5 Vital Skills For a Self-Managed Freelance World of Work


Many people in charge of companies now still have a mindset of 9-5 factory style work where people are structured in a hierarchy and there is a chain of command.

You’re slotted into your role in the organisation like pegs in a giant pegboard.

But, work is changing. Roles aren’t fixed any more. Not in the sense that you can do one job your entire life and retire with a pension.

As people live older, they don’t particularly want to stop working. And younger folk are finding it hard to move up a career ladder based on roles and seniority when the older ones insist on staying on the rungs.

Which is why Morningstar is interesting.

Morningstar does things with tomatoes. They care about tomatoes. On their website you can learn about the history of tomatoes, watch a day in the life of a tomato and check out prices for tomato products from hot paste to diced tomatoes in juice.

That’s not the interesting bit.

The interesting bit is that they have no managers. The only role in the company is held by Chris Rufer, the President, because it needs to for legal reasons. And he’s got that because he started it.

Instead, they have a workforce of around 400 workers that manage themselves by creating a network of agreements with each other. A peer-to-peer management system, if you like.

You might think this approach is nonsense. Surely the company would collapse without a cadre of trained managers, all being paid four times what a worker earns, watching the workers work?

Somehow it doesn’t. A mini-market emerges instead, and out of the transactions and agreements made between the workers, a low margin business sustains and grows over time.

This self-management system has spawned its own training centre – The Morningstar Self-Management Institute – and Doug Kirkpatrick sets out five skills that you need to have to do this well.

Now, even if you don’t work for Morningstar but work in a regular company or as a freelancer, these skills are worth thinking about.

1. Always take the initiative

Talk is easy. It’s when you start doing something – taking the first step – that magic happens.

Thinking and strategy and plans are all important and need doing. But you have to get started – whatever that means for you.

For example, as a freelancer with no clients, you have to take the initiative and reach out to prospects. If you have prospects, you have to reach out to them with pitches and suggestions. If you have clients, you have to go back to them with new ideas and opportunities.

Stop talking and start doing.

2. Get comfortable with fuzziness and ambiguity

A world where you have a safe, well-paid job where you can’t be fired is unlikely. And, if you do have that, it’s probably pretty boring.

Safety usually is.

Really exciting things happen in places where people wear t-shirts saying “Safety third”.

Fuzzy and uncertain spaces are where you can find and add value. That’s the edge of new technology, new capability or wasted effort that you can sort out.

If you go where other people don’t – you’ll find projects and opportunities and money.

3. Learn how to be aware of yourself and your progress

If you want to get somewhere, you have to constantly check yourself, check whether you’re moving in the right direction.

Time goes by quickly. Before you know it your time is up and you’re behind where you wanted to be at this point.

If you have a mission – a goal – you’ve got to be aware of it every single day and move towards it. You’re not going to make it in one big leap. But a step every day will make it impossible for you not to reach it.

4. Always try to contribute

Don’t wait for stuff to come to you. Don’t hold back protecting ideas and thoughts and plans because you think they are really clever.

If you can help someone else do it.

It’s good practice. You can get whatever you want if you help enough other people get what they want.

Today, the more you share, the more people can see what you do and are willing to trust you.

It’s one thing saying you can do something – another showing your work.

If you contribute, if you’re visible – you’ll make yourself discoverable – and that is the key to getting more work and growing a business.

5. Select for low power distance

You’re going to have a choice of who to work with. There’s an entire world of people out there looking for your exact skills.

Some of them are not nice.

In the series Scrubs, the actors talk about a no asshole rule. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’re an asshole you’re not joining the team.

This is a good rule to use when working for someone.

It’s good practice to fire difficult customers and spend all the time you save being extra-helpful to the nice ones.

The ones who don’t lord themselves over you.

Your ideal customer is one that doesn’t see themselves as your boss but as a colleague – someone who can work with you to create something that benefits both of you.

Someone who just wants to take from you isn’t worth working with.

In summary

Whether you’re just starting a new career or moving out of an old one into a new freelance way of working, you’re going to have to pick up new skills.

One of the most important is how to move from doing what you’re told to agreeing what needs to be done with people willing to pay you.

Or better yet, offering value that people are happy to buy from you.

And all that starts with a mindset shift.

Followed by massive action.


Karthik Suresh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: