Friday, March 26, 2010

Is self employment really what you want?

I recently had lunch with a longtime friend and business associate, let's call her Kathy, who got laid off a few months ago. She's been filling the time with intermittent freelance gigs, but her frustration is palpable--having been at her previous corporate employer for more than a decade, and given the state of the economy, perhaps that's no surprise.

So our conversation turned to what she has found most difficult about self employment and the freelance world. For Kathy, it's "Not knowing where my next project is going to come from, or when it's going to happen."

That intrigued me, because I'd say that's one of the aspects I like *most* about running my own business. I totally groove on the excitement of not knowing what's around the next bend, what that next phone ring will bring. Sure, sometimes it takes a bit longer than you'd like, but eventually the committed entrepreneur needs to come to grips with it. If not, you're likely better off in an office environment where the assignments (and paychecks) come more regularly. No shame in that, though probably best recognized early on. A desperate freelancer can't be a successful one.

Kathy also made an important point for those of us who are in a position to help someone who's unemployed or underemployed. She said it's amazing to see the number of people who she thought she could depend on who suddenly weren't available when she ran into tough times. If you're a writer, editor or graphic designer, a free resume/cover letter polish goes a long way; if you're a web guru, provide some help to someone who could use an online portfolio. Lend a sympathetic ear. Make a phone call. Send an email. Pay it forward.


  1. Maybe I've stumbled upon something unusual, or maybe I just haven't totally come to grips with the uncertainty of freelancing yet. Either way, I've found steady, month after month gigs are a pretty good way to strike a happy medium. For instance, there are plenty of small business owners who would love to have a monthly newsletter but who either don't feel comfortable writing it or don't have time, inclination or even typing skills to get it done. That has turned into my sweet spot, but I do other things too.

    It makes me feel much more secure to know there are at least a few checks to count on each month - insofar as you can count on anything. I feel more confident in my ability to scare up some freelance business than I do in my employer's ability to keep me on the payroll forever.

  2. STW, it sounds like you're doing it the right way--finding a steady sweet spot is a great way of thinking about it. Doesn't have to be 100% of your business, but it sure smooths out the ride.

    And I love your confidence in yourself vs. an employer over the long haul. Not everyone has that; I don't know if it's something that is innate, learned, or a little of both.