If you’re a sports fan, you love and hate the free agent rule. One of the all time great NBA basketball players, Kevin Durant, played out his contract in Oklahoma City, became a free agent, and chose to go play in Oakland. Oklahoma City cried, Oakland rejoiced.
This is how the everyday workplace is becoming. We’re all becoming free agents in the world of work.
I have been a management consultant for over thirty years. In that time, the number of consultants of all types, as well as contract workers, has grown significantly. So much so that I’m predicting that’s how a major portion of workers will make their living over the next twenty years.
An article in the Harvard Business Review sites a study estimating that in the future 25% of the global workforce will be contract workers ( “The Rise of the New Contract Worker”).
Another article is even more aggressive. It says that by 2020 40%, or 60 million, of America’s workforce will be freelance workers. (“Here’s why the freelancer Economy Is on the Rise”, Brendon Shrader.)
With that in mind, let me give you future contract workers, freelance workers, and consultants some tips from one who has been doing this most of my professional life.
First, above all else, be yourself. This may seem like strange advice, but is essential if one is to understand how the dynamics of the world of a contract worker functions.
Don’t try to be what you think your client wants you to be. Clients need your expertise, not your loyalty. Full time employees are notorious for spending as much time working their relationship with their boss as actually doing the work assigned them.
A freelance, or contract worker, is valuable for the opposite reason. They do not waste time nurturing personal relationships. They work exclusively on getting the work done, getting it done extremely well, and accomplishing it far more efficiently than the full time equivalent. For that reason alone, the contract worker charges more. The employer is happy to pay this, because compared to the full time worker, the company pays less over the long term.
Last, honor your work. No matter what you are doing as an employee, you can leverage that into lucrative contract work. For example, if you are a janitor, you can trade that in for independent janitorial contracts.
My point being, you don’t have to learn some new skill in order to be a successful freelancer. You start with your present skill (or minimum skill) and leverage that. For example, I was a religion teacher when I decided I was going to be a management consultant. The market then determined how my skill would be used.
For example, an acquaintance of mine asked me to share a book, Megatrends, I was telling him about, and TEACH its contents to his staff of professional broadcasters. I did and received a check for my day’s work. From that point on, I started asking people for contracts. I do what I do, and the market determines how they want to use what I do. For thirty years, I’ve never gone without a lot of contracts.
The work you’re doing at this moment is good enough. Give it a value and start asking for contracts.