E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

elsua

Transitions

Gran Canaria - Pico de las Nieves

If I were to describe with a single word the last three years since I wrote a blog post over here, that word would definitely be Transitions. You know what they say, change is hard; change is a constant, and, therefore, the only thing you can do is delay the inevitable. Change will, eventually, happen. Regardless.

That’s why after three years of silence it’s now time to resume my blogging mojo and continue to write over here, right back at my own home, as an opportunity to resume the conversations as if it were just yesterday. Yes, I know, that ‘yesterday‘ is three years ago and a lot has happened ever since, but up until now I wasn’t ready just yet to get down to work and resume my long-from writing.

About 20 years ago, when I was first getting involved with blogs and wikis, a really good friend of mine, and trusted mentor throughout the years, wisely said to me a few words that stuck in my mind ever since, as I was getting more and more heavily involved with those social software tools. He said, ‘Never write anything online when you are angry, hungry, or thirsty. It will keep haunting you forever’. Well, I guess you know now why I have been silent over here for so long.

As you may have seen, or read, on different media tools over the course of the last few monthsI have been rather angry and upset about a good number of things happening in my own personal life. Things mostly out of my control to effect some change for the better, so, over time, I had to learn how to navigate through such toxic, poignant and rather damaging environment and re-focus again on what I wanted to do next. That’s why there have been long periods of time where I have just disappeared trying to clear things in my mind while different (unfortunate) events were taking place. Not an easy task, that one of re-focusing, that is, but a much needed one to get it done with. Till today.

Transitions, indeed. That’s the word I’ve been using far too many times already to describe what I have gone through over the course of the last three years both at work and in my own personal life. You know, if you ever bump into people who tell you that they are reluctant to change, that they resist to change their own ways, behaviours or mindset for whatever reason, do me a favour, don’t believe them.

They are lying to you, and to themselves. Why? Well, we are constantly changing. The conditions under which we operate are constantly changing. The nature and complexity of both our work and personal lives are so fundamentally different today, in 2020, than just last year or a couple of years ago, that we are no longer the same person. And rightly so! It’s part not only of what we do, but also of who we are. That’s what makes change such a fascinating and thrilling endeavour altogether.

Either way, like I was saying above, it’s great to be back! Back to my own home, to my extended brain on the Open Social Web. To that special place that it’s one’s own and no-one else’s. That place where your imagination goes wild with your thoughts and experiences, your trials and tribulations, your crazy ideas, your lessons learned from over the years, your excitement about what’s next and so forth. Blogs are still a thing, right?

I guess it’s now a good time to try to describe a little bit more in detail what I mean with transitions, in an attempt to resume my blogging mojo over here, describing what I have been up to lately. Like I said, a lot has happened since I last wrote an article over here, back in January 2017, and it’s about time to get down to work and share with you folks some of what’s been going on. At least, for those of you who may still be out there reading these few words…

Don’t worry, I am not planning on sharing much detail about lot of the things that have made me rather angry / upset over the last few months, specially, for 2019, a year that’s going to be rather tough for me to forget, so I don’t need a blog post to remind me about it every so often. Time to move on and re-focus on what we’d want to do and be next, right?

Let’s get down to it then, shall we?

When thinking about transitions about what has been going on lately with yours truly, I can think of three major areas, to begin with, I’d want to cover, at least, on this blog post. I would then try to develop further along additional articles, over the course of time, to perhaps give a bit more context and share some more about the additional learning experiences I have gone through so far. So, let’s have a look into each of them briefly and see where we will end up!

Transition at Work

The last blog post I wrote over here back in 2017 was a bit of an announcement about what I would be doing next. Back then. A bit over three years later, I am still working for panagenda, although my job role and responsibilities have shifted completely. Till early on last year, and for the last 22 years, as most of you folks may still remember, I have been working as a consultant / adviser around Social Business, Collaboration, Digital Transformation, KM, Learning, Online Communities and Data Analytics, either at a large corporate environment (My former IBM life), or as an independent, or while at panagenda. Early on last year though that all changed. Now, I am a business developer. You are … what?

A bit of a (drastic?) change, don’t you think? Most definitely. I’m still trying to get the hang out of it figuring out whether business development can be flagged as either consulting, marketing or just pure selling. Or a bit of everything in the mix! The thing is that I’m having a blast altogether. I’m learning something new every single day that goes by, which is always a good thing after being in the Collaboration space for over 23 years.

That’s where I will leave things, for now. Part of my urge to start writing again here in this blog is to share with you folks what I have learned throughout that time as a business developer and also reflect on the current state of the Digital Workplace after I moved on from big corporate life, nearly 6 years ago, and started playing in other leagues. A bit of a teaser ahead of upcoming blog posts: we are in (big) trouble! 

Transition with My Personal Life

Like I mentioned earlier on, I won’t be bothering you detailing much about what has been going on with my personal life over the course of the last three years, as in some cases it’s been pretty dire, specially, last year. However, I would say a couple of things to try to relay what’s been happening for you all to get a rough idea.

At a time when we all know the business world is totally messed up, work has been my personal saviour. While everyone has been declaring how broken the workplace is or how horrifying and depressing work has become, work has been the single item that has helped me keep my sanity intact. What does it say about everything else, right? Well, let me summarise it with one of my favourite sayings: onwards & upwards!

The other thing that’s rather remarkable in terms of this transitional period for yours truly, is that last year I seemed to have peaked at unhappiness. I kid you not. Apparently, there is a fascinating piece of research that confirms that at 47 years old unhappiness peaks.  Well, that was me last year, not necessarily because of the study itself (I wish!), but because I realised how plenty of family members and really good friends have either become (seriously) ill or, unfortunately, passed away. Never mind those others who decided to fight amongst themselves for really silly things, as if there was no tomorrow! Yikes!!

One could say that last year truly s*cked! I guess it was one of the early, first ah-ha moments, confirming death is closer than what one could have thought in previous years, decades, while growing up. And that, eventually, it will hit you the hardest when you least expect it. Your loved ones. 

That’s why during the course of 2019 there have been plenty of moments where I needed to figure out a way to move on, to persevere and be resilient enough while adapting to the new conditions of having lost dearest family members and friends, and carry on with one’s life. It’s the least one could do to treasure and appreciate their living memory and the many special moments lived together. Alas, now you know why I just couldn’t blog. No energy, no focus, helpless, waiting for things to, finally, stop. Thank goodness for 2020 where things are looking up, if they ever do, at all, and life just keeps on pushing its own way. Like I said, onwards & upwards! 

