Sunday, June 27, 2010

You're Self-Employed Even If You Have a Job

I was reading a brief blog post by Seth Godin in which he states that you're already self-employed. This is something that I have understood for many years, even when I succumb to my own insecurities by getting a 9 to 5 job. Given today's economy, it may have occurred to many people that there is no job security. Therefore, as an employee of somebody else, it is incumbent upon you to always be on the lookout and have your resume ready for action.

Why You Must Go

Employers only really need a few star players on their team. Either you are the star player or you are there as a fringe benefit to the star player. The concept to take away is that the vast majority of us are merely adequate at our jobs; we are there to give the star performers some breathing room to achieve great things. In tough economic times, the star player is needed more than ever; and, given limited resources, it makes you expendable.

Another reason you must go is cashflow. Businesses are not there to provide jobs; they are there to profit. Many things are possible when companies profit: stockholder dividends, charitable donations, sponsorships, and, yes, jobs. Jobs are a consequence of profit. Without profit, there can't be jobs; because, YOU, my friend will not tolerate working for free. On the flip side of that, keeping you on with the company during slow economic times means the company is at risk of going under. If this keeps up long enough, that means that everybody in the company, including you, will eventually be out looking for jobs. Expecting a job during a slow business cycle is akin to getting money for simply showing up.

Even After All That

Even after having said all that, it is conceivable that you can have a long career and move up the corporate ladder. That just means that you are a star player and the company made extra efforts to keep you on the team. Even so, as a star player, you could have had any job you wanted at other companies. This is quite the opposite of the average employee who has no job safety; the average Joe is self-employed through no fault of his own. The star player is self-employed if he wishes to make something of himself. If you're a real badass, your employer will bend over backwards to keep you on board. This is precisely why you are self-employed; you can leverage better deals when offers from other companies come in.

You're Better Off Being Self-Employed Anyway

I'm not saying that you should run off and file your DBA today. You can be self-employed in mindset. Simply knowing that you perform some output and receive some income in exchange. Your employers are interchangeable in your personal economic engine. Employer A's dollars are just as green as Employer B's. Being willing to fire your boss is very empowering because it frees you up to find bigger and better opportunities. Furthermore, if you are still able and willing to work, you don't really need a 9 to 5 job; you can usually generate some income on your own. You don't need to keep a job that simply isn't performing to your standards; fire it. It's not personal; it's business.

How Self-Employed Fare Well

Many of my freelance friends have had an economic boom during these days of layoffs and downsizing. It's not that there isn't work that needs to be done; rather, companies can't afford to pay steady paychecks for occasional jobs that require their skills. So, they offered to do contract work for their old jobs. This freed them up to do contract work for other companies too. Rather than rely on one source of income, they have multiple sources that can sustain them.

Get a Leg Up On the Next Economic Boom

As a freelancer, you interview for jobs every day. When the jobs come back, you'll have much better practice than those who were waiting for full employment. I think part of that comfort comes with the knowledge that you don't really need the job; you have work regardless. Not only will you be more comfortable with interviewing, you will still have relevant industry knowledge from continuing to do the work while your competition remained jobless. Simply having the mindset that you are self-employed, and the willingness to walk the talk if necessary, can go a long way in raising your confidence and making you more resilient than your co-workers.
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