The most important three rules for today’s workforce bar none: Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher has the following rules for today’s worker:
–Carry and use your own cell phone/number for business
The workforce now is mobile and temporary even if you have a salaried job. You need to be in control of the center of communications: you.
–Carry and use your own email address even at work
Otherwise your contacts and the relationships you build can be severed when you leave a job, and that is an investment that you have a right to maintain–as does your employer.
–Carry and use your own health insurance
Because otherwise, you will be stuck in a job that makes you sick just to keep the health insurance.
I’ve lived by these three rules for more than a decade. When I started using my own strange email address with the handle “godsdog” rather than the corporate one I’d been assigned, it made a huge difference to both my career (the CEO of Ziff-Davis sent me a note saying he’d decided to pay attention to my career—which, of course, is a mixed blessing) and to my long-term findability (people ask if I am still “at godsdog” when updating their contacts, there’s no question the address will still be there in their minds)
To Tom’s rules, I’d add:
Incorporate and work on contract rather than as an employee.
This allows you to negotiate the same kind of stock compensation while allowing you to keep your business costs, even the ones you can’t get compensated for at work, on your own taxes while increasing the flexibility you have as a working person.
Carry and use your own hardware, building tech expenses into your compensation.
This prevents lock-in to a job through access to technology. Sure, you may have to work with a less impressive laptop, but you’re also forced to think more like the people who really buy computers, software, services and so forth.
UPDATE: Neville Hobson adds two more good rules (I slap my forehead and utter a “duh!” for having taken for granted and not listing what he suggests—it’s always a mistake to think everyone does what you do, when most people don’t, so good on Neville for thinking practically):
• Create a blog and establish your personal presence in the new marketplace
In this new age of global inter-connectivity, linking and influence, a blog is a prerequisite if you want to build your own credibility, be found easily and connect with others. Forget the static website. Forget the fancy brochure. Do a blog. It works – I speak from personal experience.
• Join a business network like LinkedIn or OpenBC
However you actively use these or not, they can help establish your individual credibility and provide avenues of contact with others for mutual benefit.
UPDATE2: The Geek Guy Rants » Blog Archive » The 21st Century marketplace, and the rules we follow:
About my second rule, carrying your own hardware costs, David Newberger says:
I do have one problem with the 2nd rule though. I am not to keen on the idea of building in the outside costs incurred. If you can keep your outside costs low then this is not an issue but if you can not then you may very well bid yourself out of the contract. With this said I do believe that some costs should be built in but not all. The goal with all projects is low cost for high returns. If I have to eat $2,000 on a first contract just to get the foot in the door I will. In each of the cases I have done something like this it has lead to more then I could have imagined in the long run. For example I took a hit on a first contract for a large company but after the hit I got 3 more projects that more then made up for that initial hit.
Yes, it is truly hard to go out on your own and requires you plan to absorb your costs in the short-term. It’s been a long time since I started being a free agent, but I still spend several thousand dollars a year on hardware and software. The benefit, however, is that I really feel that pain. Too many people at tech companies think everyone can get the latest technology when it comes out, which encourages misplaced expectations about what real customers can afford, too.
If you assume you need to spend $3,000 a year on hardware and software each year—that’s a new laptop or desktop, plus new phones and upgrades to essential software—and you have three to five clients a year, then the average cost you need to build into your engagements is easy to calculate. The reality is that you have to work to get the hardware paid for, it can’t be treated as an incremental cost to pass along to the client. But you end up not being forced from machine to machine as you switch jobs, like a nomad. The point is to create your technological home.
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