Freelancers often make a point to not promote themselves as entrepreneurs, in the same way the founder of a start-up would. As the landscape changes for businesses and employees alike and a nomadic breed of workers are adapting to the lack of full-time work, there is an advantageous crossover of start up culture and freelancer life we must explore. It will of course always depend on what field you are in but there is overwhelmingly evidence of the correlation between startup growth and freelance models of business, so it’s safe to assume you could be applicable or amenable for any of the suggestions here. What is supposedly more valuable is the VALUE startup culture has for its own… culture. No one loves startup events, networking, meetings and discussing potential opportunities than those who are wrapped up and loving start up culture. Not such an absurd idea when you think about it like that… but this is the point.
The life of a freelancer can often be isolating: you must divide your time between earning bread and butter to survive, increasing your motivation, finding projects of personal interest and passion to keep your work interesting and of course - always finding and booking new work and clients. As the landscape has changed in modern business, so has the culture around it. And thankfully for freelancers, it has never been easier or smarter to grow and benefit from startup culture.
A New Working Order
And it’s not hard to see how dynamically and rapidly the working culture for everyone has changed in the last two decades. As we have evolved in our shift from industrialisation to the age of technology, our working practices have in many ways become as agile as the competitive market industries most freelancers find themselves in. It’s exciting, and if you are reading this you are probably apart of the wave of independent workers that have established themselves most especially in the last five years. Similarly with the startup model, it’s an easy buy in logically and the model is now essential the only model for innovative or tech based ideas.
The startup industry in turn has developed a reliance on freelancers. In nearly every occupational application of talent, a freelancer can fill the role, even on a temporary basis. What this does is help the startup avoid the substantial overheads of employing a large workforce - especially in pre-seed or pre-fundraising quarters. It is also the nature of a startup to be experimental, and management can avoid filling positions that ultimately are not required long term or only required for an activation. Vast resources are required when it comes to hiring on a full time basis and it is increasingly lucrative and sensible for startups to employ freelancers.
For freelancers this has made for a dynamic and broad workmarket. In fact, the more people who are freelancing it seems, the more work there is for freelancers. While the burdens of a freelance role are obvious, this style of working allows for more diversity in the project portfolio or in fact, more specific and specialised knowledge - both of which are leverage for securing the right opportunities for you and your business.
Startup Culture In Germany
To say the startup culture in Germany and Europe is vibrant would be an understatement. It is in fact proving that with time, it is becoming a backbone of economy from agriculture to technology and it sure is an exciting time to be a freelancer with all these ideas and investment floating around. In Berlin, for example, the growth there began around five years ago with record amounts of investment pouring in - a response to startup positive legislative and incentivised business support from the city. There are estimates this growth could create between 40,000-100,000 jobs. This is not surprising for a town that turned out internationally renowned organisations like SoundCloud. Berlin does not represent Germany, but the ideals of a good idea and hard, fair work is synonymous with the German attitude to enterprise. While many expats warn of excruciating bureaucracy to carry on with, there is a lot to be said for the culture that permeates from it.
In general, there is a leniency in Germany when it comes to overheads such as office space, living costs and wages. Different values are at play, and there is a very person first approach to work and life balance. In general, governments in Germany remain supportive of startups because of the economic value they can bring to a town or city. This is in the form of taxes but also in: providing jobs for freelancers that are long term and sustainable. That, beyond other employment models. But, with this kind of support behind them, startups ultimately offer freelancers with income and career progressing opportunities.
Beyond that, startups have established a working language of English in many cases, meaning the door is open for expats who want to learn the language as they grow their freelance business. Therefore a strong sense of community and local values has organically manifested in the startup culture.
Regular events, networking meetups and closely connected collaborators make the startup scene an ideal place to get to know peers and colleagues in your industry and to let people know what you do. People are genuinely interested as professionals in supporting each other and connecting talent with enterprise, so as long as you are humble and kind, there are lots of formats and places for you to engage with people. It can also be great to harness these connections and consider working or passing on work to a connection - after all, there is a lot of great talent in Berlin and you can’t do every job you get offered, or maybe you need their expertise for your own project!
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Freelancer and Entrepreneurs: a business marriage for 2019
The definition of entrepreneur is ‘’a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit’’ which kind of sounds like a freelancer in a way! In the strict design of colloquial definition, a freelancer and an entrepreneur are entirely different. However, there is an overlap in the experiences they have operating their businesses. There is an overlap in the shared knowledge, the need to be agile and the need to rely on networks to grow and prosper. Even in a basic day to day sense, Talking with entrepreneurs is also a great way to garner insight on things like charging the right hourly rate or what they look for in colleagues or co-workers. In turn a freelancer can help the entrepreneur fill in gaps in terms of lets say, a design offer or a budget idea for a key project. Nothing in depth, but a good discussion that helps one understand each other. Beyond this basic type of networking is a myriad of opportunities that can best be explored in the interests of your work, regardless.
If a freelancer sets out to do the best work they can in their vocation, and does their best by the right clients - they are almost always going to be able to get more and more work from the startup field. In turn, if startups are serious about bringing in expertise and listening to the results of their work, they can seriously innovate and grow; like all good startups should. Over time, freelancers can charge more based on their work and experiences and scale alongside the needs of the businesses they service. There is always a chance to grow to a next or another level in the startup scene.
Dreams don’t work unless you do - take advantage of the changing landscape
Freelancers are on track to become the dominant force in the labour pool and this is also meaning freelancers can become more demanding with their clients in terms of payment and ongoing treatment. This is because this workforce has proven to be able to solve the demands of startups. In this sense, there are changing starting to be seen across some networks with unions and organisations advocating for more uniform rules and legislation for freelancers - especially given the growth and demand on the field.
This is an exciting time for freelancers and the intersection of the business world, and specifically startups. There is no doubt this is an unprecedented wave and now is the time to explore how you can expand your opportunities and how startup culture can help you. In the digital age, you can take advantage of online communities to find opportunities on your local level - from events to online forums. Of course it can be daunting but everyone is on the same team and there’s no harm in showing up to see how you can have a better freelance life by engaging with the startup community.