Transition with the World

And, finally, the last transition. At least, the one where I am going to leave things on this blog post for now. This particular transition with the world has also been one that had me rather upset and angry throughout the last couple of years, unleashing to its full disgust during 2019. I tell you, last year is one of those years that’s going to be rather tough to forget! Why should we, right?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into too much detail describing why I feel we are transitioning into a world that has now changed forever. I am pretty certain you know exactly what I am referring to, if you have been keeping up to date with different local and global events over such short period of time. Suffice to say though that, to me, we are on the brink of deciding whether we would want to be a Civilisation Type 1 or, on the contrary, Type 2.

It’s a choice we need to make. And the sooner we do, the better. For all of us and for our home. Hopefully, for Civilisation Type 1. I’m pretty sure you may all be thinking that this is a bit of a blog post with a negative connotation overall, but, quite the contrary. It’s an open reflection towards what has perhaps been my major key learning from last couple of years: work hard and focus on what you *can* really change. The things, the people, the conditions, the contexts, near and closest to you, and keep spreading the love around!

Like I said at the very beginning of this blog post, change is hard; change is a constant. There is no point in delaying it. Change, eventually, will happen. It’s just a matter for each and everyone of us to decide how, when and why we would want to effect change with those around us: our closest networks and communities. The ones with which we can get work done effectively!

Bring it on!


At this point in time, I guess you may be wondering whether this will be my first and last blog post for this year before I disappear again, right? Well, rest assured, folks, I’m now back!, and I do not have any intention of going silent again.

That was also one of the main lessons I learned the hard way, specially, in the last year. Most of the times you will be much more effective and impactful amplifying and augmenting your networks and online communities, through conversations, than thinking you could do it all by yourself without the need of everyone else getting involved. Alas, our networks and communities just don’t operate that way.

It is our human(e) edge.

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The Beginning of a New Work Adventure – Joining panagenda!

Joining panagenda!

 

On January 20th, it will mark the 20th year anniversary since I started working in the IT industry. A lot has happened over the course of the last two decades both on a personal and work levels, as you can imagine, and, yet, it feels as if it was just yesterday. That is, probably, why, over the course of the last couple of months, a growing urge to find a new work adventure has taken over yours truly. Till now. That search is now over. 2017 will, definitely, be a year of change and milestones, I’m pretty certain, but it’ll also be a year of excitement, of new dazzling opportunities for learning and growth, of discovering wonderfully inspiring initiatives to experience, experiment with and learn from. In short, it will be a year of new beginnings. And, for yours truly, that time has, finally, come. As of January 16th, I have now joined panagenda. Let the new adventure begin!

Now you know why I haven’t blogged much over the course of the last four weeks. It’s been a bit hectic with the Christmas holidays, the time off with family and friends, the search for a new work adventure, the rather nasty flu I’ve just recovered from, the time to unlearn and relearn while deciding what I wanted to do next pondering whether it was a good time to go back to basics or not, etc. etc. all in all confirming a lot has been going on so far, but when the right opportunity shows up you know you just have to go and grab it, before it vanishes into thin air. And that is exactly what I did! I grabbed it, or, probably, better said, it raptured me big time. It all started with a short conversation in an online collaborative space that is not even widely available to everyone out there just yet. It all begun by tapping into one’s own social networks, where, usually, the magic happens: you know, you get to talk and converse with people who know you rather well (probably even better than you do yourself!) and who are willing to help open up new paths for you, because they feel the timing is just perfect. That’s why I’m pretty excited and rather enthused, beyond words!, about having already started writing a new page in my 20 year long career in the IT industry by joining panagenda this past Monday. 

Those of you who are already very familiar with panagenda will know what a real treat, honour, and true privilege it is to say I’m now a panagendean as well. Those of you who may not know much about them and what they do (just yet!) I can tell you they are an amazing team of rather talented, gifted, very helpful and knowledgeable folks doing some pretty mind-blowing things while helping organisations transform the way they work as they join the 21st century. They do walk the talk. Every time. And you will know what I mean very soon.

So, ‘what is panagenda, again?’, you may be wondering, right? Well, they are an international company with offices in Austria (The HQ is in Vienna), Germany, The Netherlands and the United States. They primarily focus on helping organisations understand and make sense of the different IT and Collaboration solutions they may have been using over the course of time in order to help accelerate and improve their various business transformation processes and tooling. Their motto is ‘Make Your Data Work For You’, so they work with a good number of customers helping them understand how to work smarter, not necessarily harder (Which is, as you well know, my favourite mantra) with the data they produce within their own collaboration landscape. They provide a good number of different analytics solutions, extensive expertise (advisory work) and consulting services around both traditional communication and collaboration tools, as well as emergent enterprise social networking software, bridging both worlds rather nicely and intuitively to help address whatever the different business problems customers may face, as well as help them identify new business opportunities.

Don’t worry, over the course of time I plan to put together over here a number of different blog entries explaining more in detail what panagenda has got to offer as well as the kind of work my colleagues and myself do for our clients, which I guess has just triggered an additional thought from all of you out there in terms of what I will be focusing on myself from here onwards, right? As a starting point, I’ll continue to do lots of advisory work and consulting services around Social Business and Digital Transformation, along with a specific focus around Analytics, covering areas such as Corporate Communications, Collaboration, Learning, Knowledge Management, Digital Workplace, Adoption / Adaptation of Emergent Social Technologies and, in general, Business Transformation. My goodness, quite a challenge trying to summarise 20 years of working experience, don’t you think? Phew!

Either way, did I already say how excited and thrilled I am about having such a fantastic opportunity of working together with quite a sensational team of very smart folks always willing to help their customers, business partners and fellow colleagues become better at what they already do? Well, if I didn’t say it before, I will now: I’m beyond words, literally, to have been given such honour of working on this new work adventure I just started a couple of days ago and that it’s beginning to feel like the 20 year long wait doing other things was just totally worth it! Every single minute of it! 

Thus with all of that said, it’s now time for me to go back and get on with the overall on boarding process, and in case you are wondering about whether the themes and topics I cover in this blog will substantially change from here onwards, fear not, you are just about to get exposed to some rather thought-provoking write-ups on what purposeful digital transformation programmes are all about.

