writin“When employees are treated as short-term assets, they reinvent themselves as marketable goods, always ready to quit.”

~ Ilana Gershon, associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington. [source]

Your 9-to-5 sucks and it’s time to do something better

Instead of quitting and just hopping to the next soul-sucking job, why not create your ideal workplace?

My generation is restless. I know I am. Millenials get flamed for being lazy, idealistic, and entitled. Apparently, millennials (myself included, class of ’86) are now worrying psychologists & reporters by being too focused on success and perfectionism. (As seen in a quick Google for “millennials” this morning that made me smh and say a little F-U to Fortune Mag)

Should we blame participation trophies again? No. I’m not buying that this time. 

Is anyone surprised younger generations are stressed and more anxious?  They’re thrown into a crap economy with insane student debt, with a psychotic political climate, and pressure to work for companies that treat them like expendable resources.

The truth is out there (not the x-files kind)

There’s the internet, and endless access to a growing tribe of thought leaders that show just how accessible remote work, freelancing, and freedom can be. Millennials know there are other, better, options that will allow them to live the lifestyle they crave, and they are actively seeking a path to get them there.

The millennials I know who are focused on success are generally down to earth, thoughtful, goal-oriented people. They focus on growth and personal development because they understand the world we live in doesn’t reward complacency and they want to create something bigger than themselves. If anything, they’re looking for the path to get them there.

This is especially true for the young women I know who no longer consider popping out kids and creating a family as the big legacy they will leave. They’re looking to do big shit with their work, and make a ruckus too.

We’re “so over” corporations

Our generation isn’t going to get rich and successful working for a huge corporation. That ship has sailed and there is no reward left for the dedicated “career company man”.

Millennials and anyone still in the job market will only truly succeed as creators, doers, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs.

The digital economy has given a new generation of workers the ability to check out from the 9-to-5 fluorescent cubicle economy to work for themselves. These are people who want to do real work. These are the creatives who want a growth path that doesn’t force them into management. The people who recognize that answering email isn’t “work”, who genuinely want to do something meaningful with their time.

You might be perfectly happy flipping on the radio and mindlessly filing paperwork. If that’s what makes you happy, no worries, this wasn’t written for you.

I write this for the people who are sick of spending an hour or more a day in traffic to sit in a poorly lit cubicle where you are constantly interrupted.  People who are sick of playing the corporate bureaucracy games to make sure the “right people” know who they are if they want a shred of a chance at a promotion or raise.

This is for people sick of a complete lack of privacy and space to do real, deep work. If you do your best work at home, or in a coffee shop, or at night, and yet are forced to constrain yourself to produce during business hours, this is for you.

This is for people who crave developing real skills that will allow them to thrive in a digital economy, with the ability to work from anywhere, anytime.

Taking the leap to being your own boss

Whether you want to go full digital nomad or just be at home with your pets, working remote and being a freelancer isn’t easy. It takes self-discipline and self-control to get yourself to your desk every day. It’s way easier to sleep in when your boss (you) isn’t checking up on you.

You don’t need much to thrive in a digital economy, you’re just going to have to work a bit to get yourself established. If you don’t even know where to begin, here are the basics you’ll need (in addition to willpower, a computer & internet connection).

  1. Digital Economy Hard Skills – This could be marketing, coding and web programming, design and content creation, and administrative things such as bookkeeping or working as a virtual assistant. What skills do you have now, and what skills are you willing to learn? Get a book on social media marketing, or take a course for HTML/CSS coding on Udemy or Treehouse, build a WordPress blog using an e-book tutorial, the list is endless. The digital economy changes fast, you need to be ready (and willing) to be a lifelong student of your craft. 
  2. A Source for Clients – Unless you find a fully remote company to work for, you will need a source for clients. This could come from your professional or social network, or from a freelancing website such as Upwork, Guru or Fiverr. I have found many clients on Upwork and Guru and they are a great place to start getting some experience and practice under your belt with clients, even before you make the leap and quit your current gig. Their fees are crazy but the experience writing proposals, screening clients, and delivering work is worth the investment while you hone your skills.
  3. An online presence – You likely already have a digital footprint, but if it is currently mostly selfies, photos of you beer-bonging in college, or photos of your cat/boyfriend/dog/food, you’re going to have a harder time landing clients. Your clients know how to Google, and they will Google you. You can neglect this to a certain extent and still get some client work on Upwork or Guru, but you will be hard-pressed to develop a thriving brand without eventually putting in work to polish your online presence. 
  4. A Portfolio of Your Work – This is the most important part and the best way to get work online. This is hard proof of your skills and will demonstrate to potential clients why they should hire you. If you don’t have anything to show yet, that’s ok, just make it up. Take a weekend and create logos for fake companies, or ask someone you know with a small business to let you run a campaign for their social media. You might have to volunteer your time, and that’s fine, it’s an investment in your future. You may also have to just make something. Want to be a writer? Write something. Want to be a designer? Design something. Want to be a marketer? Market something. See where this is going? Make something tangible that shows your work. A case study, an essay, a graphic, and then publish it online. [Ideally your own website, but we’ll get back to that another day] If you’re an admin and aren’t sure what to use for your portfolio, help a friend or family member on a project for their business and document it. While you’re at it, get a testimonial of how helpful & professional you were!

The TL:DR is to just start doing the work. You don’t even have to quit your current job, just find the time (make time) to develop your skills and find ways to demonstrate your talents to future clients. Pick up a few clients here and there when you’re ready, and once you have a few clients under your belt you will be ready to make the leap to full-time freelancer!

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