Today, freelancers are the fastest growing sector of the economy. And, one day very soon consultants and other micropreneurs who file a 1099 might overtake as a percentage of employed American those who file W-2s. Yet, our current social contract, written in the mid-1950s for the 9-to-5 world (organizational era), either ignores them or complicates their lives adding hurdles and obstacles.
A NEW DEAL FOR A NEW WORKFORCE
Most of these new workers are struggling mightily just to survive and don't have time to think in terms of social contracts. Many hope their situation is only temporary, that soon a traditional 9-to-5 job awaits them. But, all the evidence points to a new reality that hits hard; it looks like we are not going back to the era of 9-to-5 and the organization man anytime soon. So, they are in desperate need for some guideposts or pearls of wisdom for how to go forward.
That is why there is such a large market for the many self-help books aimed at freelancers. They are desperate for understanding. They want a blueprint for this era. Freelancers can spend half their lives reading such books. And while in reading them, some wisdom might be gleamed, there are no magic bullets as most books ignore the real structural problems with the way our economy is organized and appear to be ignorant of political realities.
I tend to hate advice books for freelancers. They are way too simplistic. At their best, most enrich the author and are nothing less than simple top-ten lists of the obvious. And, at their worst, they reinforce the notion that freelancers, who have not yet found success, can blame only themselves for their failures. Collectively they reinforce the notion of the lone individual or economic actor. They see freelancers as mini-entreprenuers rather than workers. And, they reinforce a leading American myth that everyone can pull themselves up and be completely self-reliant. All you need is you, your laptop and a wifi connection -- and the right guru. These books are written in a vacuum. They ignore the simple fact that the vast majority of freelancers, while wanting to be entrepreneurs, are more like 19th century journeyman workers. These books confuse flexibility and dogged determinism (what we now call entrepreneurial spirit) with business ownership itself.
This is where The Freelancer's Bible is different. Sara Horowitz, the executive director of the Freelancers Union and a contributor to The Atlantic, has built an organization of almost 200,000 that serves the growing army of freelancers -- that numbers, according to Horowitz, about 1/3 of all working Americans. Her book is gleaned from her members' advice.
While this book is realistic about the challenges freelancers face, Horowitz doesn't see pure darkness in the future. As freelancers grow, and companies continue to outsource, there are more opportunities for them to make a living and influence the larger economy. But at its heart, her argument for a just future for freelancers rests on a collective vision, the one advanced by the Freelancer's Union. At its heart, this is a movement book more than a business, self-help book.