Are you ready? I surely am!

Go panagenda!

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Unlocking Civilisation Type 1 Through An Open Mind

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

 

Today is my last working day of 2016, before I go offline (from work) for my winter holidays till mid January next year. Somewhere in between, I don’t know just yet when, there will be a major announcement coming through that will explain what I will be doing throughout 2017 and beyond. After 20 years in the IT industry, I can share ahead of that announcement there will be a massive process coming along of unlearning and relearning for yours truly. Yes, I am incredibly excited about it, because it’s about something I haven’t done for the last 20 years, so it will be a rather interesting rebirth (of sorts) upon my return to a new workplace. But in its due time, I suppose. For today though I’ll go ahead and try to summarise what this year has felt like so far and, when doing so, there is a single word that comes to the top of my mind that would describe, pretty well, what it has been like: humanise

I know, it’s a strange word to go for, but let me try to describe it further in detail with a story connecting three different tidbits that have impacted me significantly on what I have learned throughout this year, both at work, as an independent adviser / freelancer around Social Business and Digital Transformation, as well as in my own personal life.

Throughout the year I have been exposed, pretty much like everyone else, I’m sure, to thousands of different ads and marketing campaigns on any kind of topic or product you can probably imagine and through multiple different platforms (whether on TV, radio, newspapers, the Internet, etc. etc.), but there has been one of them in particular that has wowed me so badly that every single time there has been either a local or global event with a significant impact (whether positive or negative, although mostly negative, I must confess) I end up watching it over and over again. So far this year, I could venture to state I may have watched it a couple of dozen times already and somehow I never get tired of it. Quite the opposite, I almost always end up going a bit teary and emotional altogether. 

Both the ad and marketing campaign come from Momondo, under the rather suggestive heading ’The DNA Journey’, by starting to ask yourself perhaps one of the toughest questions out there: ‘Would you dare to question who you really are?’ Hold on, don’t answer that just yet. Wait for a little bit more… Try to go through ‘Let’s open our world’ in its entirety and then ask yourself, again, that same question and see what you can come up with as an answer. Something tells me it may surprise you and quite a bit altogether!

From that campaign they put together a truly amazing and mind-blowing short video clip (a bit over 5 minutes long) that will send shivers through your spine every single time you watch it. It’s perhaps one of the most emotional clips you will watch this year, if you haven’t just yet. The closing line is maybe one of the best sentences out there to describe everything we may have gone through this year. To quote: 

An open world begins with an open mind.’ 

 

Now I understand fully why nearly 4 years ago I decided to, at long last, ditch Social Business in favour of Open Business. Now you may be able to understand a bit better why humanise is the word that would pretty much describe what 2016 has been like for yours truly.

Are we then ready to evolve into Civilisation Type 1 yet?

That was my very first reaction when I first watched the short video clip I have embedded above around The DNA Journey. Why? Well, because while going through the clip I got reminded of this other video from Big Think by Dr. Michio Kaku where he tries to answer the following question: ‘Will Mankind Destroy Itself?’ Interestingly enough, that clip is from 2011 and yet, unless you have been hiding in a cave throughout 2016, it looks like as if it was shot just yesterday.

 

Flabbergasting and gobsmacking in equal terms, I tell you, but, don’t worry, Dr. Kaku’s discourse is not necessarily negative, nor pesimistic on its own. Quite the opposite. It poses a very interesting reflection with plenty of thought-provoking insights as to whether we, humans, are somewhat ready to make the transition from Civilisation Type 0 to Type 1 and in a world where we seem to have reverted back to Type 0, it’s probably a good time now to start questioning whether we, citizens of this world, are ready and willing to participate, getting actively involved, leaving behind both apathy and complacency, to change this world as we know it today.

 

 

Take out the word ‘US’ out of that tweet and insert whatever other country acronym and it would apply just perfectly all right.

I do keep wondering, seriously, as to whether we would be able to evolve accordingly into Civilisation Type 1, specially, after the many dramatic events happening this year, or whether, instead, we will be that generation that will contemplate, muse and witness the planetary suicide Dr. Kaku hints in the clip I embedded above as well. Will we be ready to engage in such an enduring test though to revert course and head on for Type 1? I just don’t know. I hope we do. Seriously, for our very own good as a species on this planet.

Maybe, it’s down to all of us. Maybe it’s all down to being human, after all, and about re-humanising ourselves, once again, through, funny and ironic enough, the various, different digital tools that have definitely transformed, for good, the way and how we communicate with one another not only on a local basis, but on a global, planetary one as well, pretty much like Gutenberg’s printing press did 576 years ago. It’s that kind of revolution we are after, folks, we should not forget about that. And while I realise this blog post may not have much to do with either work nor our personal lives, I actually think it does and big time. It’s who we are, it’s what we do, it’s what we fight for, it’s what we learn that makes us better at what we do already and if I were to describe what it is like it’s about being human, about accepting our very own vulnerabilities and learn to adapt and live with them with grace so that, eventually, they will make us all stronger as a result. 

This is why, as a moderate optimist, I would love to close off today’s blog entry with a song. A song that’s become my favourite tune for this year, and, probably, within my Top 10 from all times, because, if anything, it pretty well describes what 2016 has been like: new dark times, BUT with plenty of light in the horizon, inspired by understanding not only both our limits and vulnerability, but also what we are all good at to overcome those: caring more (for one another), becoming more empathic and, overall, more human.

Again.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and a Happy, Healthy and rather Prosperous New Year to you all! 

#carpediem

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What’s in a Name?

