Freelancers, consultants and sole-proprietors: Probably the greatest gift you can give yourself and your clients this New Year, is the gift of you. Ok, now I know I sound a bit like Dr. Phil, but hear me out.
By now we have probably returned to our jobs after the long holiday period. Once again the freeways are full and the commute is long. Every work day we rise to meet the challenges and expectations of our job, work, career – waged or salaried. We haul ourselves from bed, shower, dress and face th daily grind. Work can sometimes be a mixture of passion, obligation and exhaustion. For another group it is more than just a passion, but a lifestyle, and the holidays were filled prepping for the coming year.
Freelancers, consultants, sole proprietors, self-employed, single entrepreneur, individually run businesses and the small businessperson often do not get chances to take long breaks to recharge. They create opportunities to advance their role throughout the holidays and use the ‘down time’ to square away any loose ends from the year and gear up for the next. This is not just their job or career, but their livelihood – their mantra is ‘eat-what-you-kill’ – and it applies equally to aerospace engineering consultants as it does for real-estate agents.
As the freelance or sole-proprietor name implies, these individuals must do more than just be good at their field. According to the SBA, nearly 70% of the US economy – about 35 million free-agents – is made up for sole-proprietors, and various other agents operating on their own to create a job or career. They contribute $450 million annually. Indeed many freelancers have more than one job!
The sole proprietorship is the easiest business structure, but in many cases the hardest to maintain, and this is its very weakness: flexibility. Their are no cumbersome boards of directors to consult, and no business partner(s) to negotiate with. Since their is little or no distinction between the person and the business, the role and responsibility of the work gets murky and the barrier and balance between work and life blurs. On one hand, a sole proprietor gets all the profits from their work, but are responsible for all the debt, taxes and liability. The challenge for many is the ability to maintain, despite the shadow of risk and loss.
However, this flexibility and level of autonomy is key to the freelancer, sole-proprietor or single businessperson. It’s what drives and motivates them, it’s what makes them tick!
They have to be all-things-to-all-people. They sometimes have to operate without the complicated business infrastructure many others do. Sometimes just a desk at a local Starbucks Coffee will suffice as an office, somewhere to put their laptop or tablet computer, and the work can begin.
They have to be constantly aware of the changing environment, and the economies of daily life, and are making constant adjustments to their work, as the need, occasion and trends prevail.
They have to be marketing person, blogger, public relations expert, accountant, receptionist and administrative assistant, all-in-one. When a computer crashes or the email goes down (which happened to this author briefly after Thanksgiving), the freelancer must also be his/her own ‘IT guy’. They have every role and fit every shoe, in their career. They are the jacks-of-all-trades, and their are required to be the master of many or all. Where they cannot, they have to delegate to others, usually outsourcing other freelancers they know or trust. They have to be everyone in the organization of one.
Many times, a freelancer or sole-proprietor must wake earlier than everyone else, and often go to bed when everyone else can quietly say to themselves, “it can wait until the morning”. Problems have to be solved now, or yesterday. Issues need to be dealt with immediately. You have to always be “on”.
So my message to fellow freelancers, as we return to work, and the new work year begins: your gift of the holidays is You. You are responsible for the destiny of your organization and so your resolution must be, to be a better YOU in 2015. YOU are the best gift you can receive, and give.
So go out their and knock-’em-out.