Sunday, December 27, 2009

Freelancing - The Future Looks Like This - Part 1 by Neil Lewis-Vahl

"The glue that holds the company together is trust" said Dr James Bellini, a forecaster of employment trends, and therefore not employment. This statement stands in direct conflict with received wisdom that believes that it is the traditional employment contract that holds companies together.

The reason that staff traditionally sought employment and employers believed that employment was important to 'attract the right person' is because that way of doing things has been deeply embedded in our society and well understood - it used to be the trusted way.

However, this doesn't mean that a new contract for work can't be established. The 1m official UK self-employed or freelance people is the highest figure ever and is a clear sign that things are already changing in the UK as they already have in the USA and are beginning to take place across all developed economies.

The standard employment way of doing things also comes at great cost. Dr Bellini, director of the Talent Foundation, made an extraordinary claim. He stated that only '4% of staff are located where they want to be'. A full 96% of staff would rather work in a different geographical location - perhaps closer to home, perhaps in another town or city.

Perhaps this explains the length of commuter frowns and stress of rush hour traffic? We are always in the wrong place desperately trying to get back to where we want to be.

So much better then to be a freelancer? And here, please note, the benefit is for the freelancer themselves not just the company that is hiring or contracting with them. In Dr Bellini's vision of the future 'the company of the future will have next to no assets - having outsourced the technology and office' and it will rely in substantial part if not entirely on trusted freelanced or contracted workforce.

The issue that is left now for freelancers - is personal branding. That is, being able to explain to potential companies that might hire the freelancers skills or time what the freelancer can do as well as give them confidence that they can do the job well and deliver on time.

As students of branding know, the essence of a strong brand is trust. Ah yes, and that was exactly what Dr Bellini said in the first place 'the glue that holds a company together is trust'. So, perhaps we can see the future of freelancing as a series of strong trust based personal and agency brands working with other partners in a larger organization.

The future of freelancing then, is the future of brands - and for a freelancer to build trust in his personal brand he will need to develop and deliver trust. To do this, he will need to deliver his projects on time to budget and keep his client happy.

The freelancer in this world can not walk out on a job. He can not call in sick to take time off and go and watch a football match. He can not drop the project and take another - without seriously impairing his brand and affecting his ability to secure future contracts.

Therefore, the freelancer is motivated to keep the client happy in a way that the employee is not.

No wonder that business strategists forecast that companies and successful entrepreneurs will be able to build better and stronger corporate brands on the back of a strong, experienced and highly trust worthy freelance resource.

What a huge business advantage this will be for the entrepreneur or business manager willing to encourage the freelance model in his or her work force. And, for the freelancers, what a great place to work.

Read more like this at Rags to Wreckages. Real Life Business Strategies and Parables for Successful Entrepreneurs.