Gran Canaria - Meloneras Beach

 

 

Why is it so difficult to change the title of your own personal business blog, specially, after such a long time? I mean, really, I’ve now been blogging for over 14 years and I still find it quite a challenge every time I decide to change the name of my own. You would expect, by now, I would have gotten the gist of it all and be done with it in a heartbeat. Yet, here I am, struggling, pretty badly, just as much as ever, for the last three weeks and counting… Who said business blogging was this easy? I guess this is what happens when major changes in your work life are just about to happen and you don’t know yet how to name the blog that’s been with you through thick and thin from all along, so one can continue moving forward. What if you were the one(s) to find a new title for this blog instead? How would you call it? Would you be game? Can you help me? Read on please … 

If you have been reading this blog for a long while, you would know how last time I changed its name, if I recall correctly, was back in 2008 (‘E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez’) and it took me several weeks to, finally, come to terms with it and feel good about it. Now, fast forward to January 20th, 2017, a bit over a month from now. A date that will mark the end of a life cycle for yours truly, as I will be celebrating my 20th year anniversary in the IT industry. I am, indeed, starting to feel the urge to look for a new title altogether for this business blog. Why? Well, mainly because almost everything I have done for work over the course of the last 20 years, specially, that piece of work related to plenty of the heretic topics I have blogged about over here, may well be a thing of the past. It’s a new, changing time. It’s a time to move on and start again (almost) from scratch into whatever comes next. So, what name do you think should I pick for this blog? Any suggestions or ideas coming out so far? 

I know what you are all thinking, but no, don’t worry, this isn’t any kind of existential crisis of this business blog or anything. Nor of myself either, for that matter. This is more an opportunity to reflect on a massive change that will kick off in the next few weeks and that’s certainly going to reflect a before and an after around a good number of topics I have written about over here. Mind you, I am making a differentiation between topics and themes. The former will, almost definitely, change substantially, the latter won’t. Next year, I will still be writing, with a gentle twist, about the themes I’m truly passionate about: KM, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities, Social Business and Digital Transformation, etc. etc. but a good number of the most provocative topics I have written about will be left behind, perhaps for good. It’s time to move on and do some other interesting things…

So the challenge to find a new name, or title, for this my business blog still remains, even more so when I am yet to announce the major changes happening to yours truly from mid-January next year onwards, upon my return from the Christmas holidays. I know, I know, I am just such a tease, aren’t I? Well, all will be announced, properly, in its due time, don’t worry, I am not planning on leaving you all in the dark, just like that, but today I thought I would perhaps reach out to all of of you folks, long time faithful readers of this blog, if you are still around, to come to the rescue of this poor blogger who can’t think straight anymore about a new title for his own blog, before he can move on.

What do you think? Based on 11 years since I published the first blog entry over here, how should I call it? How would you want me to call it? Any ideas or suggestions I should consider, please? Now, I realise once that major announcement comes out, things will become clearer in terms of potential names and titles I could choose from, but since blogging is just such a personal activity (including you all as well, of course) I guess I could just continue searching for that new name. Why not, right?

One thing I have got very clear so far and I will be sticking around to even more so from here onwards, specially into the new year when that announcement I mentioned above would go live, is the Tagline itself for this blog: ‘A blog about working smarter, not necessarily harder, through social networking, digital technologies’. Indeed, I have just updated it this week as well. It has been the mantra from yours truly I have blogged about over here several dozens of times over the years and it just felt right to perhaps incorporate it at a higher level as well. I suspect the new name I may be picking up for the blog (with a little help from you folks out there) may have to do quite a bit with that motto and you will see what I mean shortly…

Of course, I would also need to include ‘elsua’ as part of that personal branding touch one needs to have for one’s blog, so other people don’t think I play football for vast majority of the time 😜, otherwise when they go and google my name they will have to filter through pages and pages of football related news before finding what they may be looking for. By that time, they may well be long gone, so I need to make it a bit easier for everyone…

So far then we have got the following: ‘E L S U A ~ A [insert new title here] Blog by Luis Suarez’. Hummm, I am still struggling coming up with something coherent, concise, and relevant to the main themes from this blog. What are your thoughts? Can you please help me pick up a new name / title for the blog based on what your perceptions may have been throughout all of this time? In return, I promise I will be announcing very very soon what I will be up to during 2017… and beyond. You will then know as well why I have been relatively quiet this week on the blogging front …

Deal?

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Writing Ourselves into Existence through a Choral Act

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's surroundings

 

Earlier on this morning I spent quite some time going through a good number of the different posts I have put together in this blog over the course of the last three months and, to my surprise, it looks like I have been posting more entires in that three month period than the entire 2014 and 2015 combined! Whoah! How did that happen? Even plenty of readers of this blog noticed that as well as they decided to unsubscribe for new updates by the hordes explaining I have been sharing just too many of them to keep up with everything else that is going on. I think I know why there is just such a disparity between those couple of years and the last few months. It’s all got to do with my own mindset and how it’s shifted back over time into something I’m very familiar with, but that, somehow, I left it behind a few years ago. It looks like over the course of time I’m shifting away from social media first into blogging first. It’s as if I am longing for, once again, ‘writing myself into existence’.

Indeed, I remember very well the time when I first started blogging (internally, behind the firewall) around end of 2002 and all I could think about, while reading or conversing with other folks on a wide range of different work related topics, was along the lines of ‘Oh, I need to blog about that idea’, or ‘I need to respond to that blog post with another one as well to add further up into the conversation’, or, just simply ‘I need to write that down somewhere to reflect on it further along, so I don’t forget to come back to it later’, to name a few. Yes, indeed, I realise now how I was writing myself into existence as my good friend Euan Semple wrote a few years back quoting David Weinberger himself on what blogging was all about: ‘Writing ourselves into existence’.

Somehow, and over the course of the last 3 to 5 years I lost track of that while my mind switched automatically from blogging first into social media first, as I was spending a whole lot more time in several of those so-called social media tools while ignoring and neglecting my good old blogging mojo. However, at one point in time, this past August, to be more precise, I got too tired with just being the data, I mean, with always being the product no matter what. Frankly, I just got too tired with the surveillance state we are, apparently, creating with the current pernicious polarisation that keeps growing faster and faster than ever as we have confirmed that transition from making use of social media tools into just media tools, where we have become that, the media.

No, I am sorry, that’s not how I would want to spend plenty of my online time anymore. As Euan mentioned on that blog entry, I just need a space where I can be a whole lot more aware of my own thoughts and feelings, and of the world around me for that matter, without having to jump into everyone else’s throats out there every time they are not politically correct agreeing with me anymore on absolutely everything I categorically state because, you know, I am always right and they are not. That’s how things seem to be rolling out there for everyone at the moment. I can, we all can, do so much better than that altogether, don’t you think?

