huge potential as a freelancer.

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @daisychainsaw lm: The main thing is to keep at it and think of ways to build a reputation doing things you're good at. Honest, hard work and a "the customer is always right" mindset can do wonders. Thanks and Good Luck!

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @happynutritionist: I really feel for the people in their late forties/fifities who lost their jobs and lack the confidence or skills to re-develop their carreers. Loving what you do makes ALL the difference in keeping your focus.

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 4 years ago from Central Florida

      This is encouraging. I've recently left my job as a CPA in corporate income tax after 20 years to work online. Scary as Hell but it's what I want to do and by golly I'm going to make it work. Never looking back.

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @maryseena: Freelancing is wonderful way to earn a living. Thanks.

    • daisychainsaw lm profile image

      daisychainsaw lm 4 years ago

      This is a great lens, lots of info relevant to me; like you I started young in retail, and got stuck there. Now I`m trying to create several income streams as a freelancer; I`d hate to go back to working for someone else. Thanks for all the information!

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 4 years ago

      The first paragraph in the intro is my husband's story...after 30 years at the same company has changed jobs 3-4 times, less $ for more work, and there is never a secure feeling like there used to be. Fortunately he loves what he does. I don't think this is new as my Dad also went through it when he reached a certain age and he was brilliant and in a large company, but it's much much worse than it used to be. Thanks for the interesting thoughts...I have always worked from home supplementing my husband's income...and unless something happens...which it can...like the idea of having something already set that can take us into the retirement years. Want to be creating as long as possible.

    • maryseena profile image

      maryseena 4 years ago

      I've just got into freelance writing and love it. I'm yet to understand and tap into most of the online opportunities out there, but learning fast. Thank you for sharing your insights.

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @takkhisa: Yup! It's the future.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      Great lens! Freelancing can change our life :)

    • LifeAhead profile image
      Author

      LifeAhead 4 years ago

      @WritingForChange: Thanks. I'm an all-over-the-place guy and interested in lots of stuff - most of my topics will be "random acts of inspiration"...:-). I'm working on my next one right now.

    • WritingForChange profile image

      WritingForChange 4 years ago

      Interesting topic and great first lens. Welcome to the Squidoo community. Look forward to reading more of your work.