Indieconf 2012: The Anatomy of a Freelancer

Out of all the talks on Saturday, this is the one I’d recommend for anyone who wants to become a freelancer. David Rogers gave an accurate and at times humorous overview of the distinctions between three different types of workers: the freelancer, the nine-to-fiver, and the moonlighter.

He began by emphasizing that none of these choices are wrong or less advantageous than the others. Each work style has pros and cons. It’s up to each of us to decide which set of tradeoffs we’re willing to make. We also need to determine our own definition success.

According to David, success:

  • should be measured by longevity, sustainability, and consistency
  • should NOT be measured by financial gain, hourly rate, or utilization
  • should produce a sense of satisfaction, belonging, and purpose

He then introduced us to the freelancer:

  • wears many hats
  • notably independent
  • obsessed with efficiency
  • moves on quickly
  • pros: freedom of choice, what equipment and technologies to use, what to charge
  • cons: finding work, negotiating contracts, invoicing, scheduling

Next, the nine-to-fiver:

  • values stability
  • appears dedicated
  • separates work from home life
  • pros: limited responsibility, division of labor, predictable cash flow, division between work and home
  • cons: illusion of job security, misplaced obligations (overtime), capped compensation, red tape, politics

And finally the moonlighter:

  • distracted and tired due to alter-ego double life
  • may rely on chemical assistance or augmentation for performance
  • prone to repetitive burnout cycles or recuperative sabbaticals
  • pros: stability w/some freedom, attainable transition to freelancing, supplemental income
  • cons: extra responsibility and obligation, difficult to sustain over time, leaves little time for recreation

Which one you are will largely be determined by your particular set of skills and whether you are comfortable with the pros and cons. That being said, it’s important that we not allow ourselves to get boxed into a job that we don’t like. Constant re-evaluation of our situation can be healthy.

David closed with some suggestions on how to become a more marketable professional, regardless of which camp we’re in:

  • print and carry business cards
  • go places, meet people
  • make friends and be friendly
  • make connections and connect others
  • help people that need help
  • attend and speak at professional groups, social gatherings, and conferences
  • start communities and conversations (don’t wait for permission)

Also, get plenty of sleep. Less than 8 hours is highly detrimental to learning and productivity. Contextual switching and mental fatigue are also productivity killers.

David’s slide deck included some fantastic character art depicting each type of worker, courtesy of his artistic brother-in-law. I haven’t found his slides posted online yet, but if they show up I’ll add a link here. Update: slides posted here!

Next Monday I’ll be sharing my recap of Merlin Mann’s presentation titled “Seven Lessons in Personal Marketing.” Until then…

This post is one in a series from Indieconf 2012

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