If anyone were to ask me to name one good thing to come of the current economic crisis, my answer would be, that it ´encouraged´ many of us to take matters into our own hands career wise. Company after company has been forced to downsize, declare bankruptcy or restart, sending many talented people home, jobless, and with little prospect of finding another position.
What do you do in an economy with limited opportunity and where, if you manage to find a job, in a buyer’s market, you never quite feel comfortable and at ease? You are, after all, only one of countless potential employees and if you do not meet the mark there’s a queue of people out there, some younger, some cheaper, some, though less experienced are more flexible ready to take your place, so be eternally grateful that you were chosen. Well, it’s hard to be grateful, spontaneous, and productive when you are constantly looking over your shoulder. It’s hard to be up beat when you are riddled with insecurity.
Take matters into your own hands. Create your own opportunities. Take the time to evaluate your skills, experience, personality, and just what it is that makes you unique and special. Think about your inherent strengths, too. List all the things you do and that make you feel good about yourself. And when you’ve done that, take the plunge, and set up a business.
And that’s what countless people have done. It’s the trend, the way of the future. Offering your services as a ‘freelancer’ or independent entrepreneur is good for you: as long as you deliver the service you promise, you are free to complete the project in a way that best suits you. It is also good for the client/company who hires your services: no extra ballast on the payroll, and no contract of employment, just billing for services rendered.
Easy, you say. And it is, once you have acquired the knack of finding and keeping a steady flow of clients, have learned to maintain a simple bookkeeping system, have learned how to deal with overdue invoices, tax returns and time management, to name but a few issues that might arise.
Yesterday in Alphen aan den Rijn a group of experts in the field offered their services to newly established small businesses to discuss just such issues, and offer information on how to deal with them.
Organized and sponsored by BuildaSite, Patoir vd Vlugt & Verkade, Primo Boekhouden, Stichting Ondernemersklankbord, Kamer van Koophandel (C of C) and Communicatiebureau Vet-Gedrukt, this team of professionals made time to support the up and coming ZZP (Independent Sole Proprietors) community in Alphen aan den Rijn, free of charge, I might add!
It is a rare thing these days, to receive and invitation to an event of this type, free of charge. When I mentioned it to a colleague ZZPer, she, not unexpectedly said, ‘what’s the catch?’ And who can blame her? Phrases like, ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ come to mind. But, I was there, and I can honestly say, I didn’t pay a cent. But more than that, I was given a top quality evening, with an opportunity to talk to more experienced business people, to exchange ideas with other up and coming independents.
And the meal was great, too!
After an introduction by each sponsor, the ZZPers split up into groups. In a period of ten minutes, each group member had to introduce himself, his company and the services he offered. There was also opportunity to talk about the difficulties encountered; the group could then offer solutions, or where appropriate suggest the expertise available in that particular area. Short, to the point and very useful.
Ten minutes later, a sort of musical chairs took place, and the ZZPers shuffled about and formed new groups and again each was given the opportunity to introduce him or herself and talk about their business and services.
One ZZPer might have difficulty setting up and maintaining a simple bookkeeping system, another, like me, may be less able to sell themselves or network efficiently. One ZZPer might just offer a service another needs. And so, like with speed dating matches were made and meetings set up.
Basically, what happened was exactly the principle Marcus Buckingham and others describe in their textbooks on developing strengths and minimising weaknesses. By pairing up with others, we are able to ‘delegate’ our weakness to someone else, whose strength it is, and thus minimise stress and make time free to perform the tasks we are good at, and that we offer through our businesses.
As a business graduate, I don’t have a problem maintaining a simple bookkeeping system: I do not have a shoebox full of receipts and my invoicing system is no more complicated than it needs to be. As a writer and designer, I communicate through my blog and my website. But, when it comes to physically ‘being there’ and presenting my business, it’s another story. But thanks to the generosity of the group who organized last evening’s event, even I am learning to network and be proud of what I do.
They lowered the bar a little and showed me that, should I need it, I have a group of experts to fall back on, should I need their support.
Thanks for their generosity.