It’s been an interesting journey from a career perspective as someone who has opted out of the traditional approach to making a living with a full time job, but rather working as a freelancer. Making the determination that I didn’t want to work for anyone again on a permanent basis was a difficult decision initially, however, once I’d made the decision…the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.
Clearly the most difficult part is convincing yourself that there is no safety net and that you, and you alone will need “live and die by the sword”. There’s nothing for it but to hustle and work hard everyday and most nights…
Fortunately for me I have a diversified set of skills that have allowed me to earn a living from multiple revenue streams versus the normal one or two. Although this just means that you have to work harder across your many areas of expertise. 🙂
It’s been over three years now since I began Indelible Adventures Inc. and I continue to realize the benefits of my decision on a daily basis, because as you know one of the main reasons i decided on this path was to have greater flexibility in my life so that I could (1) spend more time with Zach and Sam in their important teenage years, and (2) to have the flexibility to travel to world and explore.
Check and double check on both these objectives!
As a freelancer you get a completely different view and appreciation of the inner workings of the organizations that your work for over the years…some good, some not so good. The rules of the game when you’re a freelancer are vastly different than that of a full time employee with your sole purpose being to deliver value in whatever form the company that has hired you desires.
So here’s what I’ve learned in my journey so far…in no particular order!
- Antiquated thinking – One of the big things I’ve noticed is the pervasive, and some might say antiquated thinking that permeates many organizations, thus, in my mind inhibiting the organization’s ability to innovate and grow. I realize that as a freelancer I’m not paid for my input or point of view…just do the work you’re assigned with as little fuss as possible, but it doesn’t stop me from going “wow” and shaking my head on a regular basis.
- Pigeon holed – Once employed, the vast majority of employees are subject to being pigeon holed by the organization particularly early on their careers and find it impossible to break free and grow into a role that would allow them to really contribute because no one can see beyond their current box that they’re in. Unfortunately, in my experience this is endemic!
- Treating your workforce segments separately – Another interesting observation is that many organizations treat their freelancers, part timers and interns far differently than regular full time employees, this is somewhat understandable however the vast majority of organizations miss out on an enormous opportunity with what each person within these segments bring to the table in terms of knowledge and experience.
- Not utilizing your workforce effectively – Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting that every freelancer you have work for you helps shape strategy or direction, but then again not all freelancers are created equal either. Clearly you have to pick and choose wisely to get the value from this interaction, but to be clear nine times out of ten this knowledge and experience is not utilized effectively to its potential.
- Exclusion builds walls – In my experience, freelancers are generally excluded from things like team meetings or team activities and so therefore thus held at arms length. I suppose many organizations feel that as a freelancer you’re not committed and therefore should not be included, others might think that they’re paying good money for you and wasting it if you’re in meetings and not doing the tasks that you were brought onto do… Strangely, there are few organizations that seem to “get it” and empower all segments of their workforce, whether full time, part time, freelancer, intern or co-op through engagement and inclusion to help foster innovation and growth. These rare few reap the rewards!
- Internal politics impacts morale – I suppose at the end of the day, as a freelancer you walk away with an appreciation for the company that you’re working for but aren’t emotionally caught up in the politics that often goes hand in hand with being a full time employee. Internal politics is pervasive in every organization and can be the source of a great deal of stress for your employees. For organizations that wish to flourish they need to root out and knock down these artificial internal barriers to success.
- Leadership void – Organizations wonder why their best people leave. Many are perplexed and blame the employee, but don’t take into account their role in their best people leaving. This leadership vacuum can be deadly and the major source of brain drain from an organization, but no one looks to the leadership and asks why? In my experience, the vast majority of your best employees leave because they are poorly led and lose confidence in their “leaders” vision and their role in helping shape and deliver it.
- Job security – no such thing as a “safe” job – The other important lesson I’ve learned is that there no such thing as a “safe” job. All roles, irrespective of company are governed by the economics of the time and so whether you’re a full time employee or freelancer it bears no difference if times become difficult economically for the company you’re working for. Let me be clear – full time doesn’t equate to job security. Remember, at the end of the day there are no guarantees…just like with life.
Freelancing is not for everyone, and like you, I have a mortgage and kids…and with no large nest egg in the bank to help finance me if things don’t work out. However, what I do have is an innate sense of confidence in my abilities and the will to do whatever it takes to live a full and complete life…on my terms.
So I’ll continue to work on all the things that I’m passionate about and trundle along happily without the fancy job title nor the cushy executive role, however the huge advantage I have is that I, and I alone, for better or for worse control my own destiny.
I’m all in…and betting on me! How about you?