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July 14, 2011

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Great points, all of them, but I particularly love the point about the homophily trap. It's so easy to fall into, and really limits chances for both personal growth and expanding into new professional roles and opportunities. The future of work is not just virtual and flexible - it's adaptable to filling needs quickly, with no concerns about "whose job it is".

These are all great points, but the one line that stands out is:

"We are seeing incredible growth in contract work/freelance opportunities that I think is only going to speed up as companies see ways to get more work done better, faster and cheaper by going to freelancers."

Therein lies the biggest problem I face whenever I've considered going back to freelancing (which I'd love to do): most companies are looking for FASTER and CHEAPER when they use a freelancer, so the hourly (or project) compensation is often terrible compared to full-time positions I've held (and have now) doing the same type of work, and on top of that, you lose all employer healthcare and retirement fund benefits, so earning a higher hourly rate as a freelancer is even more crucial to your long-term survival, since now you have to completely cover both of those items out of your own pocket.

Additionally, the "faster" part of the equation borders on ludicrous at times. There seems to be no respect whatsoever for the notion that you might have a life and family outside of your work. I've had clients call me on a Friday afternoon with large projects that they want completed by Monday morning, with the attitude of "we can always get someone ELSE to do it if you're not available", implying that you'll lose any future work from them if you're not willing to be at their every beck and call. "Sorry, kids, we have to cancel Billy's birthday party at Disneyland this weekend since client X just called with a big project with an extreme deadline, and I can't afford to lose them".

Furthermore, whenever I frequent freelancing web sites/services, I'm appalled at how prevalent the "race-to-the-bottom" is in terms of the hourly or project rates I see as freelancers desperately and progressively lower their rates in an effort not to be perpetually underbid by competitors equally desperate for projects and new clients.

I think all these so-called freelance "opportunities" are great if you don't mind working for peanuts, are covered by someone else's health insurance policy, have no children, never make weekend travel or family plans, and can rely on an inheritance for your retirement.

"Stuck"--all EXCELLENT points here and I'm hearing more of these kinds of complaints every day. I'm not sure what the answers are, but I think these are conversations we should be having about how to stop this race to the bottom. I believe there can be great opportunity in micro-entrepreneurship, but not when it's abused by the clients as it seems to be. How to create a different situation though?

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