There is a good chance that by 2020 you will be self-employed.
An old Intuit report estimated that by that time nearly 40 percent of Americans will make their living as temporary workers — that is, as freelancers, business owners, or independent workers.
This could be good news.
Those who are not freelancers often look at those who are with a trace of envy. From the cubicle, the grass certainly looks greener. It is the life that you could have. And should have.
According to a 2009 Gallup poll, working for yourself is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have: self-employed workers routinely clock over 60 hours a week.
Is it worth it? Well, that depends.
- Are you making a monthly profit?
- Does that monthly profit equate to a healthy hourly wage?
- Are those profits climbing or falling?
- Do you have better alternatives?
The answers to those questions will determine whether or not professional independence is worth it. They’re also subjects we will address in an upcoming Authority audio seminar.
Your declaration of professional independence
In the U.S., the fourth of July is just around the corner. It is the day we celebrate our independence as a nation — when 13 colonies declared themselves a union against the tyranny of a distant king.
With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the freelancers in our Copyblogger community. Those who abandoned the cubicle, kicked over the water cooler, and channeled their inner Twisted Sister.
We salute you because …
1. You do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Successful freelancers have a certain ferocity about getting things done.
Exhibit A: In a Forbes piece, Brad Storr shares a story about a successful business owner in the packaging industry who, after half-an-hour of struggling to haul a bandsaw through a doorway, lost his cool, and grabbed the blade to pull it through. He cut his hand to the bone and spent several days in the hospital, but he got the job done.
These are the kinds of people who haunt the dreams of productivity guru David Allen. They don’t need a system. They just need David, and everyone and everything else, to get out of the way.
2. You charge whatever you want
On one hand, freelancers get to set their own rates. On the other hand, this proves one of the knottiest problems. How much do you charge? There is no easy answer, but it is based on these three criteria:
- Your experience
- The value you bring to the table
- Your level of confidence
If you bring a lot of value to the table because of your experience and results AND you have a healthy dose of self-confidence, then you can command premium rates.
Recent studies, however, suggest that over-the-top confidence can often compensate for a lack of experience.
What’s for certain, though, is that if you mix low confidence levels with high experience and value, you’ll get robbed.
Which brings me to the next point …
3. You stand up for yourself (without fear of getting fired)
In a corporate setting, there are positions that need to be respected. You can’t say no to a client. You can’t walk away. This isn’t so as a freelancer.
You don’t bat an eye when a client laughs at your rates or judges your work. You evaluate them for what they are.
You can defend your work — and even walk away — if you can’t agree about what you can bring to the table and what you charge.
4. You laugh in the face of failure
You don’t encourage failures or wear failure as a badge, but to you, failure is just that — a defeat. Money was lost. Time was wasted. A job collapsed. You didn’t win. And it hurt.
What makes you significantly different is your response to that failure.
You bounce back on your feet, dust off your denim, and mount that horse one more time. Hell if you don’t break it by the end of the week. If it takes longer, so be it.
It will be broken (see number one above).
5. You believe the best about everything
What keeps you at the task long after most of humanity would’ve bailed is that confidence we spoke about in points two and three. But it’s also an optimism that bristles with delusion.
You believe just about everything you do will work (even if the stats say otherwise). Some call it fantasy. Fair enough. You will will that dream into reality. Or die trying.
6. You are always closing (without fear of annoying people)
The number one problem with becoming a multi-level-marketer is that everyone becomes a potential client. From your spouse to long-lost friends to even family members you swore off years ago. They all become prospects.
Naturally, people grow to hate you.
But, as a freelancer, you are not afraid to talk shop, and sell if you must. You are not afraid to ask for the sale. You are not afraid to talk price. You are not afraid to negotiate. You know what you want. And you will get it.
7. You run the show
Probably one of the things that attracted you to freelancing to begin with were the headaches and groans you suffered working for some petty, incompetent bosses.
Or you probably had a few bosses who you respected, but you just didn’t like the way they ran things. And you were vocal about it.
