Friday, May 29, 2009

Long Live the Entrepreneur Revolution !

My earlier blog on working independently attracted a lot of attention, especially from friends and my “connections”. Once again, I was deluged with excellent comments from both sides. Working professionals usually tend to be very realistic, so I wasn't surprised to hear some say that they'll do whatever it takes to stick to a well paying job, passionately committed to the values and virtues of typical corporate life - to the point where some found it difficult even to imagine working freelance.

And then there were those who think that any notion of "permanence" or "stability" is just an illusion. I know an associate who’s been an independent professional since 2002. But for the past three years, she decided to temporarily take the corporate plunge and work as an Art Director at a Multinational ad agency to align herself with professionals of the Internet age or something like that. Up until January, that is. She is now a victim of the current recessionary corporate lay-offs. And now she’s back on her own, feeling good to be in home country again. She feels having a "real 9 to 5 job" is neither the security cover that it used to be nor working for a "first-class corporation" any security in today's unpredictable economy.

She is mostly right. Years ago when I had just started, a long-term client of my company went bust and I went three whole months without a single project - barely avoiding credit card collection agents at my doorstep and a nervous breakdown. "Get a real job" is what everyone told me, but I held strong and now some of the same people who advised me to get a "real job" are laid off from their "real jobs."

A good friend of mine, a fellow entrepreneur, and the source of much of my work last year, put it differently "It is better to work for yourself for zero hours a day than to work for someone else for 8 hours a day and still eventually get fired." As someone who is still adjusting to the ups and downs of independent work, I ponder that statement almost on a daily basis.

Being independent doesn’t guarantee ‘Easy Money’ though. An other friend is going back to working for someone else after 15 years of self-employment; Yes, 15 long years. I asked him why and he seemed tired of the cash flow roller coaster, for one thing. As his business has grown and more of his clients are now large transnational companies instead of small, the fee per project have also grown but the time and hassle involved in collecting payment had also grown exponentially. He said, he was half tempted to get a job in an accounts department at a big company to just see where all of those multiple copies of invoices that he sent actually went… but the real reason that he wanted to go back to working in a company, he said was that self-employment had become lonely and frustrating. He missed the human interaction; he missed the sparks that come from bouncing ideas off people in a few seconds of time at the copy machine and he missed his ex-wife, a collateral damage of his 15 year solo work life.

Would I still do it? Well, even if the future looks terribly bleak, I wouldn’t check it out, no matter how tempting as the paid benefits may be. Why? Because all of us are contractors (or more precisely, contingent workers) now; it's just that some of us don't yet realize it.

Remember the battle cry of the '90s youth? Yesterday's demonstrators are today's freelancers and gung-ho entrepreneurs (at least in my case). Okay, it's a bit of stretch but still, the subject is freedom - freedom to work with whom I want, when I want (all within reason), freedom to answer the phone stark naked, and freedom from bad bosses. (I guess I am a good boss). The longer I'm at this entrepreneur thing, the harder it is for me to contemplate leaving it for the confines of a corporate cubicle and a fat paycheck. And this is my sixth year at being an entrepreneur, being self-employed and providing meaningful employment to others, and things have never looked better. Storm the barricades! The Entrepreneur revolution continues!!!


  1. Another good read!

    Ummm... perhaps thats why... "Self help is the best help" and "God helps those who help themselves."


  2. Thanks Roshmi! Visited your blog too today but Google wont let me post a comment. The select profile link seems corrupted.

  3. Its working fine now... :)

    I guess there was a problem for a couple of days. Other people had told me the same as well...

    Thanks for visiting my blog, though. Appreciate it.

  4. Glad to hear this kind of optimism in the face of uncertainy! I've spent about 8 years now in a variety of work environments including the small start-up studio, the small in-house studio of a large nonprofit institution, and now part of a large corporate firm. I'm not in any particular fear of losing my currrent job. Nonetheless, I'm drafting my plans to stake it out on my own despite (certainly not because of ) all the economic fear and every man for himself attitudes. My hope is that, like any good design problem, the added parameters will force a better solution. Time will tell.

    Best of luck!

