A little over a year ago, I took the leap, quit my job, and started working for myself.
It was by far one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. It took me months of planning, pumping myself up, and mentally preparing for being out there — all on my own.
But while venturing out to do my own thing felt isolating and alienating, I certainly wasn’t alone. Thousands of people were doing the very same thing.
According to a Freelancers Union survey — 700,000 Americans joined the freelance workforce in the past year.
While I was making a life changing decision that felt so singular, thousands of other people were out there walking the same path. We were all separately but collectively moving toward the same goal — taking control of our income and our lives and breaking away from traditional employment.
And, we were walking into a rather large existing community.
“More than 53 million Americans are now earning income from work that’s not a traditional 9-to-5. That’s 1 in 3 workers,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2015.
One-third of the U.S. workforce brings in income outside of traditional employment. But for many people, the concept of working independently still seems foreign, odd, or impossible.
A lot of people I talk to are surprised to learn that I work for myself.
They don’t understand how I got here or how I find work. They worry too much to imagine themselves doing the same. And, they underestimate how many other people are out there just like me.
So, I’ve decided to introduce this group of independent workers, explain why they are on the rise, and show how our changing world is making it possible for “indiepreneurs” to get out there and make it on our own.
Who Are The Indiepreneurs?
In the introduction, I referred to a group of self-employed individuals and freelancers.
But it’s hard to classify this group because there are so many terms and phrases that refer to the type of person who brings in income through non-traditional employment.
Each term has a different connotation and separate set of implications, so I’ve decided to lump this group into a new category.
This group of people is seeking independence in work and life. They may be:
- starting their own business they hope to grow
- happy working solo and on their own for life
- taking on side work to make extra income
- doing a variety of odd jobs to support a life that isn’t focused on work, but instead on flexibility so they can travel and do more with their time
- doing a mix of one or more of these things
They may be doing it in different ways, but all of these people are creating additional revenue streams so they aren’t reliant on one, traditional employer.
I call these people indiepreneurs, and they usually fit into one or more of the following descriptions.
“A person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.” — merriam-webster.com
One of the most common ways we classify the self-employed is with the term “freelancer.” The term dates way back to the 1800’s when medieval mercenary warriors would travel from kingdom to kingdom working for whichever lord needed them. They were “free-lance” and bound to no particular kingdom.
Independent Contractors or 1099ers
“The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.” — IRS.gov
The self-employed are often referred to as independent contractors or 1099ers as they work under a 1099 tax form. When working as a 1099 employee, the independent contractor is in full control of their schedule and work process.
“A person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money.” — merriam-webster.com
Individuals who works for themselves are sometimes categorized as entrepreneurs, but the true definition of the word may exclude some of the self-employed. An entrepreneur is someone “willing to risk loss in order to make money.” Not all of the self-employed are subjecting themselves to big risks in order to work for themselves the way many entrepreneurs do.
“The solopreneur is basically a business owner who does everything on their own. They, as an individual, are the business, functioning as a ‘company of one’ and single-handedly working for the business, running the business, meeting all its costs and enjoying all the profit.” — macmillandictionary.com
This buzzword filled the void for a definition for the self-employed. This is the closest term to indiepreneur. But it assumes that one person is focusing on one business, which not all indiepreneurs do.
“A sole practitioner, also known as a sole proprietor, is a proprietor of a professional practice. The sole practitioner is the owner of the business and is responsible for its debts and obligations.” — ehow.com
A sole practitioner often refers to an individual who runs their own business in a regulated industry such as healthcare, accounting, and law. Instead of working in a larger firm or office, these people choose to work on their own in a private practice.
“They are free from the bonds of a large institution, and agents of their own futures.They are the new archetypes of work in America. Today, in the shadow of another economic boom, America’s new economic emblem is the footloose, independent worker — the tech-savvy, self-reliant, path-charting mircropreneur.” Daniel Pink, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself
I love this term and would choose to call this workforce a group of “free agents” if I didn’t think its connection with athletes would confuse people. This term is what Daniel Pink used to classify the workforce of soloists, temps, and microbusinesses that make up the self-employed community in his fabulous book, Free Agent Nation.
