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Everyone a Business: Is Becoming a Free Agent for You?

Most of us have thought about it at one time or another. We have dreamed of taking control of our careers and heading out on our own.

Occasionally itís because we donít like our company, or canít stand our boss or co-workers. Sometimes itís because we are tired of making all this money for our company, or because we are concerned about the unpredictability of future employment. But more often than not itís because we have this "fire" in us that says we want to own our business. We want to pull all of our ideas, experience, and drive together to prove we can do it better. We want to do it Our Way!

One of the key concepts in this idea of becoming an entrepreneur, a "free agent" if you will, is how well it mirrors what is happening in the business world today. As Corporate America continues to downsize, out-source, acquire, and merge, the opportunity for people to start their own businesses has never been greater. Companies will continue to re-invent themselves on a regular basis to stay competitive in this warp-speed, technology driven, "we can no longer guarantee you a job" workplace. They will continue to figure out how to reduce their cost of doing business and strive to become a more fluid and flexible business model:

Therein lies the opportunity for those of us who choose to go down the "everyone is a business" path. The New Look of Work (some studies predict that by 2005 up to 50% of the workforce will be independent contractors) will provide the vehicle for people to launch their own businesses; including becoming an independent consultant, a small-business owner, or a web-based entrepreneur. And, the benefits can be enormous: more freedom, more control of your working time, more diverse assignments, telecommuting, and better work/life balance to name just a few.

So where are the best opportunities to become an independent contractor/consultant?

Hereís a list of a few of my recommendations:

Career Coaching
Market Research
Office Productivity (word processing)
Tax Planning
Technology (web-site developers, network engineers)

But maybe the best opportunity to become a "free agent" is with your current employer. Companies are becoming more and more receptive to employees, or groups of employees, quitting the firm and being re-hired as contractors. Often times with contracts, at higher pay, for months or even multi-year terms.

The benefits to the company are:

  1. They know your skill level.

  2. They reduce their fixed expenses.

  3. They put themselves in a position to terminate you on a moments notice.

The benefits to you are:

You make more money.

  • You have the flexibility to change assignments or move on when the work is completed.

  • You get the chance to be taken more seriously by the company so as to propose different, better solutions for the same work.

    Should you decide to "Go Solo," here are a few tips on how to be most effective:

    1. If youíre working out of your home office, donít hang around the office all day. Take some time each day to get out, meet some customers, lunch with fellow contractors.

    2. Donít spend too much time on your computer each day. The tendency is to get lost in some back-water and spend hours watching the alligators (which may have nothing to do with your biz).

    3. Focus on servicing your customer better, rather than on trying to grow your business too fast. There is a tendency when you first leave Corporate America to get more customers. Thatís somewhat understandable. You no longer have the cushion of a regular check. By focusing on giving your current client un-paralled service, you will quickly build a strong reputation and gain a reference that will provide plenty of future revenue.

    4. Donít think in terms of a formal, rigid, business plan. When youíre an independent consultant or contractor, you have to be extremely flexible to quickly respond to the market needs. The customer is still king.

    5. Donít let business run your life. Once youíre clear of the Corporate Claw, there is sometimes a tendency to let the responsibility overwhelm you. Stay focused and remember that the goal of having fun and achieving work/life balance is doable. Think about this: Havenít we really been self-employed all this time?

    Havenít most of us been independent contractors performing a defined set of services with no real guarantee of continued employment? I think so. If you do too, and youíre ready to take the plunge, goodness is just around the corner.

    And, remember: Go Confidently in the Direction of Your Dream.

    -Gordon Miller
    Career coach, speaker, and the author of The Career Coach: Winning Strategies for Getting Ahead in Todayís Job Market (Doubleday). He can be reached at