January 2nd is upon us and most have gone through the annual rite of making resolutions that, more than likely, we will break by Easter. I’m one of the millions of people who start off with the best of intensions, only to succumb to the realities and demands of life. Or in my case, the life of a newly minted entrepreneur.
But this year, I made the promise to myself that 2016 will be the year of triumph. Yeah, yeah, yeah, everyone says that (insert arbitrary year here) is the year that they’ll turn things around; do things differently and finally honor those resolutions. We’ve all been there. But for whatever reason, the universe is telling me that epic things will happen this year… and to get my arse in gear to G.S.D.
When I started this whole freelance journey , I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’ve learned a lot. Not only about myself, but also just how hard it is out there as a sole proprietor. The upside that gives me encouragement to continue on this path, is the emergence of what many are calling the “Freelance Economy“. It is estimated that approximately 40% of the workforce will opt to become independent contractors, to some degree, by 2020. And that folks, warms my heart. It’s affirmation that I’m on to something here. In this new world of digital connectedness and distributed business models, the rise of the remote worker is becoming a new normal. To quote television personality, Bevy Smith, in a New Years Day tweet “If you’re educated with a viable skill set, you should be thinking about how to earn outside your job”, and I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve been a 9to5er for many years and I’ve met a ton of wonderful people, doing great work for some phenomenal brands. But things haven’t always been so rosy, particularly those times when I had to let employees go and those times when I’ve been privy to impending layoffs. Each time, I’ve been affected mentally and physically. In full disclosure, some employees were let go due to performance issues or a violation of HR policies. Notwithstanding those few instances, what was most difficult about letting capable team members go, was the realization that this could happen to anyone at any time. A tough, but sobering and necessary pill to swallow.
Long gone are the days that my parents and grandparents knew of, decades of service and loyalty with the reward of a pension or employer sponsored retirement plan. Today’s workplace is vastly different, one in which its employees should ponder an alternative means of being gainfully employed.
I began planning my alternative means right before I resigned from my most recent position and accepted another role. Two short weeks into the new job, I quickly realized it wasn’t the right cultural fit for me. I enacted my backup plan and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Now I’m not advocating that everyone quit their job for the new year (especially if it makes you happy), but being prepared for the unexpected is a smart thing to do.
A mentor of mine once gave me sage advice. She said “never expect that a company will have your best interest at heart”. Those words stuck with me over the years. While it would be magnificent if all workplaces were 100% human (as Sir Richard Branson suggests), the reality is, the majority are not. When it boils down to it, employees should consider a backup plan, no matter where they sit in the company hierarchy.
Now just a month shy of my freelanceversary, at the top of the new year, I reflect back on 2015 and find myself establishing some solid professional resolutions that I believe I can actually keep:
1. Blog More
I’ve always fancied myself as a writer, I developed an interest in writing in High School, even serving as a teacher’s assistant in a non-fiction writing class. Somewhere along the way, I was steered into a Communications degree. Perhaps it was my father’s threats of not continuing to pay my college tuition if I insisted on pursuing a career as an artist. I believe his exact words were “I’m not paying for you to go to college to draw pictures all day”. Who knew that I could parlay fine art into a career in graphic design, especially at a time when Macs still had floppy disk drives – he had a point. At any rate, I appreciate my dad’s fatherly concern and was able to find another outlet to creatively express my thoughts. Nowadays, my blog is the channel in which I leverage the most, whereas before freelancing, I was writing creative briefs, wireframe annotations and content strategies – not the sexiest of compositions. No matter if I have regular readers who frequent this blog or whether I’m speaking to an audience of one, I love the art form and will continue my self expression well into 2016 and beyond.
2. Tweet More
Honestly, I never really “got” Twitter in the beginning. I didn’t truly discover the usefulness of the platform until I threw myself into it at the end of 2015, becoming a more frequent poster and follower. Sure, the conversations and snark are first rate, but it is the timeliness of the information that is disseminated day-to-day that’s so fascinating. In fact, I consume the majority of my news from Twitter, followed closely by MSNBC, CNN and Huff Po. Another killer use of Twitter is the networking and direct access to public figures, tastemakers and all-around interesting people. I’ve discovered the greatness of Broad City, blerds and Periscope. I am very much my authentic self on Twitter, both in interests and politics; to know me is to follow me. Some may agree, some may disagree but that’s the great thing about Twitter – the platform is meant to encourage civil discourse (albeit the civility among the masses is scant at times, unfortunately).
3. Build Up My Client Base
My hashtag to live by in 2016 is #entrepreneurialhustle (I should totally copyright that). The idea of freelancing brings to mind a fantastic vision of working virtually from exotic locations and being paid hand over fist. That certainly may be the case for some freelancers, but not the majority, at least not initially. What lies beneath the shiny veneer of working for yourself, is the presence of a hardworking hustler. In short, clients keep you employed and you have to seek them out. I love my clients, they’re the reason why I do what I do and I hope to acquire more diverse brands to partner with while I continue to travel and join the growing ranks of digital nomads.
4. Be Optimistic
With freelancing comes a fair share of doubt from time to time. On some days it’ll make you re-evaluate your whole back up plan and return to a 9to5. I’m determined to ride this thing out as long as the universe allows. With that, one must have a healthy dose of optimism to help the sporadic days of uncertainty go down. Being an entrepreneur is hard; it’s not for the faint of heart, but through perseverance, hard work and a little bit of luck, I think 2016 will be THE year.