Category Archives: the way we work

Why 2017 Will Be the Year of the Freelancer

Guest post by Cassie Phillips, Technology & Internet Security Enthusiast; Blogger at securethoughts.com. Full bio located at the end of the post. 

Another year in the information age has come and gone, and the internet has cemented itself even further as an essential part of not only our personal lives but our business lives. Can you think of many positions that don’t involve the use of the internet and complex programs now?

With that advent comes the rise of freelance labor from all around the world, people much like yourself who wanted more control over their careers and their lives. And from what we can tell, people are starting to freelance every day and therefore joining the freelance economy.

Here are four reasons why next year will be a year freelancers and hopeful freelancers will celebrate:

Online Freelancing Platforms Are Cementing Themselves

When the internet as we know it was forming, there wasn’t a centralized location freelancers could go to find safe and reliable work. Craigslist at the time was more legitimate for finding work, and various illegitimate sites popped up and vanished after doing damage to the freelancers who tried to use them.

Now we have websites, such as Upwork and Freelancer, that let freelancers congregate and bid for jobs that not only have protections put in place but are numerous and specialized. Not only that, the most established of these sites are now perfecting their systems and their reputations, allowing freelancers and clients alike to find the people they’re looking to work with.

This makes the process of finding work much easier for both people just entering the freelance world and those who have been there for years. Potential clients are now focused on a few major websites, making job searches a shorter process. These platforms also allow for rating systems, and while those have their problems, experience is noted and commands a higher price.

More People Are Turning To Freelancing Than Ever Before

Given the shake-up the world economy incurred in the last decade, more people have tried out freelancing as a means of bringing in income when full-time employment was hard to find or to supplement reduced wages. This wave of freelancers not only created a stronger infrastructure for freelancers (by necessity), but it normalized freelancing more than ever among the average person. To show the numbers, the number of freelancers quadrupled over the last decade.

This is now combined with the proliferation of the internet and technology to create an environment where nearly anyone can try out freelancing as a career choice. While the dedication and hard work have not been removed from the equation, the high costs of entry originally required are now gone, and there are many websites that will help new freelancers on their path (such as this one).

More Businesses Recognize Remote Freelancers Are An Option

Fortunately, to match this increased freelance workforce, there’s an increased demand for freelance work as companies have more tasks that they need completed by specialists in their field who they do not have employed full-time. From their point of view, they don’t have to worry about HR problems, and they don’t have to maintain a long-term contract with the freelancer should a project dry up. They usually don’t need to use any office space as well, and due to the independent nature of freelancer, managerial time is kept to a minimum.

Quite simply, freelancers and prospective freelancers such as yourself are convenient for companies, and they often do better work than their in-house counterparts. Why wouldn’t companies take advantage of the opportunity to work with and learn from an expert? Next year will be filled with uncertainly, so freelancers provide a short-term commitment.

Not only this, but freelancers are now available all over the world. Companies are no longer bound to finding the best local employee. They can hire people from Canada to South Africa, even someone with special talents who happens to live in a place where they would be locally in low demand.

A freelancer can work from anywhere where there’s WiFi, so long as the connection is strong and that they’re using a Virtual Private Network to protect client information. Internet cafes aren’t as popular as they used to be in the United States, but worldwide the industry is still strong.

Freelance Workplace Culture is Becoming Mainstream Workplace Culture

When you think of workplace culture, do you immediately think of setting your own hours and having autonomy on projects? Many people wouldn’t think that, but people in some tech industries and forward-thinking companies are realizing that flexibility and specialization are keys in bringing a company ahead of its competitors. The workplace is becoming a little looser and open-minded, and with that freelancers are more readily accepted into a company fold, even if only for a short while.

It’s now standard for managers and projects leaders to use and communicate with freelancers to get the job done. Remote workers are now appearing in most major companies, and remote work (and partially remote work) is commonplace. While teamwork is as important as ever, individual creativity and decision making are growing in value as skillsets. These are skills that freelancers by nature are going to bring to the table.

