(Article written for the James Lambert Consulting blog)
I am witnessing the beginning of a workplace revolution. It’s not a torch-and-pitchfork mob storming the watercooler and demanding that Hawaiian shirt Friday be all day and every day. No, it’s far from that. In fact, it’s greater than that. It’s a shift in the collective mindset—an earthquake of professional proportions—that’s redefining the landscape of our job culture. It will tear down cubicle walls, crumble wretched commutes, and give people the ability to fly above it all. This movement has momentum and it’s called The Gig Economy.
Traditional office environments and job cultures are beginning to break apart
Although no one can say for sure when the gig economy (i.e. contract jobs, freelancing, etc.), will gain a majority slice of the status quo pie, my guess is that it will reach the tipping point within the next decade. If you don’t believe me, just conduct a Google search on the topic: Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider, and the like cover this subject to a meticulous degree. For the immediately curious, I’ll wax statistical for a moment and mention that in 2016, 35% of the workforce consisted of freelance professionals. Furthermore, researchers are predicting that number will rise to more than 40% by 2020. However, if you’re not a stats person, just consider the impact of co-working spaces on the traditional workplace landscape.
Trust me when I say there will be a learning curve for those who find themselves in the dark when that tipping point arrives because being a freelance specialist is by no means an extension of traditional employment. It means you must stop thinking of yourself as a potential employee and start considering yourself a brand. It’s time to reinvent yourself—now—because time stops for nobody: the early bird gets the worm and a napping hare will always be bested by a proactive tortoise. To become a part of this movement, you’ll need to let fiction take control.
Have you met Nuwanda?
In the movie Dead Poets Society, the character Charlie Dalton was so inspired by his school’s bygone literary society that he took on a new identity: Nuwanda. He reinvented himself.
Before you start changing your name at the Social Security office, understand that I’m not suggesting you adopt a new persona. But please, shred those resume bullet points and set fire to your trite keyword-laden objective statements: you’re going to be a brand and brands aren’t stuffy. They communicate philosophies and values in a manner that’s both memorable and informative. They’re creative. Brands are dynamic.
You don’t have to attend Hogwarts to work magic.
We live in a do-it-yourself age. You can build a website, make a business card, start a newsletter, and create a blog using nothing more than a small budget and some well-chosen templates. You can improve an existing professional social media presence using the myriad of resources available online; if you don’t have a social media presence, there are resources for creating one as well. Google will be your best friend here but to get you pointed in the right direction, I’m sharing a few resources I’ve either used or considered using in the past:
- WordPress: Website and blog development and hosting
- MailChimp: E-newsletter development and distribution
- Moo: Printing for business cards and other types of brand collateral
- Photoshop: Image development, to customize imagery for a website or print materials
- Pixabay: Free stock illustration and photography for print or online needs
- Photo Flash Drive: Great packaging options for client giveaways
Before you jump in headfirst, define your philosophies on work, project development, team success, and customer service. Decide what makes you stand apart from the rest and then list metaphors that relate to some of those statements. Find the overlap between creative thinking and functional communication and then start building, creating, printing, and publishing based on the commonalities. Granted, a graphic designer or brand professional would be helpful. However, that’s not necessary to get started. And like I said, you should start now.
To further illustrate my point, I’m sharing a few links to branded websites owned by individual professionals, sites that I think are strong on multiple levels:
- Have Concept, Will Travel: One of the best examples of personal branding I’ve ever seen
- Sonia Quiñones: A memorable but to-the-point website for a freelance writer
- Niklas Modig: It’s a compelling web presence that is both dynamic and easy to experience
To infinity and beyond!
Buzz Lightyear began as an inside joke to toys that spent any amount of time listening to his inflated claims. But in the end, he found his true calling using nothing more than his bravery. In that spirit, I encourage you to have the guts to create a powerful personal brand. Don’t be fake—be authentic. Don’t skim the surface—dig deep. And please, by all means, don’t whisper—instead, shout.
Here’s some additional food for thought for what I hope is a starving mind ready to raid the metaphorical fridge…
- Create a website that showcases your value, even if that’s not standard practice in your industry.
- Start a blog to let colleagues and potential clients have unfettered access to your professional perspectives on topics that relate to them.
- If you haven’t done so already, ramp up your presence on LinkedIn.
- You are going to be an individual brand. A freelancer. You’ll exist outside of a salary pool and you will certainly not be a minion any longer. Think for yourself because your unique value and expertise will bring value and success to companies that need help.
A workplace revolution is underway. It’s beginning to shatter the walls that historically separated employees from the freedom to fly above it all. It’s an evolving landscape for sure but don’t get lost—instead, forge ahead. Be the sole master of your fate: become a freelancer.