Turning People Into Businesses

Yesterday I participated in a twitter chat with Catalant, which is an amazing company that helps freelancers like myself find “gigs” at real companies.  A couple of the questions asked of the freelancers:

How do you differentiate your firm and the scope of services you offer?

or

What business #metrics do you use to measure the growth and performance of your consulting business?

Some freelancers are building consulting practices with a mix of contractors and employees, but most I know are just working on their own.  They work alone for the simplicity and control of their time and life.  Yet, I have been asked over and over again the same questions: Are you going to hire people?  What are your business goals?  How big do you want to get?

Perhaps because of the popularity of startups that most people assume two things: more money and bigger.  In fact, because of this many first time freelancers assume they should aim to do these things.  I will often send them an article from Seth Godin with this helpful framing:

The goal of a freelancer is to have a steady job with no boss, to do great work, to gradually increase demand so that the hourly wage goes up and the quality of gigs goes up too.

The goal of the entrepreneur is to sell out for a lot of money, or to build a long-term profit machine that is steady, stable and not particularly risky to run. The entrepreneur builds an organization that creates change.”

Our conception of self-employment and the gig economy is still in its infant stage.  People can conceive of the uber driver, but have a hard time understanding the perspective of the self-employed consultant or coach.  In a full-time job, the focus is on “building a career” and managing a trajectory of growth while the freelancer is really trying to figure out basic questions like what the hell am I going to get paid for after next month? how do I stay energized? and what kind of life do I want to live?

I don’t have metrics, a brand and marketing team or an easy to understand business strategy, but when people ask me I say that my business goal is to live a good life and my strategy is creativity and generosity.  If I can do great work and help people, I should be able to hack a good life.

About Paul Millerd

Paul is a writer, creator, and curious human that is passionate about how people can reimagine their relationship with work to do things that matter. He published The Pathless Path in 2022.

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