The modern western economy seems dead set on an inexorable move towards a tele-commuting, contract-by-contract, freelance workforce. More and more people are ending up self-employed, freelancing, becoming entrepreneurs.
But nothing we are taught equips us to deal with this. At school, you learn nothing, unless you are lucky and choose wisely. Even at University, business studies do not unpack the realities of freelance life. An MBA aims theories at a mythical Ivory Tower of entrepreneurship that does not encompass the minutiae of invoicing, clients that do not pay, tax returns and plotting a course through a territory that appears to have no borders, let alone roads.
This is a world I entered when I was 25. Up until that point, I had spent a year driving ambulance in the military, 3 1/2 years studying Philosophy and English literature at University, 18 months working in television post-production in London. Along the way, I had played in a few bands, managed a couple more and written some shitty articles for a fanzine a friend of mine ran.
I knew nothing. So I returned to Johannesburg and started my own business: Blind Faith Promotions. The word-joke in the name was intended more to reflect my intention to discover and nurture musical talent that no-one else could see or believe in. Like most such joke names, it really represented what for me was a leap into an unknown so deep and vast that, even were I to have seen it, I could not have comprehended.
When I tell people I work for myself, there are 2 broad categories of response: Jealousy and Denial.
Jealousy is rooted in the idea that, as a self-employed person, I don’t work that hard and I earn way more money than they do. Denial is rooted in the idea that, as a wage earner, no ordinary person could ever be self-employed because they would never do anything.
Both of these involve dangerous fictions about entrepreneurship that snare everyone who has anything to do with self-employment. They create myths that allow companies and individuals to subject freelancers to financial water torture and degradation, keep good people in bad, dead-end jobs and foolhardy, adventurous souls to dig themselves deep holes from which some never emerge.
It is with these thoughts in mind that the idea for the Entrepreneurs Emotional Tool-Box was born. We need to share this stuff and get it out there fast. All these terms that get used so interchangeably: freelance, self-employed, entrepreneur… they actually mean very different things. When governments talk about entrepreneurs, they rarely visualise lone creatives or crafters, working on their passions and dreams. The rules and the requirements have a grand vision of small companies with employees, contributing to the GDP…. It is so rare that it works like that.
So, over the next while, I’ll be sharing my ideas and lessons about working for yourself, what you need to know in order to survive it, and why the governments of the world need to seriously re-consider how they deal with the phenomenon that large companies are creating and the social impact it is having.