“Digital nomads are individuals who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers typically work remotely—from home, coffee shops, public libraries, and even recreational vehicles—to accomplish tasks and goals that traditionally took place in a single, stationary workplace.” — wikipedia
Digital nomads are a growing group of people and cultural movement where the workforce manages their work through the computer only. This flexibility allows them to live anywhere, travel often, and find more freedom in their life.
“Creative entrepreneurship is the practice of setting up a business – or setting yourself up as self-employed – in one of the creative industries.” — wikipedia
The term “indie” connects most deeply to the group of creative entrepreneurs. This group of artists, musicians, and writers has often been labeled indie or independent of a label, publisher, etc. Now, this group has many more opportunities to do it themselves when it comes to publishing, distributing, and making money from their creative endeavors.
“… people who can get a job … they’re just not inclined to accept one.” — Brain Clark Unemployable Podcast
One of my favorite new descriptions of this workforce is coined by Brian Clark of Rainmaker.FM (formerly Copyblogger). Brian uses this term to describe his community of “freelancers and creative entrepreneurs” who are building mostly online businesses. They are qualified for steady, full-time jobs, but they would rather work for themselves.
The Independent Workforce
Independent agents, small business owners, the creative class, mircropreneurs, temp workers, soloists — there are a variety of other terms that we use to classify the self-employed.
But the important part of the description of all of these terms is the existence of independence.
Everyone on this list wants to support themselves on their terms, and there are a few reasons for that.
The Reasons for the Rise of the Indiepreneur
There are of course dozens of factors that go into why there is a growing class of indiepreneurs. Daniel Pink detailed most of them in his book Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself.
He wrote an entire book about the topic, but I want to be briefer here so I’ll limit my list to a few items.
The Millennial Attitude About Work
By 2020, the workforce will be primarily made up of Millennials. This generation is coming to work and replacing many of the traditional standards of work. Millennials don’t hold the same values as the generations that came before them. They:
- Crave Autonomy
- Believe in Work-Life Balance
- Want Flexibility in Their Schedules
- Are Extremely Tech Savvy
- Want to Connect Meaning to Their Work
As more and more of this generation pours into the workforce, they are going to steer in the direction of indiepreneur lifestyles that match their values and goals.
The Local and Craft Movement
Shoppers are becoming increasingly more interested in going local and being unique. This movement demands more products, goods, and services that are custom, organic, locally-made, locally-sourced, one-of-a-kind, and original. Technology has made it easier for small business to start niche markets that sell original and craft items that consumers crave.
In addition to helping connect indiepreneurs with customers and clients around the world, technology has also made it easier to run and operate a solo business. Tools and programs simplify the once complex aspects of running a business from managing finances and controlling inventory to customer management. Plus, thanks to technology, there are many platforms that make it easy for indiepreneurs to find work through apps, websites, and peer-to-peer networks.
Learn How to Become an Indiepreneur
There are a variety of platforms, income streams, and jobs that people can use to turn their dream of working for themselves into a reality [Check out my list of 50+ Resources That Help Indiepreneurs Make Income]. These income outlets can provide lifelong meaningful work, or they can provide a short-term fix for bringing in some extra cast.
It’s really up to the indiepreneur to decide how they want to spend their time, utilize their resources, and control their life.
But it’s not always easy.
Multiple factors affect indiepreneurs and the way they manage their work and life. In this blog, we will look at those factors such as freelance business best practices, personal productivity, changes in technology, and the importance of the personal branding of the indiepreneur.
There are many opportunities to build an independent life in this digital and uber-connected world. But it can’t happen without a solid, strong, and authoritative presence by the indiepreneur.
A trustworthy personal brand is how an indiepreneur will find the most success.
A majority of this blog will look at how individuals can build, grow, and leverage a powerful personal brand. So, stay tuned and follow along for more resources and guides on how to launch an online brand that can help you break away from the corporate world and create more independent opportunities in your life.
If you are ready to learn more about indiepreneurs — find out what it takes to launch your Indie Career by downloading this free starter guide that tells you exactly what an Indie Career is, what you need to do to start yours, and how it can change your life.