What That New Best Buy Commercial Tells Us About The Freelance Life

Over the weekend I kept seeing this new Best Buy commercial. Normally I do my best to ignore commercials, but this one had some dialogue that forced me to pay attention. Have you seen it? If not, watch it and you’ll see what I’m talking about:


Mini transcript in case you can’t watch/hear it: “This is Ann. She just graduated…and got a freelance gig. It’s not going very well. Time for a technology makeover.”

For most people this is nothing more than another vapid attempt to sell technology, but for me it was a telling commentary on the future of work.

What This Best Buy Commercial Tells Us About The Freelance Life

1. Instead of falling back on freelancing when a “real job” disappears, college graduates are becoming freelancers right out of the gate.

News flash: no one wants to spend 40 years in a cubicle anymore, and even if you do, those conventional 9 – 5 jobs are increasingly hard to find. Today’s college graduates have grown up in the Internet Age. For them, silicon valley startups founded by college drop outs have always existed. They want jobs that are cool, fun, and flexible. They want to be independent, and choose the projects that interest them and the companies that can enhance their own skill set. Freelancing has become the norm, an expected element of career building, not just a polite way of saying you’re between jobs.

2. Although freelancing has become “normal”, it still lacks a supportive infrastructure and the laws/policies needed to make it fair, safe, and profitable.

In their new book, The Rise of the Naked Economy, the co-founders of NextSpace coworking estimate that 40 percent of the American workforce will be freelancing by the end of the decade. That’s 60 million people. But unless things change, they’ll all be in the same boat as poor Ann: paying out of pocket for functional equipment, software, and workspace; bearing double the tax burden of W2 employees, and operating without affordable health insurance or legal recourse if a client decides not to pay. The workforce is changing, and we need these old institutions to change with it. We need new laws that support, rather than marginalize the independent worker.

What does this commercial tell YOU about the future of work? Share your thoughts in a comment.

How Not To Get Screwed Over As A Freelancer [Video]

the-big-screw

Crappy clients. We’ve all encountered them. In the best scenarios, we manage to cut ties with our dignity intact, and make a mental note to never make the same mistake again. In the worst scenarios, we spend months or even years sending invoices to no avail, trying desperately to collect payment for work delivered.

Despite the fact that there are over 30 million freelancers in the United States, legal mechanisms to protect us from deadbeats is almost non-existent. Ever tried to leave a restaurant without paying for your meal? The consequences are swift and embarrassing. Accept work from a freelancer and then fail to pay? No one bats an eye. Except of course for the freelancer, who complains to everyone who can listen while simultaneously wondering whether she’ll be able to make rent.

Kinda like these people:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lY9Nl8QrOA

The good news is that there are ways to avoid getting screwed over that don’t involve waiting for the government to wake up and treat the mobile workforce like an actual industry.

1. Speak softly, and carry a rock solid contract.

Docracy, the creative organization behind the video, specializes in providing free, open-source legal documents that are socially curated by the communities that use them. That means instead of trying to adapt a template contract for services to reflect your unique business, you can find specific documents created by lawyers that know your industry.

2. Power in numbers.

There are organizations and professional societies that exist to help protect freelancers like you. If something bad happens, they can step in to help defend your honor. That way, if a client tries to ignore your rock-solid contract, you’ll actually have the legal means to afford it. ‘Cause unless you’ve got one in the family, lawyers can be expensive. A few to start with: Freelancers’ Union, National Writers Union, United Scenic Artists, Professional Photographers of America, American Photographic Artists, Council of Fashion Designers of America, Industrial Workers of the World (includes Communications and Computer Workers Industrial Union 560).  Added bonus! Joining these organizations can often net you other awesome perks, like dental insurance or discounts on services.

3. Cowork it out.

Jumping into a new situation without doing your homework is almost always a bad idea. Thinking about signing a contract with a local firm? Got a queasy feeling about a client? Talk about it with your fellow coworkers. Collectively, Cohere boasts decades of self-employed and small business experience. Our members have been through it all before, no matter what it is. We especially like sharing tales of failure, because it brings us together and increases our collective knowledge. Also, we like helping our friends succeed. That’s what this is all about after all–being stronger together than we are on our own.

Got other tips for not getting screwed over? Share them in a comment!

Image via oskay/Flickr

How To Tackle The 4 Most Common Freelancing Pitfalls

There’s nothing easy about freelancing. There are perks, oh yes, wonderful perks that cubicle dwellers can only dream of, but it’s hardly piece of cake.

Freelancing puts our minds, bodies, and families to the test. It can be stressful, terrifying, and incredibly gratifying, but as a freelancer, you’re left to deal with each one of those in turn, all on your own.

Well, if you’re coworking, you’re never really alone. There’s an entire community of entrepreneurs going through each one of those stages right along with you. And we all know that misery (and joy!) loves company.

Check out the infographic below for some interesting stats about the highs and lows of the freelance life. Then keep scrolling for ways to tackle each.

Pitfall 1: Unemployment

This is a tough one, because every freelancer lives in that vague place between feast and famine. When contract end and you’re desperately in need of new work, what should you do? Well, as a coworking freelancer, you have a definite advantage. Others might start trolling sites like Elance or Guru, prepared to auction their time off to the lowest bidder, but not you. Coworkers are a built in network of lead generators. Before getting desperate, mention to a few desk mates that you’ve got time for new projects. Post your skills and availability on the Cohere Facebook group. Chances are, someone who knows someone will be calling for a meeting before you know it.

Pitfall 2: Scraping By

This is a continuation of Pitfall 1, because when you can’t find work, money dries up almost instantly. The best way to hedge your bets is to save more in times of plenty. Instead of splurging on expensive dinners or a new iPhone during busy months, stash an extra 10 or 20 percent in a high yield savings account. If you’ve always had trouble saving or sticking to a budget, online tools like Mint.com can help you get organized and remind you when you’re spending over your limits.

Pitfall 3: Health Care

This is a huge one. I don’t know a single freelancer that isn’t concerned about how to find or keep affordable insurance. The fact is that for all its heinousness, the corporate world does have one big advantage: group buying power. But freelancers are slowly eeking out a place for themselves in this industry as well. Check out the limited group plans offered by Freelancers Union. If that doesn’t help, check into possibly benefits offered by any professional organizations or unions you might be a part of. And if you’re not a part of one, think about joining. You’ll be surprised how easy it is, and it looks good on a resume too.

Pitfall 4: Getting Stiffed

Fighting with a client who always pays late or doesn’t want to pay at all? You’re not alone. Last month, freelancers from around the country added their unpaid invoices together and the total came out to be more than $15 million dollars. Because freelancers aren’t afforded the same protection as brick and mortar businesses when it comes to collecting unpaid bills, many of us end up eating these losses. There’s no guarantee that a crappy client won’t try to stiff you, but there are some definite steps you can take to minimize risk.

First, do your research. Once a deadbeat, always a deadbeat. Use this Client Scorecard  to check a company’s track record before you sign on the dotted line. Second, always, ALWAYS use a contract. You can make one here, or ask any of our established members to share examples of the contracts they use. If a company presents one to you, make sure you understand every line before signing. Third, get partial payment upfront, especially if it’s a project over $1,000.

Do you struggle with any of these pitfalls? How have you overcome them? Share your experiences in a comment!

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