In traditional employment contexts, other people not only own your skillset, but they also own your ideas and the products of your labor.
This unequal bargain now means that because the company owns your skills, it is their job to “professionally develop” you. In employee-employer relationships, we rely on others to define our goals and push us toward achieving them. This dependence not only destroys our intrinsic motivation but also dulls our capacity to understand our purpose and build meaningfully toward it.
Independent workers must break away from the traditional power dynamics by reclaiming ownership of their skills and expertise. Unlike conventional employees, whose skills are often considered company assets, freelancers own their expertise. This power shift allows freelancers to decide how, when, and where they want to develop their skills, putting them in the driver's seat of their growth as an entrepreneur and a human.
Let’s talk about wisdom.
For independent workers, skills and ideas are not commodities owned by someone else. This freedom fosters creativity, innovation, and a sense of ownership over our expertise. This freedom also forces our ideas to compete in an open market, which demands that we consistently improve what we do and how we do it to succeed.
Freelancers who run their businesses like a boss take this challenge seriously and leverage their expertise as an authority with their clients. Clients are not looking for an employee that they have to tell what to do, train, and manage along the way. Clients are looking for top-tier experts who understand precisely what they need and then independently execute.
Operating at this level of authority fundamentally changes the value proposition for clients and the understanding of worth as a freelancer. Instead of just an executor whose value is dictated by time spent or deliverables completed, expert freelancers are compensated for the value of the problems they solve for their clients.
To operate at the highest level of expertise, professional development has to be a self-driven pursuit. Freelancers recognize the need to stay relevant in a dynamic market and actively seek opportunities for continuous learning. Whether enrolling in online courses, attending workshops, or participating in industry events, freelancers take charge of their own development, recognizing that their skills are an asset they control.
Freelancers are not just workers; they are entrepreneurs. They operate as small businesses, managing their brand, marketing their skills, and seeking growth opportunities. This entrepreneurial mindset encourages freelancers to view their skills as a personal investment and actively seek ways to enhance and diversify their offerings.
The intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of entrepreneurship reinforce the drive to get better and better at what we do. When we own the choice to develop ourselves and seek out exciting and relevant opportunities professionally, the improvement process is a reward in and of itself. This is only reinforced by the extrinsic rewards of better clients, more exciting projects, and higher rates.
As we grow as professionals, we must constantly be vigilant of refocusing our efforts on what we’re best positioned to do, which changes over time. Freelancers who start as “just” doers and progress to strategic thought partners often get caught up in continuing to do all of the tasks instead of refining what they focus their energy on. As we progress, improving means doing less better, not doing more.
This trap is particularly hard for solopreneurs to avoid because we’ve built single-person businesses and relied on our talents exclusively for so long. Doing less better doesn’t have to mean hiring a big team.
Here are a few ways you can refine what you do so that you continue to grow:
As freelancers, our skills are personal assets, our ideas are individual property, and our products of labor become avenues for personal and financial growth. Working independently requires us to take ownership of our skill sets and expertise to succeed as a business, evolve ourselves as individuals, and build meaningful work that lasts a lifetime.