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!!!