How about blogging as a choral act?, as Bonnie Stewart wrote beautifully in a recent blog entry a couple of weeks back. A superb article, by the way, in case you may have missed it about the healing powers of digital writing. To quote her: 
 

Blogging is a choral act. Posts are commented on; ties are formed. Stories and backstories become known. As I connected with other bloggers and found community first with other parents and then with those whose writing, like my own, unpacked identities in various forms, I stumbled into something extraordinary […]

 

This is just too funny, and perhaps a tad ironic, too, because my last three months of blogging over here in this blog have helped me, once more, finally, comprehend (and come to terms with the fact of) how I no longer crave for attention, at least, as much as I used to back in the day. How I seem to have departed from me, me, me land into the we, we, we land. It’s helped me, at long last, understand as well how most of the times it’s the long-form reads with your own thoughts, opinions and emotions the ones that are the most powerful components towards building, nurturing and sustaining long term (online) communities, where you are just one of the community members, connecting, sharing, learning and collaborating together with others as equals, as a choral act.

Yes, indeed, that’s the underestimated power of blogging. It’s no longer about the self per se, but more about what you could bring forward as part of an already existing conversation that’s taking place in multiple blogs and blog comments from different people who have got a long term common goal: connect, share and learn more about a particular topic with other online partners. Now, when was the last time you had that wonderful sensation while interacting through media tools? Something tells me it may well have been a while. Is that how you see yourself continuing to make use of those media tools in the medium, long term? Think about it… Think closely. Where do you think you will be online in the next 5 or 10 years? Someone else’s home or your own? Hopefully, your own, right? 😀

I realise you may be thinking one of the several reasons why you are still making use of those different media tools (apart from just being there so you don’t appear to be the awkward one, the weirdo) is as an opportunity to showcase and promote some of your thought leadership and expertise on a particular topic by pushing messages out there about the stuff you may have shared or published elsewhere (like your blog) and therefore help others become more aware about what you do. That’s a good reason, indeed. I have used it myself a few times, but only to realise it no longer works. Over the course of the years I have noticed, I’m pretty sure you may have as well, how we hardly ever read anything else on media tools anymore other than our very own broadcasted messages. We are just too busy doing all sorts of other things to then have to stop and read what other people publish, share or would want to converse about. Well, here’s the thing, if that’s how we all feel AND behave, that attention you are craving is then long gone and pretty much dead by now. No-one will read your posts, never mind respond to some of them! And then what? 

Keep posting multiple times during the course of the day adding further along into the already existing noise, so that your audience? may, pontentially, see it and drop by skimming through it rather quick before they head back into their timelines? Yikes! No, no-one would want to have that, so why do we keep sustaining it? We shouldn’t. No-one reads our marketing messages anymore. Somehow, it feels a little bit like a waste of time, resources, energy and good effort. That is one of the many things I have learned myself, through trial and error as well, over the course of last three months where I, along with several dozens of other people, have used different media tools to share some of the blog posts I have put together over here that others may find somewhat interesting and relevant for what they do and, yet, vast majority of my blog traffic still comes through search engines like Google or Bing and not a single one of those media tools despite the thousands and thousands of people we tend to broadcast to. Quite revealing on its own, I tell you, as it reminds me of the long tail of knowledge: as long as you get to write good content, or comment on other people’s blog posts, care about what they post, or take a genuine interest in what they do, etc. etc. they will always find it, with or without making use of media tools no-one stops by anymore to read, accordingly, more in depth.

I know what you are all thinking, but ‘blogging is hard work’. It takes an awful lot of time, effort and energy to put together a blog post versus writing a tweet or sharing a short status update and you may be right. But then again we ought to realise we should never be too busy to blog. It’s just a matter of habit, really; in fact, it’s a matter of (re)building the habit of writing further along about the topics we are very interested in and are passionate about and see what comes out eventually (remember? Blogging is personal), as if no-one else is reading, just for you, perhaps even if you decide to start using rather helpful techniques like writing 750 words per day, you name it. What matters at the end of the day is whether we are willing to write ourselves into existence in a space we own AND partake in the conversations, all of us, as equals, as a choral act. As ever, it’s our individual and collective choice and ours alone. No-one, not even any media tool out there, should interfere with that decision. Ever. We are the ones who need to decide and define what our digital footprint should be like

That’s why I have now, finally, decided to spend more time blogging over here than craving the attention in media tools from an audience we no longer have, no matter what the numbers of followers may well say. They have now become redundant. Instead, I much prefer to crave the wonderful conversations I have been having over here already in multiple blog posts, because they help me learn and grow accordingly over time by caring even more about the topics that are dear to my heart (and mind!). To me, that’s what blogging has been all about all along for the last 20+ years and still going strong: an extended part of our reflective brains about what’s going on around us, and the world at large for that matter, and how do we make sense out of it all.

Why not make the most out of it then, right? Blog on!

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The Downsides of Freelance Work

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

 

Last week, if you would remember, I wrote a blog entry on the topic of ’The Perks of Freelance Work’ to describe some of the things I have enjoyed the most, so far, from being a freelancer over the course of last three years. While that post did not include an exhaustive list of perks, it gave me a pretty good opportunity to reflect upon what I have learned over the course of time, now that I’m getting pretty close as well to my 20th year anniversary in the IT industry. In it I also mentioned how I’d be writing another article where I would share across a number of other different advantages that didn’t make it into the first entry of this series, but I also wrote about creating a couple of different blog entries where I would be musing about the downside(s) of freelance work. Yes, that’s right, the ones no-one talks to you about, nor cares to admit they are going through themselves, mostly because of the lovely, rosy words we seem to impregnate freelancing with as the next big-thing (Remember the gig economy?), when, in reality, it might be everything but… 

The overall purpose of these blog posts talking about the perks and the downsides of freelance work is for me to try to share across a somewhat balanced view around my overall experience in an effort to, perhaps, help you folks understand whether freelancing might be something of interest for you, or not, who knows. At the same time, it’s also a unique opportunity to confirm for myself whether I am alone experiencing and going through some of these ups and downs of freelancing or whether it’s just me. There is that possibility as well. That’s why, with regards to the downsides of freelance work, I am putting together this first blog entry where I would like to explore ten of them and then over the course of time I will be picking each and everyone of them and describe in length how I get to overcome them eventually.

