Presidential candidate John Kerry is fond of stating that “... not since Herbert Hoover has any president lost more jobs than George W. Bush.” And there is a kernel of truth to the statement; thanks to technology, jobs require less human intervention to complete. However, a larger factor in this seeming loss of employment is due to the evolution of the American workforce from a lot indentured to the confines of one company or one job title toward the Jeffersonian ideal of every person being a free agent, or indie.
The explosion in the number of people going indie has a number of causes. Downsizing created the realization that “job security” isn’t something other people provide, but something you have to create. Two-income families discovered that with their increased tax burden and overhead expenses for daycare, cleaning, housekeeping services, home maintenance and lawn care, a second income from paid full-time employment can actually be a liability. Individuals interested in becoming self-employed can segue more easily from employee to entrepreneur via the indie route. Finally, career changers can obtain valuable experience and networking opportunities in their field of choice with contract work.
Indies may lose company-provided benefits, but that doesn’t mean they are without means. As an independent contractor, they are eligible to create Medical Savings Accounts, or they may be eligible to participate in a group health plan through organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. They can create their own retirement programs via SEP, SIMPLE, or IRA investments, or the direct purchase of government-backed I-bonds. If they work out of their homes, they have access to extensive tax deductions not available to wage earners. In short, indies can have the best of all possible worlds – steady income, health and retirement benefits, more real income, and a life.
What kind of jobs are available to independent contractors? Well, here are some of the indie jobs I’ve done: 1) Telephone psychic ($20.00 per hour, work from home) 2) Mystery shopper ($15.00 per hour + expenses) 3) Virtual assistant ($15.00 - $30.00 per hour, depending on the task) 4) Editor ($35.00 per hour) 5) Ghostwriter ($50.00 per hour)
Many creative and professional jobs, such as technical writers, webmasters, graphic designers, programmers, teachers and tutors, etc. are done by independent contractors on a project-by-project basis. However, the FedEx Home Delivery and Schwann’s Ice Cream drivers are also independent contractors, so not having professional credentials is not necessarily a barrier to indie work.
Not everyone is suited to life as an indie. If you absolutely need the structure imposed by a job, a manager and a time clock in order to function, then don’t consider going indie. If, however, you like having some freedom, are self-disciplined enough to complete jobs on time without being told, and can organize your day and yourself to maximize your productivity and meet your clients’ needs, you have the necessary personality traits to become a successful independent contractor.
Ignore the gloom and doom scenario painted by politicians eager to have a job with perks you pay for. Join the indie revolution, and gain an income – and a life – without a traditional job. It’s a choice you won’t want the government to “help” you out of.
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