Earning income as a non-full-time permanent employee is nothing new. From the invention of the portable typewriter, content-providers in the media industries have been operating as freelancers. At the end of the 1980s, when we middle-aged middle managers in Corporate America got the boot, we hung out shingles and called ourselves "consultants." But the raw reality was that we were freelancers.
As The Economist documented, the On-Demand Economy model is growing globally. It provides organizations the flexibility they require in disruptive times. After all, the introduction of an app can mean that the dispatch department of a company could be eliminated. No more need for that function.
For those who choose to operate freelance or who have no choice, the initial shock is this: Obtaining, keeping and gaining access to better (that is, more interesting, higher paying) work require many of the old-fashioned attitudes and push that the full-time permanent job game had.
Here is the game plan for being successful in the On-Demand Economy.
- Demonstrate Hunger, Not Desperation. In his 2005 Stanford Commencement speech, Steve Jobs hammered that we should all stay hungry. However, when that erodes into being too hungry, the odds are you won't get the assignment or if you do it will pay peanuts. To prevent that, you have to be marketing yourself all the time, even when you have too much work. The demand situation can change on a dime.
- Exude Enthusiasm. Those hiring perceive that as high energy for the project. Yes, it's useful to make recommendations to indicate how involved you are.
- From the Get-Go, Sell. Company X sends an email blast to check who's interested in a project. Never just say that you are. Explain in detail why you are the best pro for the assignment. Discuss your edge. You bet, you need an edge. Frontload that in the first sentence.
- Have Confidence to Turn Down Bad Fits, Lousy Compensation. You have a right to choose your assignments. The era of doing favors or being nice is over. A bad fit will drain you. And, you're doing this for money, not as a hobby or volunteer work. If the compensation is subpar, steer clear.
- Develop a network. The best assignments come through contacts. You won't get far if you isolate yourself. It's useful, if you can afford it, to attend industry events. I have bypassed admission fees by offering to cover, including live-blogging or tweeting, the event. In addition, that allows me to work the room from a position of strength.
- Learn from Clients. The most effective and cost-efficient way to keep up in our fields is to learn from clients. That's the reason why, even if we want to take a month off and tour England, we should stay put and keep working. What we learn from Client X we can leverage to attract business from Client Y.
As the economy continues to improve, we will adjust our game plan accordingly. For example, I can now be more selective and not dip beneath a certain price point. Also, I have more power to negotiate the terms and conditions such as deadlines.
But, in essence, the On-Demand Economy rules for earning a living are as rigid and unforgiving as those in the full time permanent space.