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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 June 19, 2019

    8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

    8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

    Everyone has the ability to learn a life-changing skill not just this year, but in the next 6 months.

    By life-changing, I mean something that can have a positive impact in your life moving forward, even if it’s something you can’t envision today. Certain skills we can immediately reap the benefits of, while others will be life-changing when we least expect it.

    In this article, we’ll share 8 life-changing skills you can learn in 6 months, where you can learn them, and how you can get started today.

    1. Speed reading

    Bill Gates has been known to state that if he had one superpower, it would be the ability to read faster. What Bill and the rest of the mega-successful understand is that knowledge is power. The ability to process information faster from books, articles, and reports is what will help us learn faster, and therefore improve each aspect of our life faster as well.

    Where you can start learning: Speed reading courses are becoming more popular, as more people realize how important it is with the limited time we have. You can check out free courses like Read Speeder or you can start learning how to use Spritzlet, which allows you to speed read articles online with a browser extension.

    2. Public speaking

    Research shows that people fear public speaking more than death itself. There’s something terrifying about being in front of dozens or hundreds of people, and exposing yourself completely. It’s when you’re most vulnerable, but learning how to public speak is a life-changer.

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    Warren Buffett has given advice to recent graduates that the number one skill you can have to succeed is public speaking skills. Everything from communication, confidence, and sales is developed when you develop your public speaking skills.

    Where you can start learning: Luckily, there are great communities out there like Toastmasters that organize local meetups all around the world. You’ll find amazing public speakers that are looking to get to the next level to beginners that are just getting started. Check out Toastmasters’ website here.

    3. Spanish

    As the third most spoken language in the world, the ability to speak Spanish will allow you to reach over 500M people around the world. No matter where you live, knowing how to speak Spanish is becoming increasingly more important, with the Hispanic population and economy spreading quickly worldwide. If you’re living in the US, this is even more important, with over 30% of the population being Hispanic.

    Spanish is also on this list, because it’s one of the easiest languages to learn. Sure, Mandarin is an important language to learn, but it’s an incredibly difficult one to learn. If we were to measure the level of importance and the time to learn for all the languages available, Spanish would make it to the top of the list.

    One of the biggest reasons why people never reach fluency in any foreign language is: using the wrong method, and lack of time.

    It turns out that humans retain only 5% of what we learn from lectures, 20% of what we learn from apps (visual cues), and 90% of what we learn from immediate immersion. Yet, how do 90% of learn a new foreign language? Language schools (lectures), books, Duolingo (apps), etc that don’t provide the real-life immersion required for our brains to learn faster.

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    Where to get started: If you want the most effective way to learn a language, learning from real-life interactions is the best way to do it. There are great websites like Rype, which offers Spanish coaching for busy people, solving the issue of lack of time and bringing real-life immersion to your screen. With Rype, you can book as many lessons as you want, at any time of the day, any day of the week, allowing you to fit it into your schedule, no matter how busy you are.

    4. Accounting

    If you’re looking to get into business, accounting is one of the core fundamentals you’ll need to succeed. While you don’t need to be an expert, you definitely should understand the basics.

    This skill can also be used to manage your personal finances, to meet your financial goals, and having more control over your life.

    Where to get started learning: If you didn’t learn accounting in school, no worries. You can either teach yourself using books, or check out free accounting courses online.

    5. Microsoft Excel

    Most people reading this probably have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. While this is a good start, there are so many powerful functionalities that are hidden, which could make your life a lot easier.

    Excel is also a great asset to have whenever you’re looking for a job, as many corporations rely on Excel to organize and manage multiple parts of the business.

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    Where to get started learning: With the popularity of Excel, you can find tons of free resources and videos online to learn. Check out Excel Exposure, Lynda, and Excel with Business.

    6. Blogging/Vlogging

    Blogging is a powerful tool if you want to spread your ideas, build your brand, or grow your business. Since it was introduced, blogging has taken on a life of its own, and today there are ~2M blog posts being written on a daily basis.

    Where to get started learning: Anyone can start blogging today. All you need is a content-management system like WordPress, which is completely free. Personally, I think the best way to start learning how to blog is to just start writing. There are techniques you can learn on how to promote your blog, but the best way to grow your blog is to write great content.

    7. Weight training

    Yes, weight training is a skill. It’s not as advanced as learning how to code, nor will it take as long as learning a new language, if you just want to learn the basics.

    We’re not promising that you’ll get a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you will see much faster results for whatever goal you have, just by understanding how to workout properly. And of course, when you’re dealing with an activity that involves physical strain, you’ll always want to caution yourself.

    Where to get started learning: There are amazing body builders that are sharing all of their secrets for free on Youtube. You can check out Bodybuilding.com’s Youtube channel to get started.

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    8. Photo and video editing

    In the digital world that we live in, from Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook, there is no avoiding photos and videos. In fact, social media has increasingly gone away from text sharing and almost everything to photo and video editing.

    Where to get started learning: For photo editing, you can use Photoshop. For video editing, you can use iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Keep in mind, there are dozens of editing software tools for video and photo editing, but what’s more important are your editing skills, not the tool itself.

    Check out education websites like CreativeLIVE or Skillshare, where you can learn from experts themselves on how to best use design and software tools.

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