Those of us pondering our employment options, or the lack thereof, have no doubt heard or read advice from various “experts” touting the rewards of self employment.
If you don’t like your present position, can’t find suitable employment, or simply can’t beg enough hours to fund your gluten-free groceries, the experts crow, invent your own job. Start your own business.
It’s just that simple. (Cue finger snap).
Well, not really. But who’s going to listen to you or read your blog if you emphasize the challenges?
There’s abundant competition in Portland, where, as we’re told, young people move to retire (or open food carts, build custom bikes, or launch adult kickball leagues).
Or create a hybrid of sorts, as one fellow I saw last summer at OMSI’s Inventor’s Fair managed by allowing customers to pedal power a blender to make their own smoothies. Can’t get much greener—or “Portlandia”ier than that!
In an article picked up by Mac’s List (of which I’m a big fan), Laura Schlafly, a breezy career guru (in both senses) who blogs at Laura@CareerChoicesWithLaura.com, extols the virtues of ‘free agency”; for the uninitiated, this is an upbeat term for working as an independent contractor in a given field such as, ahem, writing blog posts.
In fact, the article cites Elance.com, of which I’m marginally a member, as “ a great web portal where free agents can hang out a virtual shingle and where potential clients can post the jobs.” I have to differ with the “great.” I see Elance.com as a higher-end content mill that pays peanuts to would-be writers desperate for bylines and experience. Nothing *wrong* with that, if you have your eyes open. I suspect the situation echoes Elance’s other professional categories.
I’ve never scored a writing or editing assignment; neither, however, have I put much effort into it. It’s hard to take seriously a site for professional writers that seeks bidders whose first language is English and who know grammar and how to beat plagiarism-detection software.
Pollyannish about free agency prospects for the “mal-,” or unemployed, the article notably omits temping from this category, as being subject to the whims of recruiting agencies, fixed-length, no-benefit contracts and predetermined levels of pay.
That’s reasonably logical. Such is the competition that decent temp jobs are almost as hard to find these days as lucrative freelance gigs in most fields. I speak from experience.
A teaser for the article:
“Here are four reasons you should consider becoming a free agent:
1. Changed economic conditions<http://www.macslist.org/cant-find-a-full-time-job-become-a-free-agent/>present shortened job cycles, more project work, and budget-cutbacks.
2. Attitude shifts have created acceptance of the virtual work environment.
3. The Internet gives us technology like Skype and Google Hangout.
4. Free agents can more easily avoid ageism issues.”
As a freelance writer and editor and, sort of, teacher (full-time substitute)—I can tell you it ain’t easy making ends meet, or making as much as you would with a different job in your field, more or less. It takes nerves of steel to go into business for yourself.
I’m not entrepreneurial enough to have ever tried it full time.
Those who promote themselves as “free agents” by any other name (consultant, often) on LinkedIn used to intimidate me; after having coffee with a few, however, I found that most of them, bless their souls, are struggling like many of us to stay afloat.
Success, such as eking out a reasonable living, can take years, lots of savvy and cat food (minus the cats), and adjustable expectations. If that’s you, please take a deep bow.
To read the full version, visit http://www.macslist.org/cant-find-a-full-time-job-become-a-free-agent/