Lately I've found myself counseling a number of professionals I know to give up the "permanent full-time employment" option (a myth, anyway) in favor of working for themselves. Some of the reasons are pretty obvious, but some are less so.
Below are the reasons I've been sharing with people in favor of working for themselves:
1. You Diversify Your Funding Stream.
Would you rely on a single company's stock for your retirement fund? Why, then, do you rely on a single organization for your salary? Particularly in this economy where cutting jobs is the first thing companies do in response to downturns. Strength and security is found in diversity, not homogeneity.
2. You Can Tell The Truth More Often.
Many of the professionals I know just really want to do a great job without getting bogged down in company politics. This often means that they want to voice unpleasant truths their organizations are unable or unwilling to hear.
Oddly, companies and organizations seem much more open to constructive feedback when it comes from the outside. (The reasons why could take up an entire blog post of their own). They may not actually DO anything with this external advice, but at least you were able to stay true to your own sense of how the work could/should be done.
3. You Can Focus on Work that Plays to Your Strengths
Most organizations aren't particularly good at knowing employee strengths and leveraging those strengths. They may THINK they're good at it, but most people know this isn't true.
When you work for yourself, you can go after the projects that play to what you're good at. This has the added benefit of making you look like a superstar because you can become known for the areas in which you excel.
When you work for someone else, it's likely that you'll end up in the dreaded "other duties as assigned" part of the job description that tends to play to your weaknesses. Some companies have a particular genius for this; they are the cause of the Peter Principle.
4. You Will Be Valued More
It's crazy, but for some reason, many companies and organizations value advice and resources they get from the outside more than the knowledge that can be found on the inside. When you are an external contractor, that fact alone will add value to the work you do for many people.
Combine that fact with Item 3 above on playing to your strengths, and you are definitely going to be feeling better about what you do.
5. You Can Have More Control Over Your Work Environment
When I worked for someone else, two things drove me crazy--people dropping into my office just to "chat," (I'm an introvert) and having to attend useless meetings. Both of these items have virtually disappeared from my life since I began working for myself.
I also have the added benefit of being able to make my own schedule and decorate my office any way I want. No one cares what screensaver I use and no one blocks my access to social media!
6. You Can Be on the Leading Edge of the Next Industrial Revolution
Freelancing is our "back to the future" industrial revolution of the 21st century. Those who are on the crest of that wave are most likely to benefit from it.
7. You Get Variety Without Having to Change "Jobs"
Most of the professionals I'm connected to love to experiment and try new things. Generally it's easier to have this kind of variety in your work life as a contractor than it is when you work for someone else. You have control over the projects you will do and can choose those that give you a better mix of activities and opportunities.
Of course, working for yourself may not be the best option for everyone. But more and more I believe that for those professionals that really care about what they do and want to have more control over how they do it, contract work may be the best choice.
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