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Are You Ready to Be an Independent Contractor?

Are You Ready to Be an Independent Contractor?

    Permanent employment may be disappearing faster than anyone thought. In recent weeks, both the Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review have published articles on crowd-sourced labor, or the hiring of a temporary team to accomplish a very specific task.

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    In increasing numbers, large organizations are using crowd-sourcing instead of permanent hiring to achieve their goals. AOL used it recently when it hired a team of contractors to build software to help the company best leverage its video assets. It makes sense if you think about it. For one thing, hiring and training new permanent employees is very expensive. For another, it’s difficult to get rid of them during financial rough patches or when they are no longer needed.

    The future is coming up fast

    This is not a new idea. Futurist research has been saying for years that by 2025, the majority of us will be contingent workers, working from home or private offices and completing a variety of tasks for a variety of employers. For most, long-term, stable relationships with employers will in short-order be a thing of the past, and I suspect that, as individuals, we’re not ready.

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    The perks and quirks of contingent work

    I’m an independent contractor today, and I can tell you it took a lot of getting used to. I eased into this career over a period of four years, frequently returning to my large company of origin for some predictable work and comforting conversation by the water cooler. I’ve been a solo-preneur for a while now, and I still tire of the administrative nightmares and emotional hand-wringing that comes with having my own business.

    Of course, working via crowd-sourcing has its advantages. Maybe you need to earn a little extra cash. Maybe you’re geographically challenged. Maybe you want to choose your own hours so you can pick the kids up from school. Maybe you want to work in your pajamas.  Contingent work allows for all of these things.

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    Even the benefits of having a single job with one employer are diminishing. We all know what happened to large company job security in 2008, and as HBR and the New York Times pointed out, that work for many “regular” employees (like those in retail) is just as unpredictable as the work for independent contractors.

    However, working for yourself and being 100% in charge of your own career requires a skill set that is not native to most people. Not only do you have to be self-disciplined, deadline-focused, and skilled at developing virtual relationships, but you have to be able to manage your time on many different fronts simultaneously, and keep track of who needs to pay you and when. You have to be out there selling your work and getting your own training so you can stay ahead of the competition. With freedom comes responsibility. Lots of it.

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    Experiment now, prevent shock later

    Given where we are inevitably heading as a workforce, you might want to dip your toe in this kind of work before you are thrown in head first. You can start by doing an isolated project for another department or volunteer organization, and filling out your online profiles thoroughly so potential employers can find you easily.

    (Photo credit: Person at the notebook via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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