CareerGig co-founder Greg Kihlström explains how to start freelancing and gives an insight into what life is like working as a freelancer and the upsides and downsides associated with this ever-growing form of self-employment.
Greg Kihlström of CareerGig
LinkedIn: Greg Kihlström
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Greg is a best selling author, speaker, and entrepreneur. He is currently co-founder at CareerGig, after selling his digital experience agency, Carousel30, in 2017. He has worked with some of the world’s top brands, including AOL, Choice Hotels, Coca-Cola, Dell, FedEx, GEICO, Marriott International, MTV, Starbucks, Toyota and VMware. He currently serves on the University of Richmond’s Customer Experience Advisory Board, was the founding Chair of the American Advertising Federation’s National Innovation Committee and served on the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Marketing Mentorship Advisory Board.
Greg’s newest book, The Center of Experience, talks about how customer and employee experience can be operationalised into a cohesive brand experience. He wrote another book on customer and employee experience called Digital Delight, that focuses on designing, implementing, and measuring customer and employee experience. Greg’s previous book, The Agile Consumer, explores the most recent shifts in the brand-consumer relationship and how companies must become more agile across their entire operation to remain successful. The Agile Brand, follows the evolution of branding from its beginnings to the authentic relationship with brands that modern consumers want, and gives practical examples of what you can do to create a more modern, agile brand while staying true to your core values. His first book, The Agile Web, discusses the changing landscape of digital marketing and customer experience. His podcast, The Agile World, launched in early 2019 and discusses brand strategy, marketing, and customer experience.Greg was named a 2018 50 on Fire winner from DC Inno as one of Washington DC’s trendsetters in marketing. He is a regular contributing writer to Forbes, and has been featured in publications such as Advertising Age, SmartCEO, Website Magazine and The Washington Post. He’s participated as a keynote speaker, panelist and moderator at industry events around the world including Internet Week New York, Internet Summit, EventTech, SMX Social Media, Social Media Week, Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit, ABA Bank Marketing Summit, and VMworld. He has also guest lectured at several schools including VCU Brandcenter, Georgetown University, Duke University, American University, University of Maryland, Howard University and Virginia Tech.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [01:12] Greg introduces CareerGig and how it helps freelancers.
- [03:15] Greg explains how he got into the industry.
- [06:15] Defining the term ‘freelancer’.
- [07:08] The similarities and differences between consulting and freelancing.
- [10:05] Industries which are particularly well suited to freelancing.
- [13:19] The upsides and downsides to being a freelancer.
- [14:26] The freedom of freelancing.
- [15:25] How you can control how much you earn through freelancing.
- [16:38] How freelancers can dictate their terms.
- [18:37] Collaborating with other freelancers.
- [19:46] Understanding your own abilities to be able to reject jobs.
- [21:25] Networking and making long-lasting relationships.
- [25:10] Personality traits that translate well to freelancing.
- [27:45] Positioning yourself as part of a team while freelancing.
- [29:47] Planning for your transition into freelancing.
- [30:22] Looking at the impact of financial crises on traditional jobs.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 81: How to start freelancing and what you can expect - with Greg Kihlström of CareerGig
Jeremy Cline 0:00
Do you enjoy your work, but wish you had more flexibility in when you did it? Rather than going in at nine o'clock, leaving at five o'clock, only taking off weekends and the days of annual leave that you're given, do you wish that you could set your own schedule, decide when you want to work and who you want to work for? If so, you might want to give freelancing some thought. And that's what we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline. And this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:40
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. So, suppose you enjoy what you do, but you don't necessarily want to work for just one person or even to be an employee. Could freelancing be an option for you? That's what we're going to talk about today. And I'm delighted to be joined by Greg Kihlstrom, who's the co-founder of CareerGig and the host of the Agile World Podcast. Greg, welcome to the show.
Greg Kihlstrom 1:06
Oh, thanks so much. Thanks for having me.
Jeremy Cline 1:07
So, can you tell us a little bit about CareerGig, what it is and who you work for?
