I’m working today. A lot of you have today off. But I’d never trade my independent life for a job again.
Here’s what it means to be an independent freelancer.
It means I get to savor the joy of concentrating on work for a whole day today while the rest of you are at the beach or having a cookout or doing back-to-school shopping or dreading going back to work on Tuesday.
It means I can knock off at four if I feel like it and nobody will be looking over my shoulder. Or I could take a long lunch with my wife. Or I could go out biking for an hour and half in the middle of the day.
It means I get to pick what I work on today. In this case, it’s editing two books, preparing for two speeches, and picking next year’s health insurance plan. (Guess which of those is the only part I don’t want to do.)
It means I can blog about whatever I want and not give a fig about whom I might offend. (Not that today’s post is particularly offensive.)
It means if I want to take a Tuesday off next week, to go to a museum, or take a long bike ride, or binge Netflix, or take care of a sick kid, I can do that, and you and my clients will never know the difference.
It means I can embrace projects I love, even if they don’t pay as much, or reject projects and people I don’t like, even if they really want to work with me.
It means Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and this blog are my marketing channels.
It means I can hire designers, graphic artists, copy editors, accountants, Web developers, furniture makers, and PR folks to do what I need them to do, pick only the contractors I like, pay them what they deserve, and write off the expense.
It means my professional friends are my network, and as a result, I like all of the people I work with. If they need help, I’m going to help them. And I know they’ll be there for me when I need help.
It means my hourly compensation is the highest it’s ever been — but my clients, by virtue of not having to go through an employer marking up my rate for “overhead,” are getting my work more cheaply than ever before.
It means I can fly any airline I want (or avoid any airline I want), even go first class or stay in an Airbnb on the road, and still write off the expenses.
It means I get to keep a lot more of every dollar I make because of the tax advantages.
The gig economy works for me because I like the gigs I’m getting.
This situation is ideal for certain kinds of people: people splitting time between work and family; people with a financial cushion from liquidity events, inheritance, or hard work; people who have lucrative part-time careers and time-consuming hobbies; people who’ve developed a reputation and want to benefit from it.
Frankly there is only one drawback.
The health insurance is wicked expensive, complicated to figure out, and keeps going up. The only reason I can make that work at all is that, after 30+ years, I’m at the high end of my profession and benefiting from all those freelancer tax breaks.
A nation with more freelancers, and less people chained to corporatons, would be far better able to flex as the economy and the job market shifted. But to do that, we would have to fix the health care world.
The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is becoming less and less workable. Undermining it by removing the individual mandate will make it worse. Repealing it altogether would put me out of business. It’s time to fix it.
That’s going to take both parties working together. And you can raise my taxes to pay for it — I’ll keep doing just fine.
Please don’t make me go back to the corporate world, or force me into early retirement, or make me divorce my dear wife, who is an artist, and marry some working stiff.
On behalf of all the freelancers and independents in the world, we’re counting on you.