Conclusion

Next year is going to be great for freelancers. Opportunities are growing, and the online culture making its way into businesses is only going to improve the general climate toward freelance professionals of all fields. In fact, no matter what industry you look at, freelancing is becoming a more viable source of income. I hope that you are in a good position for yourself whether or not you’re freelancing and that you take the steps forward to give yourself the life that you want.

About the Author: Cassie is a freelance author and marketer who has found the freelancing life to be an amazing one after she eased into the lifestyle. She hopes that others will consider opening up their life and turning toward freelance work as a potential choice for them.

Environmental Biohacking & Rumbling With The Unknown

Sunset at Big Sur taken during week 4 of my bio-hacking experiment

Big Sur, CA – Taken during Week 4 of my experiment.

The following is based on a talk I gave a few weeks back at Twitch HQ for Women’s Catalyst Lightening Talks.

At the end of September I deliberately kicked myself out of my studio apartment.

I sublet to a friend for two months and hit the road.

Now, I didn’t go very far. I drove around California in my trusty Prius C – living with friends, crashing on couches, spending time in nature.

I did this because I needed to get uncomfortable.

Because I believe that curiosity is greater than comfort.

[ Curiosity Zone > Comfort Zone ] *

I didn’t always believe this.

I’m a virgo perfectionist who likes her creature comforts. I’m in the upper half of my 30’s. What sense did it make to live out of my car when I had immediate goals to achieve?

Because I needed to clear my head. Because I wanted to get better.

Biohacking is a systems thinking approach to our own biology.

Here’s a short list of hackable things** :

• Nutrition – what we put into our bodies

• Physiology/Movement – muscle activity, cardio-vascular health, stretching & posture

• Environment – lighting, air quality, spending more time in nature

• Meditation – it can literally rewire the brain

• Mindfulness – practicing gratitude on a regular basis

• Sleep – measuring how much you get, performing regular quality checks

• Attention – how you think, learn, reason and focus

• Getting Uncomfortable…

…Ah ha!

Getting uncomfortable can mean a lot of things. It can mean taking a cold shower, contemplating death, or giving rejection therapy a spin. For me, it was a version of being homeless.

I’m not going to say it was easy. I oft dreamt about returning to my peaceful Oakland apartment.

But as soon as I returned to Oakland two weeks ago I felt a wave of disappointment wash over me. I walked to the window and looked out. Where was everyone, and…

…When can I do it again?

Here are my findings post-experiment:

1. Possessions – I can get by with less. A lot less.

2. Focus – Having less allows me to focus directly on my goals.

3. Self-reliance – I became stronger with my asks because my needs were clear.

4. Self-Awareness – I became more open minded to new situations.

5. Planning – I made a choice to just show up and take it one day at a time. And it worked.

Most of all, I learned that I don’t need to have everything figured out.

Becaue we are a generation defining life on our own terms. There are no right answers, no playbook to live by. We can write our own stories as we go.

 

* via this post by James Altucher

** via this post by Dave Asprey

Going Freelance – 5 Tips For Entering The Freelance Economy

5 tips for entering the freelance economy

Photo Source: Kaboom Pics

A few weeks back I gave a talk at The Alley about my experience in joining the freelance economy. The evening was filled with personal stories and powerful tips for getting started. I learned a lot from the other presenters and had a great time sharing my experience so far. Below are key takeaways from that talk.

1. Establish your value-add.

Before you make the jump, it’s critical to understand the value of what you bring to the marketplace. Speak with business leaders in your circle to understand their needs within your area of expertise. For me, it was an intimidating process because marketing is such a huge vertical. After I understood what people needed the most help with, I was able to establish a framework for how to help.

2. Get organized.

I use Trello to manage action items related to the business itself. For example, I have several lists set up for capturing to-dos and tracking leads.

