I think I can close them at $1,500 a month for this package. Can you help me set up and optimize their Facebook advertising account for a chunk of that in the next few weeks?”
This is an email from my good friend Steve in Texas. We both get messages like this all the time. Steve is 25, married, and living close to Austin with his two dogs. He likes to surf, play guitar, and hasn’t worked in an office environment for three years.
That’s because he practiced designing enough websites for his own crazy ideas that he actually convinced a company to pay him money in exchange for one. Fast forward to today, and he is consulting with a wide variety of clients all day long from his dining room table.
This is what the experts mean when they talk about the “gig economy” takeover. And it’s not just technology jobs: landscapers, food truck chefs, writers, and performers are all taking charge of their own paychecks. More than the field, what matters is perspective and attitude.
People like Steve collect a decent income like everyone else, nothing special. But his success and growth is tied to his efforts and skills, and there are definitely good and bad months.
Many people think they aren’t cut out for this type of lifestyle, and maybe that’s true. But it’s not about becoming a famous entrepreneur or building an empire: it’s about the freedom to control your own destiny and to work on something you actually enjoy.
Inspirational people like Steve are sprinting along the road less travelled. Many times, the words “career” or “job” spark visions of drab cubicles and miserable meetings, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’re interested in a non-typical career path, you’ll eventually have to hop off the main highway. All it takes to get paid doing what you love is about five years of failure and learning... But the time is going to pass anyway, so why not get started now? Try adapting to these three philosophies to design the career you’ve always wanted:
1. STRATEGY OVER SEEKING
Before even worrying about what you need to do next, you might want to take a big step back and reposition yourself. You are the captain of your ship, after all. It’s your job to chart the course, and then set sail.
Many people approach the professional world without a strategy. Instead, work backwards from where you want to be in five or ten years. That’s a tough thing to do, but everyone has some sort of vision for themselves.
Beware of dreaming too big based on societal pressure: I’ve talked to many wannabe billionaires or Silicon Valley “startup” founders. I ask them if they really want to be a slave to their own giant corporation, or burn the bridges it takes to reach that level.
Perhaps they just want to have some freedom, work on things they love, spend time with their family, and go on a few adventures? Usually, that option sounds much more desirable and achievable.
2. SKILLS OVER TITLES
Through our entire educational system and beyond, we are told to focus on the next title. When you pass second grade, congratulations on reaching third grade! It’s a great way to celebrate progress, but eventually you’ll keep collecting titles from freshman all the way to junior associate. Just remember, the absolute worst doctor in a graduating class still graduated.
Instead of worrying about titles, focus relentlessly on skills. Picture the ancient blacksmith or carpenter. In any healthy village, that person could walk in with their set of tools and find good work, because they developed a valuable skill.
You have so many options to give this type of value to others in today’s day and age. Writing, sales, design, negotiations, programming, strategic thinking, organization, and communications are all wind in the sails of your chosen career.
If you can become an expert in any of these and prove it to employers, you’re going to do just fine. The business world is filled with problems dying for people who can offer solutions. So, in your current position, hone in on the one or two skills where you can excel. If you’re in a skill-less job, it’s time to practice on your own time or make a lateral move somewhere else.
3. GIVING OVER TAKING
It’s just Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is no better way to dramatically advance your career in a business community than by serving it.
Join boards, organize clubs or parties, involve yourself in city meetings, and shake hands. Reach out to local businesses and offer to improve something, from cleaning to branding.
Half the time, you’re just giving help to someone in need without seeking any reward. The other half of the time, you’re giving help to the exact person who can take your career to the next level.
STAYING ON TRACK
It’s okay to fail at this. A farmer might lose his entire harvest to a natural disaster or poor management. He goes hat-in-hand to his family, neighbor, and community for assistance through the rest of the season before he can try again and repay the favor.
You might have to try multiple industries, get chewed-out by angry clients, go back to a steady job, or crash in your friend’s spare room for a few months in exchange for doing the dishes. It hurts and it’s embarrassing. Are you willing to kill your ego in exchange for a chance at finding out how you’re truly meant to contribute in this economy?