I have spent the past 20 years figuring out what changes the internet era might bring. During the last 12 years I’ve run a web-powered business. What have I learned as a freelancer on the Net? First of all I am lucky that blogging gave me an international reputation, and that I started early enough. But all the benefits from blogging have been indirect. It is impossible to proactively increase sales through this model. Word of mouth travels at its own speed and in unknown directions. All things come in time: usually a long time.
I have found that business value keeps shifting. I used to get paid well to help companies select new learning technologies. I have not done that type of work for over five years. I have also seen organizations move away from using external consultants. I think the entire consulting model is ripe for disruptive change. When LinkedIn advertises ex-McKinsey consultants available for $60 per hour, you know that it’s an obsolete business model.
What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. After several of my major clients decided they no longer wanted to hire consultants, I temporarily lost a primary source of my revenue. Luckily I was testing out my online workshops. These happened to pick up just as consulting work was decreasing.
Whether you work for yourself or are part of a small business, you need to have new products and services tested and ready to go. This is what I call perpetual beta: experimenting in order to create emergent practices. It may sound trite, but the change cycle seems to be getting faster. It’s the effect of what Jay Cross referred to as Internet time. Our interconnected economy is forcing us to be more innovative because replication is just too easy. The competition can copy most of what you are doing as soon as you do it. It doesn’t matter if the competition is not as good as you if they can get more attention than you.
I am going to start working on my next book, which will be different from my perpetual beta series. My objective is to take what I have learned these past twenty years and create a guide for freelancers, consultants, and other creative workers. Some things already in progress are:
- How to negotiate a contract.
- How to establish fees.
- How to manage client expectations.
- How to find a community of practice.
- How to build a trusted knowledge network.
All of these will be based on first or second-hand experience, learning from my colleagues as well. I will post the ‘half-baked ideas’ here and then use them to create a finished narrative for the published work.