(This was a cartoon I drew for Seth’s excellent book, The Dip. You can purchase the print here.)
My old friend and frequent book collaborator, Seth Godin has a new online course out on Udemy, entitled “Seth Godin’s Freelancer Course”. I checked it out, I liked it a lot.
But instead of just reviewing it, I’d thought I’d use this opportunity to ask Seth ten questions. Voila:
1. OK, the basic skinny: What’s the course about, and why now?
This is the golden age for freelancers. More opportunities, more tools, more leverage than ever before. But for many freelancers, there’s a big “but”…
If you are a freelancer, it may be that you’re underappreciated, underpaid and merely a cog in a system that disrespects you.
And it might be your fault.
This is a focused check up from the neck up, a chance to understand how to work your way up as a freelancer, by making hard choices and digging deep into the choices that matter.
2. Back in my advertising days, a “Freelancer” was mostly considered a second class citizen- somebody who didn’t have the chops to hold down a proper, full-time salaried gig with an equally proper, established agency. A mere hired gun, maybe useful in an emergency, but no real lasting value. And here’s you, saying “No” to all that.
Here’s you saying, “The reason you’re a freelancer is because it actually allows you to do important work.” Please elaborate.
Think about the people who are truly great. The programmer who can save you months. The cartoonist who draws life-changing images on the backs of business cards. The guitar player who can sit in on a recording session and change everything…
These people are first class. They’re in charge. Top of their game. The best of the best.
That’s the freelancer each of us is capable of being.
3. We both know there are TONS of people who would love to be freelancers, but sadly aren’t doing it. Sure, we could blame our primitive “Lizard Brain” for holding us back, but the older I get, the more I think a lot of it is because of how we’re taught in schools, the disconnect between how society expects us to be in employment, and the way the world actually works.
What in formal education do you think needs to change if we’re ever to have a hope?
It lasts eighteen minutes, and if you’re a parent, a teacher or a taxpayer, I get you to watch this TEDx talk.
In short: we’ve raised people to be compliant cogs in a corporate/industrial system.
Stand up and make art.
4. I’ve often noticed the phenomenon of a freelancer doing incredible work, then the minute you give them a full-time gig on the basis of that work, the quality of their work immediately falls off a cliff.
Something to do with the safety net dulling the senses, I suppose. The Lizard brain strikes again, I suppose. Sound familiar?
My question is, how do you keep your edge, keep from getting too comfortable, without killing yourself with stress?
Stress is a whole other game. Stress is wanting one thing and doing another.
Stress is optional.
Great work is a choice. It involves pain sometimes, and firing mediocre customers, and learning to listen to the right voices. But it’s clearly possible to make great work. In this course, I try to highlight the how and the why.
5. Twenty years ago, freelancing was considered a pretty precarious situation, especially in the “creative” businesses. But since then, with the job-for-life thing being pretty much dead and gone, the mindset of the employee and the mindset of the freelancer isn’t as different as it used to be. That’s a good thing, surely?
I don’t think it matters a bit if it’s good.
And since it is, since the 40 year plus pension career is officially gone, what to do?
It seems to me that getting through the dip and becoming remarkable is the best strategy available.
6. What one thing would you tell an aspiring freelancer who’s just about to take the plunge, what to beware of most? What’s the biggest mistake they can make when it’s time to make their big move?
I’m not sure they should plunge. They should wade.
When you wade, the power is yours.
Small steps. Great work. Great clients. Repeat.
Avoid the compromise of “just this one time…”
7. I know your work mostly by the written word, mostly from your books. No “authoring” a book this time, this time you wanted it all on video. Why the change in format?
That’s what the audience wants, right?
Books have died often, but this time, they might really be dead.
8. When I was a kid just starting out, my boss used to tell me about business, “If you’re having fun, you’re doing something wrong”. Which I never understood, because all the most successful people I know (including you) seem to really enjoy their work.
In fact, having fun is what allows them to be successful in the first place. Again, can you explain the disconnect?
The industrial system is built around productivity, not fun.
The connection economy is built on humanity, trust and art. Hard to do those things while you’re swearing at the boss under your breath.
9. Since we met over a decade ago, social media has gone through all kinds of transformations- Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat et al. Yet you seem to have happily and successfully ignored most of it, preferring to stick with your old trusty friends, e-mail and the blog. Less is more?
I just looked at the stats for my course. 22% of the traffic came from my blog. 74% came from email and RSS. 4% came from social media.
I think showing up in a trusted way, regularly, is priceless.
10. When I first discovered your work you were really known as an entrepreneur and businessman. Then later, an author and public speaker. Now you’re motivated to be a teacher more than anything else, it seems. Any thoughts on what caused this evolution?
I think I’ve always been a teacher. I’m super lucky that now I get to teach more about humanity and less about tactics.
My students are amazing, and watching them turn around to teach others is a thrill.
Thanks, Hugh, for always raising the bar, and doing it with flair and style.
To sign up for Seth Godin’s Freelancer Course, go here. Through the end of April, you can use the coupon code MOVEUP to get a significant discount on the course.
[…] his article Freelancer: 10 Questions with Seth Godin, cartoonist Hugh MacLeod asks Godin about the old notion that “Freelancer” was […]