When I first embarked on my self employment/freelance journey 2 years ago, my motivation to do so was fueled by a group of digital nomads whose blogs I had followed for months. I was intrigued by their personal stories and journeys to success, as well as the tips and advice they gave along the way. Today, the driving force that keeps me going through times both tough and rough continues to be the personal blogs of other independents I admire. Let’s face it, self employment can be a lonely ride, and there’s just something about being able to relate to other people on the same path as you, knowing that they’re out there working it every single day too that helps me get out of bed every day.
Today, there are approximately 53 million people freelancing in the United States, representing 34% of the nation’s workforce. That number has been steadily increasing over the years, but there aren’t many resources out there that put faces to the numbers. Who are some of the people that make up this independent workforce? What is it that they do, and what are their stories and advice to others? Those are the main questions I hope to answer in this new series, Interview with an Independent. Also, note that when I use the term independent, I encompass both freelancers and self employed folk.
To kick off the Interview with an Independent series, I’m pleased to feature Dave Dean! I discovered Dave after being a long time fan of an online publication that he co-founded called Too Many Adapters. As the name implies, the site is focused on providing tips and product reviews of technology that is optimal for frequent travelers. Originally from New Zealand, Dave has fifteen years of experience working in the technology field and has been location independent and self employed for the past three years, and he’s done some serious world traveling. Ready to learn a bit more about Dave and his backstory? Let’s get started!
How long have you been independent, and what drove you to in this direction?
I’ve been doing this full time for about three years now. I came to a self-employed life due to a deep dissastisfaction with working in corporate offices, and a strong desire for location independence and travel. As hard as it sometimes is, this lifestyle deals with both of those things, and I’ve no desire to give it up.
What do you deem as your competitive advantage, and how do you keep it over time?
My competitive advantage is having deep experience in two different areas (travel and technology) that have let me carve out a niche that’s barely covered by anybody else. I’m always seeking out opportunities to expose my work to large, new audiences, and pick both paid and unpaid opportunities with that goal in mind.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced? Rewards or accomplishments?
Like most freelance and self-employed people, generating a consistent, decent income month on month has probably been my biggest challenge. Having multiple income streams helps, but it’s still a struggle at times even now. As far as rewards or accomplishments, being approached and recognised as an expert in my field has been rather gratifying.
How far out into the future do you plan your goals, and how do you stay motivated?
I have various sets of goals, some short term (within the next month or two), some medium term (3-6 months) and some longer term ones. The level of precision obviously changes! In terms of staying motivated, it can be tough when you’re spending weeks on end in front of a laptop without seeing immediate benefit. I’ve recently changed my approach, where I will work as hard as possible for one or two months, ideally in one place, and then travel for 2-3 weeks while staying offline as much as I can. This has really helped me retain focus and motiviation when I am working, although it requires more organisation to ensure I’ve hit every deadline before going offline.
What are 3 pieces of advice that you would give to aspiring freelancers? Veteran freelancers?
For aspiring freelancers, I’d suggest that they make sure they have a decent runway (6+ months of savings at their current expense levels) before taking the leap. Clients come and go, often without notice and always at the worst possible time! Diversify as much as possible for the same reason, and try to spend a reasonable proportion of your time looking for and building new opportunities as well as working on what you already have, As for veteran freelancers, I don’t know that I’m qualified to comment!