One thing I wish I did earlier was set up a separate gmail account for business correspondence only. Having a separate account helps keep things streamlined and creates a better work-life balance.

Each client gets a tracking number. This number is added to their Trello board, Google drive folder, and company profile within FreshBooks.

Google drive is key for collecting and sharing project files and documentation. I use Freshbooks for invoicing, Slack and Skype for communication, and countless other services for managing my calendar and keeping inboxes streamlined.

I went to the bank and got a business checking card to separate business expenses from personal ones. In conjunction with Mint, this will make things much easier come tax season.

3. Optimize your environment.

For the first two months as a freelancer I worked from home. I learned that it wasn’t sustainable over time.  I needed to get out of the house in order to work more efficiently in general, and get at least a little amount of socialization in.

One of the hardest parts about going freelance for me, outside of worrying constantly about money, was working alone 100% of the time. I learned that I need to be around other people to get the juices flowing,  so I designed a work environment that worked the best in order to achieve that.

4. Remember that Energy is greater than Time.

As a freelancer it’s important to optimize your time, but it’s equally if not more important to maintain mental energy. If your energy is low, you won’t be able to complete tasks as quickly or with nearly as much focus. It may seem selfish at first to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. But in the end, it’s critical in order to prevent burn out and keep your energy reserves high over a sustained period of time.

5. Plug-in to like-minded communities.

Go to events hosted by companies that support the freelance economy. Some examples of companies that host great events include:  WorkFrom, Fivver, and Cloudpeeps. Explore co-working places and opportunities to work with others. Co-working communities often host events for socializing and have Slack channels for participating in knowledge share during the work week. These communities are helpful for building friendships, finding resources, and generating leads.  

Remember, your desire to be a freelancer is a logical one. It was never explained to us when we were young that this way of living and working is a viable option, therefore the concept can at times appear hazy.

However, the percentage of freelancers is on the rise. Freelancers are part of a larger movement focused on creating a sustainable and independent work economy. With some solid strategy, decent organizational skills and willpower, you can make the transition too.

View the presentation from my talk here.

Becoming Antifragile – How To Gain From Disorder

 

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes via Slideshare: Antifragile: Lessons Learned

“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos – you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.”

-Nassim Taleb

Last week I gave a talk at the monthly Catalysts Collective event here in San Francisco on the topic of antifragility. The following points are highlights from my talk.

To understand the premise of Antifragile – Things That Gain From Disorder there are three key areas to consider.

We know what it means to be fragile – to be easily broken. Another way to interpret it is to be damaged by disorder. The world’s banking system is a good example – something left vulnerable to chaos, randomness, and uncertainty.

After the state of fragility comes resiliency. Things that are resilient have the ability withstand disorder. Imagine a structure built to withstand earthquakes. When an actual earthquake occurs, the building (hopefully) remains standing. It does not change.

A great story of being resilient is the phoenix. The phoenix may rise from the ashes, but he rises only to become what he once was before. 

The final state Taleb focuses on is the state of being antifragile.

Antifragility is when something benefits from disorder. While startups are known to harbor an improbability of success, when viewed in increments success happens as a result of randomness, chance, volatility and instability. 

When viewed from the macro level, the startup economy benefits society as a whole. It creates room for opportunity and innovation. Things like volatility and instability are required in order for them to achieve the point of contribution at scale. This concept can be applied to the contribution of individuals too – organic things, like muscle mass, require some level of instability or challenge in order to grow.

I believe that being antifragile is essential for personal revolution.

Some benefits of being antifragile include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Welcomeness to change
  • The allowance of discomfort
  • Possessing a growth mindset versus a fixed one.

Here are  ways to become antifragile:

  • Think of perceived failure as opportunity
  • Lean into fear
  • Embrace community
  • Listen to yourself and to others
  • Seek opportunities
  • Build a strong baseline
  • Use the barbell strategy.