Thus, without much further ado, here are some of the downsides of freelance work, in no particular order, I’d want to share across for now and let’s see how much other folks can relate to each of these, if at all:    

 

  • Uncertainty: If there is anything I have learned over the course of the last three years, as a freelancer, is money doesn’t like uncertainty. It runs away from it like the plague. So when we are going through this exhilarating, nerve-wrecking roller-coaster of tumultuous times, provoked by either global or political turmoils, you know you are bound to learn, and pretty quick, how to live with the uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring forward.

    Making plans ahead of time is not only a waste of time, effort and energy, but also a rather distracting activity, because, in most cases, you just don’t know what’s going to happen next week, month, or year! So, very early in the game, you realise that uncertainty helps you, through the hard way, to pretty much live in the moment, focusing on the tasks and work at hand without having much of an opportunity to focus on anything else, because, you know, it’s just not certain. The ever so much more complex times we live in will bring forward such uncertainty that will pretty much scare your customers away, specially, those with the budget to kick off your projects. But here is the thing about uncertainty that I like the most: it forces you to keep moving, constantly, without excuses, nor regrets, into striking the next lovely project work you will be doing with a potential client at some point in time. Now, I will be talking a whole lot more about it, but here is a tip of advice I learned about coping with the uncertainty: the moment you stop thinking about the what next that’s the moment when uncertainty wins. Don’t let it win. Keep moving! 

    [Like I have mentioned above already, I will be putting together a number of different blog posts in the near future where I will explain with much more detail how I get to tackle each and everyone of these downsides of freelancing, so you folks may learn some more about how I try to cope with them and how sometimes I succeed and how, in others, I don’t. But one step at a time …]

  • Insecurity: With this one I’d want to encourage you all to think of it more as in job security than anything else. And here is a short story on what I mean with that. Three years ago, when I had already decided I was quitting my job at my former employer to start my own advisory firm around Social Business and Digital Transformation, I remember having a conversation with one of my managers where he was asking me what I was thinking about doing next as a freelancer. Back then, and without much thinking, I ventured to state I suspected plenty of the work I would be doing would be rather similar to the work I was doing for him, that is, advising and helping businesses make the most out of their Enterprise Social Networking platforms while embarking on their own Social Business and Digital Transformation journey, but do that work on my own. Going solo. 

    His response, after a long silence, was something along the lines of ‘Hang on, but where is the challenge in that? I mean, you would be doing pretty much what you have been doing for the last 14 years, so there wouldn’t be anything new for you to learn and enjoy in your new job and therefore you would still be stuck within your own comfort zone’. I remember how my initial response was fulminant and somewhat categorical. Alas, it had to come out. I remember I mentioned how, while I was working for him, I would be working really hard to my abilities (or not so hard sometimes) and still have the certainty at the end of the month there would be a paycheck. There always would be a paycheck.

    However, I told him, when I start my freelance work I will be working just as hard, if not harder, day in day out, week in week out, and, unfortunately, I would not have any certainty I would be getting paid for that work. How is that for a challenge to shake your own comfort zone of having received monthly paychecks for the last 17 years without not knowing whether there will be a cheque anymore at the end of the next month? That is the kind of insecurity freelancers are constantly being exposed to. It’s not an easy downside to deal with I can tell you, as most other people would confirm as well, but, unfortunately, it’s going to be there from the very first day you decide to go independent and become a freelancer.

    How can you overcome it? Well, I will be talking about it in more detail at a later time on what I do myself to tame it, but my first piece of advice I have always shared with folks has been to have a substantial financial cushion that would allow you to live comfortably those months where either things are slow, or just not happening at all. And keep moving. The important thing though is not to live for too long under the assumption things will be all right as you deplete that cushion month after month hoping it will all turn around eventually. Well, it might not. At one point, you will need to decide what you may need to do to stop the bleeding, before it’s just too late and you end up in a whole lot of unwanted and perhaps unnecessary trouble. 

  • Client Prospects: I know this may sound a bit weird, I mean, the fact I’m adding searching for client prospects as a downside of freelance work. Well, it is and those who may tell you otherwise may not be telling you about the untold costs of client prospecting. Because it does pay a toll, a huge one, actually. While you are doing client work (either with one client or multiple of them at the same time), your mind will always be worrying and preoccupying itself about the next client. Where are they? How can I find them? How can I reach out to them without sounding too aggressive, too desperate, too cheesy? How can I influence them to start working with me when there are millions of other freelancers out there? Will they be interested in the value add I can provide? What do I have to offer to that client that may be unique and no other people may be providing? How am I going to end up finding new clients when I’m terribly bad at marketing or selling my product? Where do I start? Jeez, why is it all so difficult? 

    I’m pretty sure plenty of the questions, concerns and uncertainties I have just shared in the above paragraph have gone through the minds of any freelancer over the course of time. Why is it a drawback? Well, because of focus. It’s a distraction. It’s a massive distraction from the work you are currently doing for your client(s). And here is the frustrating tidbit, that while you know you will want to work really hard for your clients and deliver 100% of your value add, that distraction, that lack of focus on finding the next client is going to neglect you giving that 100%. Ouch! It will hurt. You know you can deliver effortlessly, but the distraction is a killer.

    And while you may be wondering how to get around it, I can share with you all that the way I have done it is by creating in-between blank spaces where I’m not working with a particular client and, instead, do the prospecting. In short, that means I focus 100% on the client work I’m doing in the moment, delivering with the highest quality I can provide, and once the work is done, I will be spending some time (it usually depends, but it ranges from a couple of weeks to a full month) doing that client prospecting, knowing that there will be no income coming through, but it will help me focus on a single task at a time: serving my client(s) first, looking for new ones afterwards. 

  • Trust: This is perhaps one of the downsides of freelance work that has hurt me the most over the last couple of years. And I don’t think it would apply only to people doing freelancing per se, but everyone, in general, whether you may well be in a salaried job or as an independent. Trust seems to be running very low all over the place at the moment, whether we like to admit it or not. And that lack of trust is causing infinite more trouble than one could have ever imagined. The thing is that if you are going solo trust is an even more critical component towards your own success working with clients achieving your various different goals, because, you know, you are on your own. There is no-one else out there supporting you, at least, initially. That’s what most clients would think about you and the work you do. 

