It is said that we all need to sell ourselves, e.g., in order to get a job. However getting a conventional job was never my favorite dream, I’ve always preferred to be on my own, I’m very independent and like to arrange my stuff my way and decide how where and when to work.
While probably a minority, many people are like me, and if you are, you probably also hate office politics and corporate paternalism. One obvious solution for our plight is going freelance, which is what I’ve done for a number of years.
If this is also your case or aim, I don’t have to elaborate on the advantages of freelancing, and you’ll probably know or guess a number of disadvantages. About the later I venture to say that the most common difficulty with being a freelancer is to get enough of good clients/gigs in a consistent manner. In other words the self-marketing problem.
As an employee you sell yourself once, and provided you’re reasonably good at your job (or just average depending on the case), you probably won’t need to sell yourself again in a number of years. Yet as a freelancer you need to sell yourself again and again.
So there’s a need here, and thus on answer to it a number of books and courses have emerged on “how to get clients” as an independent professional. That’s great, I always like to learn new skills and that’s clearly a valuable one. And yet, while I’m learning how to get clients I’m not getting paid, so if for some reason I can’t get a gig with my so-far limited self-selling skills, I’d have to maybe get back to applying for conventional jobs… and then I’ll have very limited availability if I do manage to secure some freelance project. Trapped in a catch 22.
In some countries there are agencies that freelancers can use to get a contract job. This may work nicely in many cases but has also a number of disadvantages for those who truly love the freelancer lifestyle. Just to name a few:
- There’s a conflict of interest, because agents most of the time are not “your” agent, they have many other potential candidates and they will push you or not to the client depending on their own interest, mostly the commission they expect to get.
- Most agents know little about your job, they don’t understand your qualifications (often they won’t even read your CV) and their pre-selection job is just one of matching keywords they don’t know what they mean.
As a consequence of the above agencies are as much of a help as they are a hindrance.
Furthermore a contract job is typically very similar to an employee job: although you don’t participate in office politics, you still have to work in an office setting, be there during rigid office hours, attend to some useless meetings and so on. Most importantly, depending on where you live, you may have to move to another city or country in order to access proper opportunities according to your qualifications. While I’ve done it a few times and enjoyed it, I would prefer the freedom to choose where to work from.
It’s a well known fact that there’s a general shortage of highly qualified labor, particularly in technology-related jobs. And yet many freelancers struggle to get an steady inflow of relevant projects. Isn't there another alternative for a talented professional that wants to work independently?
Probably not until recently, but fortunately some entrepreneurs detected this market niche and they have setup an innovative service for some kinds of freelancers (mostly designers, coders & tech consultants). They do the hard work to find high quality clients for you but, unlike contractor agencies, they make a much more serious attempt to find the right professional for the client. This results in the following advantages:
- there’s no conflict of interest because there are no agents acting as gatekeepers every time you apply for a project
- they are technically conversant (the founders are engineers themselves) and make proper matches
Now how easy is to get into their network? Here’s the good thing: it’s not easy at all! they have an exhaustive pre-screening process so only the best get through it. In fact I’m in the process of applying and still don’t know if I’ll make it.
Of course this is good because you have the chance to demonstrate your value, and sell yourself but, like an employee who applies for a job, you have to do it only once. If you get approved you’ll get access to high quality projects and can work as a freelancer without having to hunt for clients and distracting your resources in selling yourself every single time.
Plus you get to work not only as a freelancer but as a remote one. Therefore not only you can be located anywhere in the world, you may work for companies worldwide, and thus you’re not limited to a particular country or area or forced to relocate in order to get a good deal. I suspect this also acts as a filter of innovative companies, because they must have the technical and organizational structure in place to integrate remote workers. That shows a minimum of sophistication and open-mindedness, therefore the kind of companies I’ll probably enjoy the most to work for.