Greg Kihlstrom 1:12
Yeah, sure. So, CareerGig was launched last July. You know, we've been doing this for a few months now. So, we're a platform that connects freelancers with freelance work opportunities, so, in a number of different industries. So, we work with technology, we work in the marketing realms, anything from creative to marketing and advertising to writing. We also work in the healthcare space. So, that could be nurses or home health aides and things like that. One of the differentiators for our platform among some others is that we offer our freelancers access to benefit. So, those could include, here in the United States, those include things like healthcare and retirement and life insurance, all of those types of things. Other things include access to education, so upskilling, reskilling opportunities, and we continue to expand those. And so, one of the things that we wanted to focus on was really, when you're a freelancer, there's a lot of freedom and I'm sure we'll get into a lot of the details about the life of a freelancer. But there are some things that you give up as a full-time employee. And those things are some of that financial security, but also things like corporate training programmes and the opportunity to interact with others in your profession and things like that. So, we wanted to make up for some of those gaps, while still giving people the benefits of freelancing. And then, on the side of the hiring companies, we also wanted to make it easier to hire highly skilled individuals and have a higher level of trust than exists on some other sites where you're simply looking at rating systems, like five-star rating systems or recommendation systems where, you know, people that you don't know are recommending you for skills that you don't necessarily have. So, we wanted to take a better look at, how can we really match the right people with the right opportunities and increase that level of trust?
Jeremy Cline 3:10
You mentioned having been doing this for a few months. What's your backstory? How did you get into this?
Greg Kihlstrom 3:15
Yeah, sure. So, my first job out of college was working with a tech start-up, I guess, maybe I got the – and this was 20 some years ago – but I kind of caught the bug then for really creating, merging creative and marketing and technology together to do something innovative and things like that. So, I worked for that company for a little while. And then, this was early days of the internet, early 2000s. After that kind of ran its course, I started a marketing agency in early 2000, so about 2003. I ran that for about 14 years and sold it about three years ago. And over the course of that, I got to be early adopters of things like social media marketing, personalisation, AI, big data, all of those things applied to the marketing world and for a number of different types of clients. And after I sold the agency, I wanted to do something a little bit different and got into some consulting work in the employee experience and leadership and organisational change space. And that really led me to really appreciate and understand just how big the freelance workforce is, and is growing. I think in the US, for instance, within about three or four years, 50% of the workforce is going to be engaging in some kind of freelance work. Already, as of last year, it was about 35%. And the numbers globally are just as impressive. So, I think we're entering a world where that idea of that long-term, stable employment for one company, working for them for 10 years plus, it's just, it's no longer really occurring. And I think freelancing is certainly a viable alternative to that.
Jeremy Cline 4:58
And just before we go onto that as a subject, can you tell us a bit more about the podcast? What's that about?
Greg Kihlstrom 5:03
I started the Agile World Podcast, we're about to start year three of that in early next year. I did it – so, I'm writing a series of books, I guess, I wrote a couple already, and I have another one coming out at the beginning of next year. First one was about applying Agile Marketing to website design and development. So, that's a lot of what my agency did. Second one was about branding. And I did a follow-up to that as well. So, The Agile Brand and The Agile Consumer. And so, I wanted to start a podcast that talked about the same types of issues. And really what it is, it's talking about agility and adaptivity in, I would say, the broadest sense of the term. So, I've had certified Scrum Masters on my show to talk specifically about Agile, but it's really more about, how do we apply this Agile mindset, this iterative and optimising mindset to any number of things, from business to marketing to technology and anything in between?
Jeremy Cline 6:01
Awesome. So, let's talk about freelancing. And let's take it right back to basics. And, can I ask you, is there like a dictionary definition of freelancing? What are we talking about?