  5. Matt! Without Hope you cannot start the day - thats my favorite pick me up line. And best of luck to you too..

  6. great read:) God Helps those who help themselves! is what I believe in :)

  7. It's challenging to work solo wearing many hats: marketing and sales, producer, bookkeeper, janitor, etc. - the work never seems to end but the freedom is wonderful. When potential customers let go of fear and see the value in branding, graphic design and advertising - especially in this market - we will all benefit!

  8. Oh the janitor - I was just moving some stuff under my desk and was attacked by dust bunnies and dog hair balls.

    My entrepreneur drum beat is falling on deaf ears at home. Actually that’s not really fair because the better half wears two hearing aids and now needs to upgrade. But he can read my lips and I keep harping on his talents and experience. He is afraid to launch off fearing no/slow pays, and heavy cash outlay. He’s a carpenter. I set this up for him
    He did one quote so far. He works full time but could easily work in construction consulting. Also this is start of the fishing season and no matter what – all else stops for a few weeks of the Salmon run.

    I came to realization 3 years ago that I could not survive working for people who knew less than me or varied from a high level of craftsmanship. So I launced out on my own against seasoned designers. Kept my head down and when I came up, almost everyone was gone, moved, or quit. When I couldn’t find enough graphic & photography work I created a publication.
    It fills in (or takes over depending) in between jobs and has led to other freelance work.

    My premise:
    Yes, we have lost jobs. Several box stores are running on half staff with half the inventory but the parking lots are still full at peak times and the staff left is working double time.

    1-people still need stuff just cheaper stuff.
    2-people still need to eat – just cheaper meals, homemade.
    3-people still need to feed and care for their pets – just cheaper, do it themselves, and spend time at home playing with them.
    4-winter is still going to come- people need to upgrade, reinsulated, plan for high energy bills, stock up. Winter in Alaska is an event you need to plan for.

    We still have the same number of people, maybe more. The wants may have subsided but the needs are still there. Frivolous purchases are Out, do-it-yourself is In.

    I made 5 calls, two in person to sell ads in Alaska Dog News on Monday. I got 5 ads. I wished I had more day, because that was a remarkable sales ratio. All the businesses were small entrepreneurs but the college who is offering a Veterinary Assistant program.
    I’m personally against working for a large corporation unless I can get the compensation I feel I deserve. I feel a little nauseous on the money roller coaster too. Monday made me feel much better.

  9. Linda, very well written and I like your 'tough get going' attitude. And the fact that you live in Alaska makes your case even stronger. I have been there once and it was quite exhilirating. If you have the time, read my review here -

  10. That is a good post. I can't imagine wanting to go back to building another persons empire. I love the freedom of being on my own, and with all the networking groups, I don't feel lonely. If anything this recession has given me more work.

    Of course I don't have a family to support or house in foreclosure, so I understand why others would need that security blanket of someone else being in charge.

  11. I have read through! My heart speaks for it

  12. being self employed is a luxory im working my ass off for !! ... worked in a 9-5 job for about 2 years ... loved the stabilty ... hated not being in control. entrepreneur revolution more than works for me... cheers

    Ishaan Gupta
    shop communications (naved akhtar, freddy birdy)

  13. We are all sole/soul proprietors, whether we recognize the fact or not. All those UAW members and Financial Analyst who thought they had a secure position suffered from the same problem the small business owner faces when they have ONE customer. They are owned by the customer but also they sold themselves to that customer.

    One must think of oneself as the sole proprietor of one's own life, i.e. soul. At Janus Life Coaching we discuss this idea and offer solutions for individuals beginning their careers and for those who are facing the challenges of layoffs, retirement, downsizing, and other career altering experiences.


  14. Great article.

    Just one question, though: What do you mean by the "battle cry of the '90s youth?" and "Yesterday's demonstrators"? What was the battle cry?

    I'll tell ya what, though, once one gets a taste of being able to design something completely on one's own, and feel that control over the design, it is quite difficult to go back to the corporate red tape where everyone except you gets to decide what a design looks like. :-)

  15. Well Carolyn, I was referring to the Teen Angst Grunge Scene of the 'Kurt Cobain Nirvana" days. And thanks for the feedback


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