It may have been putting the cart before the horse to talk about “Managing Fear as an Independent” as I did last month, since that kind of information only applies if you are, indeed, independent. At this point I would like to make the case for why you should become independent of a “job” if you are not already, and for those of you who are now free of a job through a decision not your own — well, I would suggest that you take a deep breath for about a month before you rush out to find your next soulless grind. For you folks that are without a job, look for future posts that will help manage and hopefully maintain that status comfortably. This post will be a sketch, with the intention of filling in the blanks in later, more detailed posts.
First, the premise: There may have been a time, long ago, when the social contract went something like this — you willingly offer your time, energy, intelligence and work in exchange for money, security, insurance, perhaps a pension, and any other perquisites that might come with full time employment with a kind and beneficial company that looked after you and yours, and truly cared about your success. The company might offer incentives for production, and maybe even a program to help you improve by skills training, college education and other benefits to help you grow. Why would they do this? Because if you get better, the company gets better, profits more, and everyone is happy. That’s the theory, anyway.
By now it’s pretty obvious to just about everyone that this social contract is mainly null and void. I’m sure there are some companies that are still attempting to operate along these lines, like perhaps Google or Cisco or a few others. In fact, there was recently an article about the “Top 100 Companies to Work For”, and that’s all well and good, but we cannot all work for Google and the fact remains that with very few exceptions, companies provide less and less benefit, and demand more and more production. Despite this, every year millions of wide-eyed, hopeful college graduates go searching for a company to hook up with with the same naivete as the previous generation. And companies are always in search of the best and brightest to inject the energy and intellectual capital it takes to compete in this world at this time. But let’s have a look at what these grads are hoping to find:
1. Security — the perception is if you have a job with a large corporation, you are somehow more secure than if you work for a smaller company, or for yourself. This is simply untrue. You are welcome to search for your own statistics, but look at it this way — if you think of yourself as a company that provides a service (which is what you are — you are providing a service to a company that employs you), would you rather derive all of your income from one customer, as it were? What if you had a falling out? What if their fortunes changed, and they went out of business? Your business would be in serious trouble. If you had, say, five companies that provided the bulk of your business, and one fell away, you would lose one-fifth of your revenue, not all of it. So what is more secure, the one company you devote all your time and energy to, or the five that you work for part-time? The five, I would say. That’s not to say that you need five part-time jobs. Instead, work towards a model where you provide services for multiple companies who pay you well enough to create and pay for you own benefits.
2. Prestige — there is something to be said, I suppose, for having “Verizon” on your resume, but it has to be asked — who are you trying to impress? The hiring officers of other large companies? It may certainly help you get another job with another company, and if that’s what makes you comfortable, then it may be worth it to pursue that line of thinking. If the prestige of working for a large company is something you find valueable, I would argue that you can market your services as an independent contractor to those large companies, and the prestige will take you just as far, except you make about twice the money.
3. A “Career”. Actually, is anyone seriously looking for such a think anymore? I don’t think so. At least not tied to a single company. There may have been a time when companies fostered the careers of their employees, and wanted them to grow within and without the organization, but with few exceptions those days are gone. Now, benefits are grudgingly given out and mainly to stay competitive within the Human Resource marketplace. Companies still understand that they need intellectual capital and human energy and drive.
And that brings me to my point. They don’t deserve it. Not anymore. For what possible reason should you willingly give up your life energy, your intelligence, your drive, your ambition to a company that doesn’t know who you are or what you bring to the table, couldn’t care less what your talent is, and can’t wait until you leave because you cost too damned much money?
But, see, this is the deeply ironic part of the story. Because even though you might be making, say, $80,000 / year in salary, you are far, far more expensive to them than that. That’s why they won’t think twice of laying off your entire department in favor of outsourcing the whole thing to someone who will do your job for nearly twice the hourly pay you make, but with no benefits, and no HR overhead. So your strategy should be that person that gets hired at twice the rate and pays their own taxes and insurance. And why in the world would you want to do that? Because, you can take on three companies as clients in this manner, triple that income, and enjoy a relative sense of security as you collect your income from three sources instead of one.
But what about the logistics of managing three clients that are “full time” or close to such? Efficiency. Through a judicious combination of remote work, strategic outsourcing (yes, you yourself can and should outsource!), and careful time management, you can easily accomplish the work of what used to be three “full-time” employees. And that huge evil company that sucked you dry of everything you had while you were there now rarely sees you, and happily pays you more than they ever did before. They are now a client, and the people who pay these higher bills does so with the same distant and impersonal ennui as they did when they paid you your salary, or when they fired you.
There are a number of things you have to do to make this work, but if you are still employed, you should start planning your escape now. Future posts will systematically show how to do this, step by step.