The barbell strategy is a method presented by Taleb. Consider the image of a barbell. The maximum amount of risk you’re willing to take goes on one side. It’s balanced by Maslov’s basic needs (food, water, safety) on the opposing end.

This is a very basic introduction to the basic concepts of Antifragility. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend checking out the book itself or visit the following blogs that present nice summaries and applicable tips for becoming antifragile.

Taylor Pearson – Antifragile Book Notes

StartupBros – How You Can Profit From The Unknown: Becoming Antifragile

Buy – Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (Amazon)

Getting To Inbox Zero In 3 Hours Or Less

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

I always thought “inbox zero” was an urban myth. How is it possible that one’s inbox could have literally no emails in it whatsoever?

The last time I checked there were around twenty-thousand messages. Incoming ones starred for later, bookmarked newsletters going back to the beginning of time begging for acknowledgement — the dutiful read, watch, response, purchase or listen that may or may not make our lives slightly more whole.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a hoarder of information. I’m pretty much obsessed with emailing myself several times daily — links to recipes, lengthy thought pieces, cute shoes — never to be opened at the fabled moment for where there’s actually time. Let’s face it, emails generate more work than pleasure. And if the case was in fact pleasure, my pocketbook surely wouldn’t be pleased.

I also have a terrible habit of staring at my inbox for moments on end. I sit unblinking and motionless, eyeballs glossing over the never ending list. Whether starred, marked as “important and unread,” or falling within the categorical everything else, without moving a muscle the meter on my forehead goes from full to hovering near bone dry.

One Friday evening I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to part with these missives from the past. They were slogging things down, preventing crystal-clear clarity in order to have a more fulfilling, energized, and productive day.

Here’s how I finally reached the ever-so-elusive Inbox Zero in less than three hours.

1. I took to e-mail management tools.

Basically, if there’s a way to cheat through technology I’m going to do it. In this case the enablers were Sanebox and Boomerang.

I implemented Sanebox to filter out everything that wasn’t urgent. Most emails were automatically delivered to a new inbox called “SaneLater.” Urgent e-mails, as defined in this case, arrive directly in my main inbox from the fingertips of human beings I actually know. Anything and everything else goes to SaneLater.

I made use of Boomerang, which I’ve had installed for years and never actually noticed. I scheduled starred emails to return on the day an action item was due. The original message was then archived.

2. I took the plunge.

The great thing about Gmail is that all your archived emails are still searchable (via the nav bar at the top). They live in a far-off place you don’t need to visit unless absolutely necessary, far away from your actual inbox.

Sanebox offers a simple and useful methodology for e-mail management: Delegate, Defer, Delete, Respond, and Do.

After responding to, rescheduling, or filing away everything timely I could find, I did the unimaginable. I selected everything in my inbox — I mean everything — and *gulp* clicked Archive.

Sanebox has a tiny learning curve when it comes to additional features. Part of the fun is leveraging them for specific needs.

For example, I don’t always need a message to return if I don’t hear back from the recipient. I do, however, need constant reminders in order to follow up with people within a reasonably courteous timeframe and/or get things done by a specific date. Having the message go away then reappear when the timing is relevant is a hack that’s been working massively well for me so far.

After it was all said and done, my inbox looked like this!

IMG_4517

Day one went flawlessly. By removing the clutter I felt immeasurably energized and ready to do the deep work instead of staring at the screen in an overwhelmed stupor. I didn’t miss anything about the old e-mail workspace. I found myself attacking the “to dos” — the major bullseyes of the day that mattered most.

Email became secondary to workflow. Actual work came first. By using chunks of time specifically set aside for e-mail I now manage inbound communications tactically (while attempting to avoid becoming obsessed with the notion of persistent zero!). This week was noticeably more productive — my headspace has been clearer and I found that my mood was actually better.

All in all, the tedious effort was worth it in the end.  Inbox Zero for the win!

Now, does anyone have any tips for keeping it this way?!