I hope you enjoyed last week’s conversation about re-booting your practice. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to work with what you have rather than invest the time and effort into starting over. But is that your long-term solution?
On to this week. I get a ton of questions asking what it’s like to be a sole practitioner. Couple that with the fact that our profession requires us to always assess risk. So, is it less risky to be practicing solo or to be part of a firm? Here’s my take, which focuses on one factor – your skills.
And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!
Recently, I listened to a podcast interview with Daniel Pink. Among his many credits (aid to Labor Secretary Robert Reich, speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, five times New York Times best-selling author), Pink wrote the iconical “Free Agent Nation” article that appeared in the January 1998 issue of Fast Company. His article was teed up for success by Tom Peter’s article, “A Brand Called You,” which appeared five months earlier in the same magazine.
With the rise concurrent of the Internet, one could argue these two articles really set off the trend in self-employment. I mean, for those who remember, being self-employed before that time was often code for “recently laid off or fired – and looking for a job.”
But what Pink’s interview makes abundantly clear is that, today, self-employment is mostly a privilege for the talented.
Meaning, do we have skills (BVFLS or otherwise) that are in demand? Talents that are valued by our marketplace? If yes, we have a choice about being a W-2 employee or a 1099 free agent. If no, we don’t. It’s that simple. Here’s why.
If we have valuable skills, why would we want to attach our fortunes to an employer when we could spread our risk among multiple clients and customers? Yes, we’re out there … on our own. But with our in-demand skills, we have the talent and drive to be successful.
If we don’t have valuable skills … we’re in a world of hurt. There is no W-2/1099 choice. We’ll need to stay W-2 employees to mitigate the risk that we likely wouldn’t survive (long) as a free agent. We’ll need a company to take care of us for as long it’s willing. Or able.
Here is an acid test to assess our skills. How confident are we – REALLY – in our talents? Do we – REALLY – have the discipline for life-long learning? Then, long-term, who do we – REALLY – want to shoulder the risk of our work (gainful employment) and life (retirement plans) … ourselves or an employer?
I’ve had the privilege of interviewing 20+ professionals in my Practicing Solo column for NACVA’s The Value Examiner. For what it’s worth, most felt that their only regret about going solo was not doing it sooner. Certainly, something to think about.
We love to talk about risk – risk management, risk-adjusted returns, holding period risk, risk this, risk that. But it’s always in the context of someone else’s risk … the risk belonging to that ephemeral “subject company” or “subject interest.” What about in the context of our own personal risk?
In real life
I think the lesson here is to be motivated to continually “sharpen the saw,” as Stephen Covey said. It’s a call to action to make sure we always have skills that are in demand whether we’re solos now or want to be prepared for that possibility in the future … just in case.
– If you like what I write about, tell a colleague.
– If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.
– If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.
– If you want a sense of how well your practice is working for you, take this Practice Self Assessment.