Independent Thinking

I’ve been freelancing for over four years now and am always looking at how I’m doing business, what works and what doesn’t. Some days it seems that, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose“, in the words of Janis Joplin. Other days, it’s pretty darned good.

My introduction to freelancing came through Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation, still a good read for those considering the road less traveled. I also follow a few sites dedicated to independent work, such as Consultant Journal; Thinking Home Business and Why Go Solo. The advice from all of these sources is good and makes for interesting reading, but I think that being a free agent is very case specific. Like learning, it’s highly contextual. Every freelancer is different and in a unique set of circumstances. There is some general business advice that is suitable for everyone, but I think that freelancers have to cut their own path. There are no real rules and rock solid principles. As many consultants would say, “It depends”.

So here’s my advice.  For the most part, you can ignore everyone else’s advice. If you want to go out on your own, start paying attention to everything around you. That includes your own spending habits, how you connect with people, how you do your work and what’s going on in your field. Observe and listen. Look for patterns and make your own deductions. Then take action (like your first project/client) and spend some time reflecting on your actions and those of others. By doing, you will learn. In business and in life, it’s the doing that counts.

7 Responses to “Independent Thinking”

  1. Derek Hatchard

    Great advice, Harold.

    I started freelancing when I left grad school and my wife was on maternity leave. Having that guaranteed income was just enough of a safety net for me to make the leap. That was five years ago this summer and I don’t regret it one bit. I have to really get myself back into my mindset at the time to remember how hard that decision was to make.

  2. Des Walsh

    Thanks for the mention Harold. Excellent observations. With some nineteen years as a freelance consultant and coach notched up, I believe the old saying, “take the wheat and let the chaff be still” applies. Trouble is, as anyone who has handled the wheat and chaff in real life knows, that chaff has a way of blowing around a lot and getting in people’s eyes. Just like a lot of the advice I read (and try not to any more), chaff, not wheat, like blog posts which no doubt in good faith seek to lay down rigid rules about how to be a freelancer. Enjoy the journey, mate: we know it can be scary, but hey! who wants to go back to the M-F, 9-5, yes boss, no boss rigmarole?

  3. Joe

    Well said! For me, I want to apply the consultant “mindset” at my permanent job (as long as it lasts and as long as I’m learning). Hopefully I can develop a more consultative approach while I’m there.

    I think I’ll know when the time comes to strike out on my own. If the decision is made for me (likely), I want to be ready to explore it. I just want to be ready for the available options, whatever they may be.

  4. Dave F.

    Seems like yet another good opportunity to plug Peter Block’s Flawless Consulting. Much more about how to relate to your client than how to manage your practice, I think the advice is adaptable to a variety of independent practices.

  5. Harold

    A friend of mine is an HR consultant and always says that getting a job is a date, not a marriage. I think that attitude is good for the long run, Joe.

    Dave; I guess I’d better buy that book 😉

  6. Joe

    Yes, and this job feels more and more like a blind date, perhaps one that I will bring to a close before the evening turns too late, and someone gets the wrong idea.

  7. Ann Bernard

    Quite a few days later and dollars short!! Thanks Harold for mentioning Why Go Solo and for following our story.

    You perhaps have one of the most challenging jobs out there…being a solo entrepreneur. Your story, experiences and wisdom are well worth noting and following.


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