Greg Kihlstrom 6:13
Great question to kind of level set here. So, a freelancer doesn't have to be a full – they don't have to do what they're doing full-time. So, I would say a freelancer is someone who makes money by working for one or more different entities that are not their full-time employer. So, again, this could be a full-time employee that moonlights, for instance, and they have a couple of gigs that they work on in the evenings to make a little extra money, it could be an individual that all they do is a series of different projects for different companies or entities or things like that. So, it's really, the origins of the term are actually, I think Sir Walter Scott coined the term, way back in the day, as a... Lance meant sword, these were like soldiers for hire basically, for whoever would hire them. So...
Jeremy Cline 7:02
Right. And so, is consulting a form of freelancing? Or is that something a bit different?
Greg Kihlstrom 7:09
It is, and a lot of... So, a consultant could be a full-time employee. But a lot of times, I think traditionally, what people call consulting is working a few hours here and there, or let's say less than full-time or not for a full-time salary, for a company or an individual or things like that. Often, someone who says they're a consultant that doesn't work for a big conglomerate company is most likely a freelancer.
Jeremy Cline 7:39
And a consultant who, you see some people who, they leave employment, become a consultant, and then end up effectively doing exactly the same job they were doing, just on a slightly different basis. So, self-employed, maybe paid more, but without the benefits and a different sort of status. Does that fall within your definition of freelancing? Or is that a bit outside?
Greg Kihlstrom 8:01
No, it does, it does, it really, it's anyone that is, at the end of the day, they are responsible for their, I guess it's their full financial security and stuff like that. So, in other words, when you have a full-time job, a lot of times you will get access to life insurance and liability is taken care of by the company that you work for. And there's all of these kind of hidden things that a company takes care of for you. But when you're a freelancer or an independent consultant, you are responsible for liability. So, if you're a software engineer that's an independent consultant, if you write code and cause the business to encounter financial implications, or something like that, you need insurance and liability insurance in order to be able to cover yourself. Otherwise, if you work for a company, they would be covering that liability. So, it's really a matter of, in a sense, it's where the risk is centred. And on the other, the more positive front is the freedom to decide who you're going to work for, what you're going to do, how much you're going to do, where you're going to work and all of those things. So, it's a very risk-and-reward kind of thing as well.
Jeremy Cline 9:11
Where does freelancing sit on the spectrum of having your own business at one end and having a job at the other end?
Greg Kihlstrom 9:20
I think a lot of freelancers might consider themselves having their own. You can be a solopreneur, as sometimes they call it, or things like that. A freelancer could consider themselves their own business. A lot of times they will form their own entity for tax reasons and stuff like that, even though they don't have employees or even other consultants that they work with. But having a legal entity technically makes you a company, even though, if you're one individual, you're really a freelancer. Because even though there's a legal entity, there's not really a company of individuals, you know, alongside you.
Jeremy Cline 9:56
Are there particular jobs or careers which lend themselves particularly well to freelancing, and those which don't?
Greg Kihlstrom 10:05
Yeah, I think there's some that have been, let's just, I think most roles are – what we're seeing is growth among a lot of different sectors of the, let's call it the knowledge workers and things like that. But there are some that traditionally have lent themselves more to that. And some of that may just be individuals decided to do that in certain sectors other than others. Let's say, in the technology space, so software engineers, IT, all of that, there are some roles there where it helps to be on prem, but there are others where a software engineer, I think that's probably one of the most common ones. In the marketing realm, there's a lot of designers, there's a lot of marketing people. Writers, that's another common one as well. We're even seeing a lot of movement in the healthcare space, as I mentioned briefly earlier, and nurses and others finding, because there's such demand in certain areas, they're wanted all over the country, so to speak. And so, therefore, they're able to demand some contract work and that flexibility. But really, I think it's growing across a lot of different sectors.
Jeremy Cline 11:10
I'm just wondering whether there are that many careers which don't lend themselves to freelancing. I'm thinking you can have, in teaching, you can have, we in the UK call them supply teachers, so people who go in to cover lessons, you know, when someone's off ill, or on holiday, well, not on holiday, but off ill or maybe on maternity leave or something like that. In construction, I guess, historically, lots of people would just have been hired for a day's work, or however long a project was. I mean, have you come across any particular professions which really you can't fit into the framework of being a freelancer?