    But there is also another component of trust at play, as a freelancer, which is when you connect and build personal business relationships with your ‘peers’, those people who, over time, eventually, become an integral part of your social networks, till you realise that what you thought of, and advocated for all along, as coopetition (i.e. collaborate openly to compete in a healthy manner) is just plain good old vicious competition. By the time you find out, the damage is already done. The horse has already left the building, indeed, at lightning speed.

    I never thought I would be talking about this, but, like I have blogged a couple of months back, trusting people in this social age is a tough job, specially, when there is a lack of coherence between what people talk, preach and advocate for AND what people really do, letting hypocrisy, therefore, run the show while abusing your own good will. What did I do about this one? That’s a great question! I decided to move on with my work life, understanding I may need to work ever harder from there onwards towards building better, more effective, relevant tight social networks where the primary goal may well not be being poached around left and right. See why it hurt back in the day? Onwards and upwards! 

  • Remoteness: This is one of those drawbacks you may not be able to see coming up front early in the game, till it’s, perhaps, too late and you may have experienced it firsthand already. What I mean with remoteness is, essentially, working remotely while freelancing and how, depending on the industry and the kind of work you do, it will become an issue that’s rather tough to overcome on its own. In this day and age of hyper-connectivity, of remote enabled collaboration, of networks and online communities as the new operating model, of digital technologies allowing you to transform work from a physical space (i.e. the office) into a mental state, it’s hard to believe that remote working in social business is pretty much dead, unless, of course, you would want to re-locate or work on-site 24x7x365. Then again everything you may have endorsed throughout your entire working life is bound to collapse on its own, because, you know, your words and your actions will no longer match. Two completely different worlds colliding with one another and you sitting right in the middle about to experience the clash. 

    That lack of coherence will eventually be your dead end, because how can you dare promote a different kind of working together? How can you state you are designing the ultimate new way of working while promoting an emerging set of digital technologies when you end up working in exactly the very same way you have done it in the last 15 to 20 years, if not longer? Why bother? Seriously. Why bother at all? It’s like as if you were heavily promoting the extensive use of all of these digital technologies at work to help improve the way you connect, learn, share and collaborate with others and yet your number #1 tool you still heavily use on a daily basis is *cough* email *cough*.

    I tell you, if someone would have told me, ahead of the time, what a huge challenge would be working remotely in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation I think I would have probably switched off a long long time ago and moved on to better things. That lack of coherence and dishonesty to our core beliefs are just killing us, social business evangelists, big time and, somehow, we just don’t seem to want to wake up and do something about it. Don’t worry, in an upcoming blog post I will let you all folks know what I am doing at the moment to overcome this particular drawback. Can you already hint what it is? 

  • Lack of Discipline: Ok, let’s now move into the more down to earth, mundane downsides of doing freelance work and see what’s out there. Remember when I mentioned free time in a previous article around the perks of freelance work? Well, lack of discipline is one of its worst enemies altogether, more than anything else, because, unless you do something about it, it will manage to destroy your focus and dedication to your client work with a multitude of distractions that will be hard to beat till you realise it’s just too late. 

    That’s one of the reasons why I think plenty of freelancers are so keen on coworking spaces in the first place, because somehow there is a specific discipline in the air to get work done together but still separate, if you know what I mean, and therefore eliminate the urge for any kind of distraction or goofing off. The fact that others are working around you in the same space makes you give in to that thought of not wanting to slack off nor lazy around, to just go for coffee breaks whenever everyone else is having one (GREAT opportunity to converse and connect, by the way!) and to put similar amounts of work like everyone else is doing and eventually conform to an office-like environment where you know lack of discipline is no longer welcomed, nor encouraged.

    You may be wondering by now whether that’s how I have overcome that lack of discipline while freelancing, right? No, I don’t use any coworking space at the moment, even though there are a couple of them right where I live. What I have done instead is build a number of different routines I have developed over the years to help me focus on what I am working on at the moment. That’s why I depend so much on the Pomodoro Technique. That’s why I also rely quite heavily on the effective power of music, for instance, to help me eliminate distractions and really focus on what I need to do in the moment. And the list of routines goes on and on and on. I think I could probably write an entire blog post just on this subject, so I’m going to park it over here for now and come back to it with a follow-up entry at a later time. 

  • Procrastination: Oh my, talking about writing an entire blog post on a specific subject! How about on procrastination itself? Yeah, I know, I bet plenty of you folks out there could write another article about it and how you try to beat it successfully. And yet, it just doesn’t happen. I think it would be silly at this point in time not to realise and acknowledge we all are professional procrastinators. The thing is that while you can certainly bump into dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of articles, blog posts and whatever other publications about how you can stop procrastinating and keep working further along, over time I have learned about something else that works for me way way better: embrace it! Yes, that’s right! If we are all chronic procrastinators having mastered its art over time, why not try to make the most out of it?

    This may sound a bit too weird, but mastering the art of procrastination has helped me, over time, become much more effective and creative altogether. If anything, it’s helped me understand how there is good and bad procrastination and how, over time, I have become a huge fan of learning ‘how to procrastinate well’. Have you tried it out yourself? Believe me, it just works! 

  • Self-pity: You know those times when things are running far too slow in terms of clients asking for your help, support and guidance or when freelance work just doesn’t come up often enough and you start wondering about whether you really have it or not? You know those times when you are on the brink of giving up on freelancing because you keep thinking you are not good enough for it, or you don’t have the right skills, expertise, mindset, networks (to help out and assist where appropriate), etc. etc. Or perhaps you even thought you made the wrong decision about going freelance in the first place and you should be doing something else elsewhere? Well, folks, that’s when you’d know you are entering the world of self-pity. Welcome to the club!

    I tell you, I don’t know a single freelancer out there (me included as well for sure!) who may not have gone through that phase of self-pity, specially, when there is no paid work coming along for an extended period of time. It usually comes in the most unsuspicious ways: thinking too hard too often. Thinking about your current situation; about why you are not getting enough client work any longer; about why hardly anyone comes to you anymore and asks you to speak at an upcoming conference event or to write an article for an online publication, for example; about why no-one asks you to help them, where you can, with their own projects collaborating together; finally, about why, all of a sudden, it feels as if you have disappeared entirely from the scene as if you never existed. My goodness, self-pity can have such a destructive flair to it, can’t it? Well, it doesn’t end up there. 

