In 2016 the giants of the global economy exist outside of our traditional understanding of a successful business model. The 21st century has brought about a wave of decentralized, intangible and technology-based companies which cannot be nailed down to their material products or any single location. Facebook, the world’s largest media provider, doesn’t create any content. Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, doesn’t own a single vehicle. Airbnb, the world’s largest provider of accommodation doesn’t own any property. These companies have managed to evolve and excel, creating business structures that function solely through their Internet presence and have created the ‘gig’ economy recently decried by US Senator (MA) Elizabeth Warren. Warren, a famously outspoken democrat who addresses her younger constituent base over concerns of big banks, big pharma and student debt, spoke of her concerns that companies like AirBnB and Uber do not provide stable, supportive income to their workers. It is a ‘gig economy’ because a company that needs no walls needs no regular workers.
But what if ‘gigging’ is as good as it gets? What if the global population of Gen-Yers, individuals like this writer, see that going gig by gig in life is one of the best ways to get by in an increasingly competitive world where rent in a major urban centre alone can render traditional employment utterly unprofitable? Perhaps it’s not so much of a ‘gig economy’ but a ‘go get it economy’ where complacence, habit and routine are the enemy and you only get paid for the quality of your hustle.
With the self-styled title of “the Silicon Savannah” Kenyans are in a prime space to imitate, or be inspired, by companies that exist as solely web presences. Between word of mouth (if you’ve got a good reputation) and a decent online portfolio you have a chance to work at your own hours, choose your own projects and determine your own working style. Get paid a certain rate and you’re a freelancer, earn a bit more and you are a consultant – the name of the game is independence and the rally cry is “work smarter, not harder”. It doesn’t matter the industry, the ‘go get it economy’ is evident in hospitality (food trucks anyone?), service (from catering staff to client management) and creative. So what do you need to make it and go get it? Take some hints from this guide to becoming a member of the go-getter economy.
Identify your strengths – what is it you are selling? Don’t think you have to define yourself to one activity but you should narrow it to one field. Make sure it’s something you truly believe you are good at or that you really enjoy
Create a web presence – put yourself out there and show your skills. If design is not your thing there are several helpful sites that will give you a basic layout or keep the economy running and hire out a freelance designer
Build a portfolio –become a rabid collector of your own work, look through your past experience and try to identify successes that you can communicate. These can be visual or otherwise. For writers and designers it’s easy to show your work, for editors you can try before and after and, for more traditional industries, take a look at some of the changes or projects you were able to complete successfully.
Prove it – Ask for testimonials and evaluations of your work. Put the testimonials on LinkedIn and scatter them throughout your portfolio and web presence. Take evaluations for what they are: learn from your mistakes constantly and be prepared to address them if they come up
KNOW YOUR VALUE.
Setting rates is a hard business but entirely necessary, rates vary by industry but a general rule is look at the salary you would have for a full time position doing the same work and then divide it into working days of the year – that is then your daily rate. Never forget to add expenses into your rate if travel or other expenses are involved.
Always have a contract. For one thing, if you are working by project instead of by daily rate this helps you define your total income. It’s also important to have an outlined set of deliverables, deadlines and expectations. Often, without a contract, you have no legal rights if a client does not pay you – and when ‘going and getting it’ you may not have the resources to fight it. Grab a boilerplate contract off the Internet and tailor it to suit you.
MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!
There is no denying it that the ‘go get it economy’ is not for the faint of heart or the forgetful about finances. Set yourself up as an LLC or company, treat your independent work as a business and look at your income and expenses. Line up future work before you’ve finished your last piece. It takes a lot of work to keep working.
KNOW WHEN TO SAY ‘NO!’
One of the greatest pitfalls of any independent working is that freelancers/consultants don’t know how to set boundaries. Yes, you want your client to be happy with your work but you must also know your limits. If you were in a traditional job you could go home at 5pm, have the confidence to say no.
You cannot make everyone happy. Often you will be working with an existing team, they may have different ideas, different directives and modes of communicating. Early on in the project identify one central person who you are responsible to and who knows the bottom line. If one isn’t obvious, speak to your client and ask them to identify someone.
Life is all about balance and work is all about balance. Being a go-getter means sometimes you have to push a little harder, spend more time researching and being on top of the trends but it also often means you have more free time, more control of what your day and your life looks like. Be sure not to swing too far one way or the other, a little bit of routine goes a long way.