Greg Kihlstrom 11:45
Not really, yeah, to your point, I think most role – so it's more about the role that they play within the organisation, right? So, like, so in other words, a software engineer can very easily, and I think the other distinction to make, and we're all living in this world right now of remote work. And so, often, you know, in previous times, you would think more of contractors as people that worked remotely. Well, now, you know, at least for a little while here, everybody's working remotely, or at least a lot of people are working remotely. So, I think the distinction to make is just how closely tied they are to the overall strategy of the organisation. So, in other words, there are some roles where, as an executive of a company, it doesn't make sense to be a freelancer, because you need to be so tightly tied into the strategy of the organisation. As managers of freelancers, that's difficult to do as a freelancer yourself, because you need to be more tightly tied into what's going on. But roles within the organisation, if you're even an accountant, a lawyer, a designer, an engineer, whatever the case may be, it makes sense as long as there's someone guiding your work that's more closely tied to the internal workings, if that makes sense.
Jeremy Cline 13:02
Is this something which could be a downside of freelancing, that you don't get into this being involved in the strategy of the organisation? Is that one of the choices that you make if you decide to be a freelancer, that you're not necessarily going to get that involved in the direction of a particular business?
Greg Kihlstrom 13:19
Yeah, I think. I saw this even with my marketing agency. So, we would have as many as 20 clients at a time and do some great work for them, obviously, but we only got so deep, in other words. So, we could do a single campaign or task or something like that. But yeah, we weren't involved in the internal discussions that led to the need to hire a marketing agency. So, to pull that a little further for a freelancer, it is the same. You get the experience of being able to work across a lot of different clients, get a lot of different experiences. That's a definite upside. You get a lot of learning very quickly. But yeah, the downside is, you lose some of the depth because you're just not, either you're not there physically on site to get that, or you're just not there in all of the meetings and discussions that would take place, that would give you that deeper understanding,
Jeremy Cline 14:15
That leads on quite nicely to exploring the pros and cons of freelancing. So, should we start with some of the advantages that comes with going the freelance route rather than an employed route?
Greg Kihlstrom 14:27
Yeah, sure. So, I think freedom in general is a big one. And it's not just, although it includes, it's not just the freedom to work from wherever you want, and especially pre-pandemic, I had friends that would, I'd see pictures of them working on the beach and from wherever they wanted, they would just travel and work as they go and stuff like that. Obviously, in a global pandemic, some of that has gotten cut down considerably. But freedom also means, if you have kids, if you have a spouse that is unable to work and needs extra attention, if you have parents that need – all of those types of things, it gives you the freedom to take care of the rest of your life, as opposed to having to do a nine-to-five job or else not being able to pay your bills and stuff. And a lot of people, they get a full-time job so they can do that, but then they end up sacrificing a lot of the other things that they could be having, if they simply had the freedom to work more flexibly, work remotely when and how they want to and everything like that. So, I think that's really, and also, to be honest, they can make as much money as they're able to. So, in other words, if you get a full-time, if you get a salary job, yes, you can get a raise, ideally, every year or so often, you get a bonus, if the company allows that, but you're not going to get another full-time job on top of that, because one human can only work so many hours in a week. But as a freelancer, you can actually make more money because you can take on several different projects. And as long as you're able to juggle that many things, it's really, your income is up to you.
Jeremy Cline 15:56
Just to pick on the freedom point a little more, to what extent is that real and to what extent is it more theoretical? Because yeah, I get the idea that, as you said, everyone's working remotely at the moment, so in theory, we could all be working from the beach if we were allowed to go to the beach, but in terms of the ability to control your hours, to control the amount of work that you're doing, how real is that when you're a freelancer? Or can you expect, if you're involved in a particular project for a business, that you are going to be expected to work pretty much office hours?
