Independent workers will soon become the majority. Is it time to choose that path?
I was recently laid off from my job as director of creative development at The Weather Channel. This is my second layoff since 2009. I have been thinking about looking for another corporate job or doing consulting and starting my own business. I go back and forth on this. Today I am on the fence. There are virtues to both paths: the exhilaration of harvesting what you sow in your own business and being able to call the shots, versus the comfort of knowing that a corporation will be making payroll and paying benefits on schedule without a glitch. Yes, there are many, many other reasons that either of these options are exciting and interesting, but the world of work is changing dramatically post 2008: benefits are shrinking, and in the current economy, people are more often than not worried about layoffs, even at well-established companies. So what is the right answer?
Among my friends and former colleagues, there is an even split of people who go corporate and those who are hired guns or entrepreneurs. Take, for example, Paco Correa, an executive producer at HBO and Cinemax Latino, who has a history of long-term employment at major media companies. Paco and I met while we both worked on the launch of Nickelodeon Latin America. I was the hired gun executive producer, and he was a full-time staff producer/writer. I have often wondered the secret to his longevity. Aside from his great talent, he explains his philosophy: Working full time is like a marriage. Your company becomes your spouse, and you are fully committed to it for as long as you stay together. If its a good marriage, you look forward to spend time together and grow older as part of a family. If it isnt, well you get the idea.
The New Work Force
Here is an astounding fact about what the new work force is shaping up to look like: By 2020, independent workers will be the majority of the workforce in the U.S. And I am sure the numbers are higher among the U.S. Hispanic population, considering that it has one of the fastest-growing demographics in the entrepreneurial sector. Today, there are about 43 million people doing some type of contingent work, roughly 35 percent to 40 percent of the private workforce. This number is expected to grow to between 65 million and 70 million within the decade, well ahead of the 1 percent rate at which the labor force is growing. In the new economy, I can only imagine this percentage has skyrocketed. Why? Because this is good for business: no need to pay benefits, no investment in skills and development, just Wham, bam, thank you ma’am! What is even more interesting is that more than 55 percent of independent workers are there by choice. Carmen Hiers is a Latina entrepreneur who owns TransForma Translation Services. She told me, “Working for myself is what God put me on Earth to do. I had a great corporate job at a global company, with terrific people working for me and a great boss. I traveled to Rio, Buenos Aires, London and other great places. Yet working for myself is far more satisfying than my great job ever was.”