Updated: Oct 1, 2020
You've been feeling stuck and restless. And no, it's got nothing to do with COVID. Truth is, your work has become dull, the bigger purpose lost, and your future uncertain. For months, you’ve woken up wondering what else you could be doing.
In fact, you already know the answer! You want to be your own boss -- a solopreneur consultant to be precise! But is it foolhardy to quit a stable job in this economy?
No Better Time Than Now
You've had more than a good run as an international business executive. With over 10 to 20 years of company life, growing teams, driving strategic projects, managing change, etc, you could do most of the same with your eyes closed.
And that's just the problem. It's become humdrum and meaningless. What you want is to feel your adrenalin going again.
Striking out on your own to build and live your professional life the way you want is looking more appealing by the day. Heck, you even went back to school to sharpen your skills with this vague intent to widen your horizons.
The question is: is it the right time?
COVID is hanging over us, you're thinking. Where things are headed in the next few months and years is completely unknown. People with jobs are hanging on tight to them as millions lose theirs. Why would you want to join a mired pit of instability, uncertainty and insecurity?
Well, maybe for that very reason!
Jobs are already precarious but it will become more so as the global economy yo-yos between open and shut. A job today does not guarantee one in six months, a year or two years for that matter.
The point is the world and the job market along with it has become a mired pit whatever happens. Going solo as a professional, if that’s what you really want, is not going to change that. Instead, it might just be the wisest decision you could make for a more secure future for yourself!
The way I see it, 5 good reasons make this as good a time as any to LEAPP – Latitude, Emancipation, Acceleration, Professionalization, Preparation.
1. LATITUDE to jump on new, unimagined opportunities
As economic growth contracts by 3-10%, the jobless numbers are going to climb some more as spend and markets shrink. France reported a historical drop of almost half a million jobs in March. The US has registered over 40 million recently jobless. Downsize, furlough or paycuts, 10-30% of employees are impacted, across startups as well as industry giants like IBM, Uber, Boeing, Sephora or TripAdvisor.
However, no job does not necessarily mean no work! On the contrary. Since companies are culling back, they will actually need skilled or expert talent more than ever – only differently!
Downsizing or hiring freezes won’t mean work completely dries up, not if we want to re-build the economy to some semblance of normal. It just means that companies, big and small, are going to be extremely prudent about paying fixed overheads in the short to medium term.
Where possible, they are going to adopt more agile strategies and approaches i.e. hire when needed, for very specific growth initiatives or expertise, and from anywhere. They’ll want to work with professionals who get this and who see the bigger picture.
Being able to engage, contract and de-contract at reasonably short notice; fulfill a work requisition intermittently as a team, on site, via remote work or all three; know when to step up, step back or step away. A contracted solopreneur who knows how to do all this well, gives companies they work with, the freedom to continue operating and surviving as they find back their footing to re-build for growth.
Sure, you’ll be replacing your boss with clients, but this way, you gain the latitude of broadening your options. Rather than climbing a narrow career ladder defined by others, you’ll be building bridges to shape your own professional opportunities.
2. EMANCIPATION from “contracted workplace stress”
It might seem like COVID’s jobless are being pushed into freelancing or gig work without choice. The truth is for many people, workplaces have turned into disenchanted career land long before COVID.
In a 2017 Gallup study, only 15% of global full-time employees were reported to be engaged, involved and enthusiastic about their job and company. This figure is even more dismal for Western Europeans at 10% and for East Asians at 6%, as compared to their North American counterparts at 33%.
Compare that to 75% of self-employed professionals who profess to be very satisfied with their decision, and about 90% who remain independent by choice. Over 60% say they are less stressed and two-thirds say their quality of life has improved.
For developed economies, the number one cause of absenteeism at work is often stress-related or caused by mental ill health such as depression, anxiety and burnout. Imagine what the workplace ambience is like right now.
We know for a fact that mental health cases have spiked since social isolation went into effect. Workplace stress probably mirrors similar levels if not more, and there's a high likelihood it will get worse before it gets better -- for as long as markets don't regain some confidence.
People are realizing they have no guarantees of coming out of COVID unscathed. Still, in the bigger scheme of things, independent professionals may actually be better off. Although they’ve seen a huge dip in earnings and client work, they feel more able to cope, having developed entrepreneurial resilience and tenacious creativity.
A solopreneur consultant myself, I also coach others. So believe me when I say I can relate to the sentiment cited in this article. There are many reasons professional solopreneurs don't have the same level of workplace stress. They spread their risks if they work for diverse clients, and they are also free to pick up a gig or diversify their service portfolio as needed.
Salaried executives on the other hand, are tied to their employer, company rules and to management decisions they don’t always agree with or are powerless to change. This inevitably drives up insecurity, feelings of powerlessness, unreasonable stress and fear for the future in an uncertain economy.
3. ACCELERATION to being a mainstay of the economy
The so-called gig economy, combining everything from task-work, part-time jobs, interim contractors to platform freelancers and independent professionals, is almost a US$ 5 trillion market today.
Over 90% of 10 million jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were gigs. In France the rise of freelancers jumped 120% in the same period. Over 30-40% of eligible working age adults in developed economies today are contributors. The market grew by almost 30% in one year at the end of 2017.