Greg Kihlstrom 16:35
I think, it's a great point. There are different cases. But as a freelancer, you can turn down things. It's tough, trust me, I've been a freelancer before, it's tough to turn down work that might pay a lot, but offers less than optimal working conditions or just doesn't really work with your schedule. So, I think with that, it's the freedom to be able to turn something down or dictate terms, where if you're a salaried employee, and they ask you to do something, if you refuse to do it, you could be out of a job and that's your entire income and potentially your family's entire income and everything like that. With being a freelancer, you've diversified your income as well as diversifying your risk. And so, losing one thing, because it simply just doesn't work for your needs is a lot easier to take, for instance. But yeah, I admit, as a freelancer, I worked more than I did as a full-time employee and sometimes simply because, maybe I, you know, feast or famine is a common phrase. It's sometimes, you sell too much and then you're really, really busy. And then you're so busy that you don't have time to sell or win more projects. And so, then the famine piece kicks in and you have no work for a little while, and you need to make up that gap. And I think that's where marketplaces, to go back to CareerGig, I think that's where marketplaces make it a lot easier, because a lot of freelancers are not necessarily gifted salespeople or marketing people for themselves. As much as we can ease that friction of, okay, let's keep a steadier amount of work, because it's easier to find and get hired, that also does help that.
Jeremy Cline 18:15
And the ability to earn more as a freelancer then you might otherwise as an employee, that's still going to be limited by market forces. I mean, you're only going to be able to charge what the market supports. And then, if it is just you, your own time and your capacity, because, you know, we've all only got the same 24 hours in the day.
Greg Kihlstrom 18:38
The one thing that freelancers can also do is work with other freelancers or companies. Or the way I, at one point early on in my marketing agency, it was literally just me, and I would outsource a lot of work. So, I was able to actually make a considerable amount of money simply by being, let's call it project manager, and outsourcing a lot of work to a lot of other companies. Now, I got a mark-up on all that work being done. But in other words, being a freelancer doesn't mean you can't work with anybody or can't talk to... So, there's lots of ways of teaming together with others. And you can set your rates and a more experienced freelancer can charge higher hourly rates where you're paying for their level of experience, not necessarily that it only took them a few hours to do something, but you're paying for the fact that they've been 20 plus years in the industry, and therefore their time is worth more and so therefore, you're able to make more.
Jeremy Cline 19:33
You mentioned how it's tough to turn down work. Is there a risk, if you are a freelancer, of getting into the mentality of never being able to turn down work because you just don't necessarily know where your next meal is coming from?
Greg Kihlstrom 19:47
I think early on, that is definitely, I know this for me, I know this for plenty of other people that I talked with, until you really understand not only your ability to get new work, there's a number of factors that go into that. I think a huge one is just building a network of people that can recommend you as well as who you can find work through. But I think early on as a freelancer, that is absolutely, and it's a valid concern, right? Because you, I know that I felt lucky every time I got a new gig as a freelancer early on, because I really didn't have a process, I didn't have as big a network as I do now. But over time, you begin to understand that yes, there's – let's call it being comfortable with risk, because the risk is not having any work. But you become more and more comfortable with this idea that, yeah, I don't have a 12-month roadmap of the projects in my pipeline, necessarily, but I know that the last time that I was starting to get a little light on work three, four months out, I was able to make a few phone calls, reach out to a few people, and sure enough, within a month or two, I filled that pipeline back up. So, your resilience builds over time and so, you get – again, bad stuff can always happen, but you get less and less concerned about those things because you believe in yourself based on results and history.
Jeremy Cline 21:06
We've covered some of the disadvantages, I think, already. Are there other disadvantages or downsides of being a freelancer versus an employee? And I know that benefits, life insurance, retirement plans, that sort of thing is an obvious one, although that is something that you're addressing in your company.
