Our friend Robert Paterson has written a great series on the different aspects of working as an independent professional. (He calls them freelancers, but I don’t use the word as in my Dutch context it seems to also carry the meaning of ‘couldn’t get a proper job’ or ‘scraping by on little income’. Hence I describe myself as an independent professional. I don’t want a ‘proper job’, as I am already doing more meaningful work, and I am not scraping by.)

Robert has been posting in parallel with a number of workshops organized by him and other members of the Queen Street Commons, which is a coworking space in the center of Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, Canada. (Elmine and I visited there last summer)

Drinks at Robert’s home on PEI last summer (left), and the Queenstreet Commons in Charlottetown (right)

Workshops like those are important for several reasons. First of all because more and more people are working as independent professionals. Second, because it seems that what makes traditional organizations work is now making them fail in a more complex environment and a world that is now much more clearly the closed resource system it already always was, rendering the eternal-growth-paradigm of our economy and monetary system simply impossible.
As to the first point, the number of independent professionals in the Netherlands started to rise sharply in 2000. This was the moment where people here were sufficiently connected via internet (>75% of companies in 2000, now ~100%) and mobile communications (>67% of people in 2000, now 115%, i.e. 19M subscriptions on 16M5 people), to be able to loosen yourself from incumbent structures and still stay in touch with the people and resources needed to do your tasks. (See this earlier posting on workplace) As a result over half of all registered businesses in the Netherlands are now in fact independent professionals (434.710 out of 797.840 in January 2008, equaling 5% of the work force.). Of those independent professionals 60% routinely work together with other independents on projects, and another 25% want to do so. The number of independent professionals has risen even more in the last three months as larger companies are getting hit by the recession.

In his series Robert talks about a lot of points that also came up in conversations when I was deciding to leave my job and go independent. Robert’s postings are:
Living the Freelancers Life, Is this for you?
Security and Peace – Why these cannot exist in a job.
Leaving your job – Marketing – It’s all about relationships.
Freedom – coworking – sleeping at night.
How to grow, but not grow your headaches.
Managing your life and your clients.
Working at home.
Control and adventure.

My home office (left), and two independents, Elmine and Marko, working together (right)

Go read them all. In one or two follow-up postings I will discuss some of those aspects mentioned by Robert in relation to my own decision to go independent in the fall of 2007, and how I’ve been working since.

2 reactions on “Independent Professionals

  1. Ton
    By accident it seems that this topic has spurred a lot of interest. Your stats for the Netherlands I bet track most western nations – the new reality is that more and more of us will be FL’s.
    Of course all business school teaches is trad business.
    Our workshops are like group therapy – an inner group of long term FL’s plus some nebies.
    We have a circular conversation
    Of course WE ALL LEARN – learn from each other, get closer, less scared.
    I am wondering – is there an Unconference here?

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