Working for yourself allows you to make those decisions. And regardless of good or bad outcomes, you are happy to live with the consequences (see number five).
You carve out your space in the universe, which makes you feel alive.
8. You are not afraid of economic change
Seasoned freelancers have an understanding about job security that is uncommon to the rest of the population. They understand that even 20 years with a blue chip corporation does not guarantee security.
Security is an illusion. It’s just you and the economic elements. No matter where you work.
Over time, you’ve developed a sense of making wealth no matter the circumstances. Let an economic recession dry up work and suck your savings dry.
Things will eventually turn around (see number five), and when they do, you will work your tail off (see number one) to get back on your feet (see number four).
9. You like tax breaks
Ah, the perks.
You can justifiably splurge on that brand new 13-inch MacBook Air. Or that Tribeca Loft Black Home Office furniture. Or those late-afternoon client benders at the posh tavern downtown.
If you want to, that is (you may be a Spartan).
There is great incentive to treat these as business expenses because the government is not afraid to take a chunk of your change. It’s a fair trade-off.
10. You work whenever you want
You can get up at 3:30 a.m. every day of the week and work until 8:30 a.m., take a two-hour break, and work another four hours, calling it quits before 3:00 p.m.
Or you can sleep until 3:00 p.m., and work long into the night, hitting the sack at the crack of dawn.
It doesn’t matter when you work or how long. What matters is this: are you getting the right jobs done on time? That’s what matters.
11. You choose your work environment
Recent studies are demonstrating some fascinating research about the environment you work in.
- The big one as of late is how sitting at your desk is killing you
- Then there is that bit about the effectiveness of napping
- And Stanford proved what we already knew: walking improves creativity
Work for yourself and you don’t have to justify the stand-up desk, two-hour walks through the park, or the cot (another business expense, by the way) you set up in your office.
You also don’t have to justify to anyone that your office happens to be on your back porch one day, the coffee house the next. You’ll get things done wherever you want (see number one).
12. You are able to travel
These last two are all about lifestyle. And they are the typical benefits that are shared when anyone tries to convince you to freelance.
I put these last for good reasons. These are rewards for a rigorous, sometimes unforgiving, work schedule. They are not privileges.
That said, most freelancers these days can set up shop anywhere in the world. The cold wonder of Reykjavik, Iceland. The Spanish island of Gran Canaria. The tropical foothills of northern Thailand.
And you don’t have to justify this to anyone. Except the tax man, and your accountant, of course. And maybe your spouse.
13. You make the best of any day
If you run across a day that deserves to be squandered (sunny, high 70s), you can take advantage of that day — the full morning, the full evening. Run the bike through the trails, or join a gaggle of surfers riding the surge.
Or maybe one day there’s a downpour of biblical portions — a perfect day to finish that David Forster Wallace novel or focus on a neglected side project.
Here’s what it looks like to declare your professional independence
As previously mentioned, professional independence will be discussed during the upcoming Authority audio seminar with Sonia Simone and Henneke Duistermaat: “How I Did It: The Evolution of an Online Service Business.”
Sonia, who was a successful freelancer before joining Brian Clark to form Copyblogger Media, will interview Henneke, a regular contributor here at Copyblogger, about her journey to become a successful entrepreneur.
Sonia and Henneke will discuss:
- The steps behind creating a successful online service business
- Mistakes Henneke made along the way (and how you can avoid them)
- The most important thing you need to do to get started as a freelancer
- Life beyond “dollars for hours”
- How to structure your rates
And much more.
So, if you’re thinking about declaring professional independence — or if you’re already a freelancer and would just like some support — join Henneke and Sonia for this one-hour presentation.
It’s free for Authority members. You’ll just need to register. (Do so right here.)
If you’re not an Authority member yet …
You might want to fix that, to get sessions like this one nearly every week of the year, as well as ongoing exclusive networking, discounts, and education.
See you this Friday, July 4, 12:30 P.M. Eastern Time …
Flickr Creative Commons Image via Thomas Hawk.