Greg Kihlstrom 21:26
I think the camaraderie and just learning, and that could be formalised learning like training and certification, but also, it could just be learning as a group and a team and stuff like that, it's different when you're not part of a larger team of people. And so, you can still work as part of a team as a contractor, but it's not always the same, you're not always treated the same. And that kind of goes with the territory, because you're not a full-time employee, you're not going to necessarily be invited to the holiday party, and all those kinds of things. So, there's a little bit of an outsider thing. But again, that's another thing that can be solved in a number of ways, as long as you're intentional about it. There are plenty of communities out there of like-minded professionals, there are from the training and certification standpoint, that's one of those things where freelancers charge higher hourly rates than full-time employees do, and one of those things that you need to take care of, in addition to thinking about retirement and risk, like insurance, is your ongoing training. And so, you need to set aside some of that extra money to be able to do that, or just get creative with finding ways to learn, because that does, that is something... The upside is that you're working across a much more diverse array of clients and opportunities. So, in a sense, you're hands-on learning a lot more quickly than a full-time employee. But some of those formal training type things, you're not going to get unless you're your own employer. So, you're not going to get unless you, you know, intentionally go after them.
Jeremy Cline 23:00
If the life of a freelancer can be quite transitory, so not necessarily an opportunity to develop the deep relationships that you might if you stay in a particular organisation for five or 10 years, say, are there things – you mentioned communities as a possibility – that, are there things that freelancers can do to ensure that they do build and maintain these long-lasting relationships with other professionals?
Greg Kihlstrom 23:27
Yeah, I think the concept of networking becomes much, much more important, just in general. That could be LinkedIn networking, that could be going to conferences, whenever we're able to go to conference, that has been a huge thing. But I think a freelancer, consultant, those types of people are going to take what might even start out as a tenuous connection and build that a lot more deeply, simply because, again, when you're at a company, you build connections with the people that work immediately with you, but you're not necessarily thinking five years down the road of, who do I need to stay in touch with? You might have deeper connections, but they're fewer connections. As a freelancer, you have the opportunity to build deep connections with a lot more people, you just do have to take that intentional approach of, okay, I know I'm not going to sit next to them in the office five days a week, so how do I do this? But you get exposed to so many more people to have the opportunity to build the network. So, it's really, some of the, I mean, the onus is on the individual to take what could be just a passing communication or something and build that into something. And I think successful freelancers have a great memory and understanding of where someone is, where they've moved to and just how to keep in touch with all of these people.
Jeremy Cline 24:47
Are there particular types of people or particular personality traits which lend themselves better to freelancing rather than employment? And I guess, if someone is in an employed position at the moment and they're thinking, 'Well, actually, this sounds quite interesting. I'd like to explore that further', what sort of questions should they be asking themselves to determine whether or not this might be right for them?
Greg Kihlstrom 25:12
You can be a full-time employee and like learning, but I think learning takes on a different perspective. So, learning by experiencing new things is something that a freelancer, as a freelancer, you get thrown into a lot of situations, potentially, that are brand-new, even if it's that you're a graphic designer, and it's a graphic design project, you're going to get a lot of different opportunities to design for various things that, again, if you had one job and design one kind of thing all day long, you might know that really well. If it's in healthcare, you're going to know how to design for healthcare really well. But if you're a freelancer designing for 20 different industries, think of all of that learning that could even be applied back into one industry, just that diversity of learning. So, I think a hunger to learn a lot of different things is certainly a trait. I would say, certainly, on the other side, an ability to handle risk and handle the unknown is certainly something that is needed as well. And you could look at that in the negative way, but I think it's also, a lot of times I think, when we look at risk and things like that, it clouds us from seeing the opportunity, again, in growing, in forcing ourselves to be – in my life, at least, I've grown the most when I forced myself to be in an uncomfortable situation, and that I didn't know how I was going to get out the other end. But sure enough, I did and I grew and it grows resilience and things like that. And that's not just resilience in your professional life, that can be resilience in your personal life, as well. Some of these things are very abstract concepts, but they can apply in anything that might come along.
