Last July I decided that I wanted to change the relationship I had with my employer.   I was starting to find my role limiting.  I wanted more diverse work and more control over what I did.  My CEO agreed and I became a contractor.

Interestingly, we both gained financially.  He reduced headcount, salary, and expenses (e.g. social security, unemployment insurance, benefits) and I managed to roughly preserve my salary working only part time.  Sure I had to pay more social security, my own health insurance, computer equipment, supplies and every other business expense.  However, with a fair hourly rate and access to the tax incentives associated with owning a business, I was only marginally behind my full time salary.

Am I an outlier?  I don’t think so.  Maybe “like finds like”, but all of a sudden I realize that many of my associates have done the same thing I did (or in some cases are planning to do it).

We’re becoming a cottage industry of knowledge workers!

Technology has enabled us to communicate effectively, find the information we need, travel when and where we need to, and execute initiatives virtually – as participants can now span the globe.  Email, IM, and the Internet have actually made it easier and less time consuming to keep in touch with our networks and keep up-to-date on industry news.  There are also continually more avenues through which we can secure health, life, and disability insurance.

One might say that I am no longer part of an organization.  I would disagree.  I am part of a self-selecting and self-correcting organization.  This organization is built on a network of talented people that value collaboration and have a genuine desire to contribute.  They are often the “cream of the crop”.

Is there a tax-id or legal entity at the top of the pyramid?  No.

Why does there need to be?

I am connected through personal knowledge and reputation with hundreds (and, in my indirect network, likely thousands) of individuals.   What’s more, for the closest “nodes” in my network I know these people very well.  I know exactly how they can contribute to a project or business – and they know me.

I have a higher likelihood of assembling a team that is completely customized to the needs of a client than most large consulting firms.  Why?  I don’t “own” any of these people.  I have the freedom to get the best person for the job without the constraint of worrying about idle employees on the bench.   What’s more – these people have the ability to use me as part of their network as well.

Sure there are risks: Will I be able to consistently find work? Will I be able to do the work I want to do?  What if I get sick?  These are all things to consider – but I urge you to consider them for yourself.  What are your priorities and what are your options?  Too often we stay in the situation in which we’ve found ourselves just because we’re already there!

The bottom line: You’re opportunities are as strong and vibrant as your network.  You don’t need to know everything yourself.  You just need to know who knows.

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