Freelancing is Deadly, Like a Chainsaw pt. 2

In part 1, I discussed a maxim in the Freelancer’s Manifesto #4, Freelancing is Deadly. Basically the gist is that if you trade hours for money, you’re going release your product later (or not at all) and never escape the vortex of working for an hourly rate. The author, Rob Whalling, even compares freelancing to working for fast food.

That said, for a micropreneur, dollars for hours is death. If you build a business where your earnings directly correlate to your hours worked then you aren’t a micropreneur. You’re working fast food.

Now, one of the reasons why I hate manifestos is that while they are great at inspiring an audience to an idea or ethos, they are just as great at bumming you the hell out if you don’t follow the everything in the manifesto exactly. Every manifesto carries the implication, “if you don’t strictly follow everything in the manifesto, then you can’t call yourself _____” (Micropreneur, Agilist, Craftsman, here).

That wouldn’t be so bad, except manifestos are also extremely weak in instructing the reader in how to actually accomplish the edicts in the manifesto. The Freelancer’s Manifesto also tells the reader that they need to: solve a problem, avoid outside financing, find a real market for their product, become a badass internet marketer, deal with pressure, manage your time, and engage with other people in public. Which is all true, but if you’ve just set out on your own as a developer or graphic designer, how in the hell are you supposed to do all this?

The answer is freelancing, work for other people in the industry / market you want to capture.  Don’t write a single line of code, or landing page, or draw a single line in Photoshop until you have hands on experience working on a project for your target customer.

This is VERY different from just taking any and all work that comes your way just to pay the bills. This is a deliberate approach to learning the market, building a public reputation for excellence in that market, building a network of customers for your product, and building up the cash you need to develop the product you want to bring to market.

If you want to feel good about yourself, just call what you’re doing bootstrapping: the act of purposefully solving business problems for a specific market by offering your services on a contractual basis while at the same time developing a product to solve those problems at scale.

Think of your freelancing clients as potential future customers, put them on a mailing list, send them surveys, send them interesting articles or blog posts you write about their business, think about how you can turn a project you’re doing with them into a stand-alone product. Use their cash  to fund your idea.

Listen, the point is, building a business takes time. You have to be in this for the long haul and you have to use all of the tools at your disposal. Don’t throw away a perfectly good chainsaw because some online PDF told you to.