Jeremy Cline 26:59
You mentioned risk, and I'm thinking, in particular professional risk, how can you mitigate that? So, if you happen to be in a particularly technical area, and it's the sort of thing where it really helps to have things peer-reviewed. For example, my area of practice in law is extremely technical, and routinely, we will ask each other to review each other's notes of advice, just because, you know, inevitably, you miss something and it's one of those things, it's a risk management thing. You get someone else to have a look at your work. Is this something which you can do as a freelancer, where you are in something which is quite technical, and it might be law, it might be coding, it could be anything really?
Greg Kihlstrom 27:46
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think having that network of peers that are, a lot of times, they're going to be fellow freelancers or independents that are willing to help, because certainly, I always had that as a freelancer, when I was doing that, just people that I could rely on, ask some questions to and stuff like that, just because I think that's critical as any professional. Everyone's work needs checking. So, no matter if you're internal, external, whatever. So, yeah, I think that's certainly possible to build and that's just, you find some peers that you can do the same with for them. And if you're all independent, then it works really well, because you don't necessarily have to pay them to do it. You'll help them out the next time and stuff like that. But yeah, I think that's always a need, no matter whether you're in-house or outside.
Jeremy Cline 28:34
And can you sort of present yourself as a freelancing team for that purpose, so it's not just you doing the work, but it's you and another person?
Greg Kihlstrom 28:42
I think that can certainly be done. And a lot of times, freelancers will team together, once in a while, sometimes they'll team together for ongoing projects. And sometimes companies will keep hiring the same sets of freelancers to do things with their internal teams, because they just like how they work, but they just don't have – a lot of times a freelancer will be hired because they're highly skilled in an area that the company just doesn't need someone sitting 40 hours a week doing that work, they need about 10 hours a week, let's say, of that skill. And they'll find freelancers that they like, that know the company, know their challenges, and all of that stuff and bring them on. And it works well because it's essentially recurring work for the freelancer, so they have to worry less about finding brand-new clients, and the company likes it because there's someone, they don't have to be on payroll, and yet they know the background and so, they don't have to retrain them every time they hire them.
Jeremy Cline 29:35
Going back to a person who's thinking this might be interesting, and they've started to ask themselves questions about whether it would suit them and they're thinking about going for it. How long should they plan for their transition?
Greg Kihlstrom 29:48
A lot of people do what we call moonlighting, they do a bit of that on the side to just test things out for a little while, instead of just going full-on freelance. What we've seen, though, in the midst of the pandemic and the financial crisis and all, is a lot of people have been furloughed or laid off and they don't have the opportunity to go back to full-time employment right away, and they're starting to choose this lifestyle because again, the freedom and flexibility that it promises, and again, I know we talked about plenty of things where that's sometimes easier said than done, particularly in the beginning, but I also think that it's not entirely true to say that a full-time job is stable and secure and free of risk. And so, I think that's where, to flip that on its head, in other words, the average C-level exec is, I think, in their job about 18 months to maybe 24 months at the most these days, and I think that there's – and it goes on down from there. So, I think the challenge becomes – I grew up with this idea that you could work somewhere for 10 plus years and if not – we saw on TV, at least, that people retired with gold watches and all that stuff after working 30 years. That has never existed in my career. I've heard that happen before, but that is just not reality anymore. So, I think every time we go through one of these financial crises, I've been through three now in my career, we see less and less faith in these traditional employment models. And I think 2009, the second one in my career, that really – Uber, Lyft, the gig economy was born out of that, and sure, those were lower-paid jobs and all that. I think what we're seeing right now with the COVID-19 phenomenon is the more highly paid knowledge workers, all of that, are saying, okay, just like me, they've been through three of these, maybe they made it through two financial crises without getting laid off or fired or furloughed. But the third one, they didn't quite make the cut, or maybe some of their fellow – most of their fellow co-workers didn't make the cut either and they're starting to say, 'What does it take, how much, how many more years am I gonna be able to survive in a world where you get laid off when it's not convenient for the company?' And think of all of these people that have been full-time employees their entire career, they don't have that resilience, they don't have that risk aversion that people that have been either freelancing on and off or considering that, and so, all of a sudden, they're thrust out into this freelance world. I think it's important that everyone considers that as, again, it's another form of risk aversion to consider freelancing and diversifying your income.
Jeremy Cline 32:36
I completely agree with all of that. For someone who is just considering starting out, thinking about going the freelance route, do you have any resources, tools that they should take a look at to give them some stuff to think about and to help them plan the process?
Greg Kihlstrom 32:51
I think there's, one of the things is definitely to make sure that you're trained on the latest in your field. And I would definitely recommend looking into, first think about what is it that you would like to do, it may be exactly what you're doing in your day job right now, but what is it that you would like to do and do you truly have the skills to do that independently? So, in other words, if you are in the marketing profession, let's say, but you've been managing a team of 20 people and not really hands-on, do you actually know what it would take, if you got hired by a company, to do marketing for them? And think about that a little bit. And then look at, there's plenty of companies like Coursera, or Udemy, or all these resources where you can take classes, it's not super expensive to do, there's reputable organisations behind them, and just make sure that you're up to speed on some of these things. Because again, I think managing and directing people to do these things is very different than getting your hands dirty.
Jeremy Cline 33:51
Brilliant. Well, I'll certainly put links to Coursera and Udemy in the show notes for this episode. Greg, if people want to find you and get in contact with you, what's the best way they can do that?
Greg Kihlstrom 34:00
Yeah, absolutely. So, I'm very active on LinkedIn. Feel free to connect with me, mention this podcast and I'll be sure to reach back out to you. And then, definitely, please check out careergig.com. It's definitely a great resource for freelancers or companies that hire them.
Jeremy Cline 34:15
Awesome. Again, I'll put links to those in the show notes. Greg, thank you so much. Lots to think about, definitely an avenue that I think more people are going to think about following as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, thank you so much for your time.
Greg Kihlstrom 34:28
Yeah, thank you.
Jeremy Cline 34:29
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Greg Kihlstrom of CareerGig. As Greg mentioned, freelancing is something that's come so much to the fore over the past few years. The gig economy is something which is now inescapable, whether it is working for Uber, Deliveroo, Lyft, and so on, or providing services online via platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. As Greg made clear, even if you have quite a technical job, one that requires quite a lot of experience and qualifications and expertise, chances are it's still something which you can implement using the freelance model. You don't necessarily have to be an employee working for one person. I thought it was really useful how Greg highlighted both the pros and the cons of freelancing. So, the fact that you've got more freedom and the fact that you can build up a lot more experience working for different people, but that you don't necessarily get the depth of experience, the stake in the future of a particular employer, if you're only working for them for a short period of time. So, lots to think about, but I hope it gave you a good starting point and a good grounding if freelancing is something which you're thinking you might want to consider.
Jeremy Cline 35:38
You'll find show notes for this episode on the Change Work Life website, they're at changeworklife.com/81, for Episode 81. And one of the ways you can find out for yourself whether freelancing might be for you is to try the exercises on my website, which are designed to help you work out what sort of career and what sort of lifestyle is for you, what you really want. If you do those exercises and realise that having control of your own time and having that flexibility is something which is important to you and something which you value, then maybe that points to freelancing as an option for you. If you go to changeworklife.com/happy, that's H-A-P-P-Y, happy, that's changeworklife.com/happy, that'll take you to the page where you can sign up to receive the exercises. Well, can you believe that's the end of the first three months of 2021 already? I cannot believe how quickly it's gone. And I hope it's been, well, I hope it's been a better first three months for you than the past 12 months have been. I'm really keen that 2021 is the year that we take action, that we make changes, that after having the reflection that 2020 forced on us, 2021 is the time that we start to implement, that we start to change, that we start to take the decisions and take the action, so that we are happier, that we're more satisfied. That's my goal for this podcast, and if this resonates with you, then do subscribe, pass it on to your friends, we've got some more great interviews coming up and I can't wait to see you in next week's show. Cheers. Bye
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