    Then there is the doubt. That same doubt about whether you may have made the right decision in the first place when you decided to go freelance, as I have already mentioned above. Or when you start questioning your own skills, experience and expertise thinking that perhaps you may not have it after all and that it may well be a good time to move on to other things whatever those may well be. Or when you think you are living in a bubble that has got its days numbered and it’s about to burst, if not already! Or even when you think that some of your most innovative, refreshing, new, profound radical thinking just ends up in the same gutter as everything else. Or, even worse, when you start questioning whether loneliness is harming you more than whatever you may have  thought of in the past. Loneliness as in ‘Who is going to hire this person who goes solo?’ Why is he / she not working with an agency? We only do work with consulting agencies anyway, right? So why bother? 

    Gosh, I know what you are thinking, self-pity can have such a destructive power of the self that it’s just mind-blowing. And while I surely agree with that sentiment, doing some self-pity every now and then shouldn’t necessarily be something negative. On the contrary. It helps you to constantly question AND challenge what you do, to confirm whether we feel we are on the right track, whether we have made the right decisions, or whether we need to perform a number of different changes before we move on. The issue with self-pity though is when you dive into it for far too long that you give up on either moving on or making some changes. Well, whenever that’s happening, the best thing one can do to revert course, move on and get back in business is to eventually rely on your own social networks, more than anything else because they know you better than anyone else and at the same time there isn’t anything more satisfying than relying on their power to get you out of such black hole as self-pity. So handle it with care and whenever you feel you are just going down on a spiral of negativity, reach out to your trusted networks, because, if anything, they are the ones who care the most about you. One conversation at a time. 
     

  • Payment Methods: This particular drawback of doing freelance work may not necessarily apply to vast majority of freelancers out there, at least, as far as I can see, since most of them have got a very clear payment method based on either an hourly rate or a daily one. If you work under either model I don’t think payment methods would be an issue other than, you know, getting paid on time, which certainly can be one of the most poignant disadvantages of freelancing by itself as well, as I keep reading different reports on taking between 60 to 90 days to get paid. Ouch! 

    However, that’s not the main downside I’d want to highlight in terms of payment methods. To me, it’s slightly different. You see? I don’t usually work with either the hourly or daily rates. I much prefer to set my fees based on the overall outcomes of the project or its different deliverables, but also within a timeline manner. The drawback is that most firms are not very much used to that kind of payment method resulting in a good number of unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork that sometimes can delay a project for a certain amount of time. And while I usually explain straight up front why I don’t work with hourly or daily rates (mostly due to time constraints, which I will develop further in an upcoming blog entry to explain more in detail how I work through payments), it’s still a bit time consuming helping folks understand new ways of doing work and getting paid accordingly. 

    How do I break free through this downside? Usually, through one or two additional conversations with the client explaining the advantages of the pricing I enjoy using the most, which is the one that allows me to focus on the work to be done for the client without not necessarily worrying too much about the time constraint, but, instead, focus on the quality of the overall outcome(s). If there is anything I have learned over the course of time in the area of Social Business and Digital Transformation is that you just can’t hurry things too much, because, after all, we are running a marathon here, not just sprints, and some times you need to allow enough time to take place before you can show and demonstrate the real impact of the work you are doing. A single week, month, quarter won’t cut it, I am afraid. So why the time pressure of working through the ruthless law of either hourly or daily rates when we could instead focus on change programs where the quality of the deliverables becomes much more important than the time spent executing on them? I wish I were more effective in being able to communicate why I prefer this payment method over others … Still tons of room for improvement on this one, I can tell you. 

  • Free work: And, finally, the last, but not least important, of the downsides of freelance work for this time around. One that I am pretty sure would come up on the Top 3 pet peeves for most freelancers out there. One that annoys plenty of people to no end, if anything, because of the lack of respect for one’s rights to get a decent payment for the work one gets to deliver on. Of course, I’m talking about the constant requests to work for free for other people. Yes, I know, 2016 and it still is a thing. 

    Somehow there seems to be that expectation that whether your are in pursuit of cheap, or whether you are just getting started with your freelance career, or whether you would want to ask for a few minutes of someone’s time or pick someone’s brain, you name it, you will always get asked about working for free for people, even if you know things just don’t work that way anymore.

    The exposure economy can only take you up to so far, I am afraid, before you realise you can no longer pay the monthly bills. At that point, and thanks to those many many requests still coming through to work for free, you know you are in (big) trouble, because people would still expect you to work for them for free, as it will be good exposure for you, while the unpaid bills tend to accumulate. And before you know it, you are doomed. Freelance work should not be like that. We should pretty much respect and treasure people’s time, hard work, effort, energy and, overall, their own lifetime work experience and get paid accordingly. It’s the least we could all do to recognise and appreciate both people and the good work they do. Anything else is an open call for even bigger trouble.

    Of course, I, too, have been asked to work for free as a freelancer in numerous occasions, although things have slowed down a fair bit at the moment with perhaps two or three requests per week. Mind you, I fully realise it’s very difficult to break the chain of working for free. And don’t take me wrong, it doesn’t necessarily imply I won’t be doing any kind of free work, on the contrary, I’m rather keen on doing it as long as there is a single premise in place that would give me the heads up: that is, I know you really really well and I truly love what you are doing. Anything else would need to be discussed and settled down for payment. No exceptions, I am afraid. Just like everyone else, there are plenty of bills to pay month in month out and that’s something that we all ought to respect and acknowledge for everyone, even freelancers. 

    There is a blog draft I’m putting together to talk at length about this particular downside on its own, more than anything else because it’s an important topic we only keep hearing about from one side of the story without getting the other and I feel, as I am getting closer to my 4th year of freelancing, it needs to get the word out and have a conversation about it, as opposed to just take things for granted. We shouldn’t. We should just take a moment to understand the context and the circumstances as to why people do the work they do and eventually appreciate and recognise it accordingly. It’s not that difficult, nor challenging, right? 

 

And that’s it! Those are some of the downsides I can think of at the moment about doing freelance work. And while I fully realise this blog post may be coming across as somewhat negative, it’s not meant to be. By far. It’s more about exposing some of the issues, the drawbacks, the disadvantages, the challenges, but also the opportunities about freelancing we all have in order to start the conversations on how we can all improve the state of the present of work today to then perhaps still have a future tomorrow, specially, if we all keep claiming the so-called future of work is the gig economy. Is it? If so, we still have got plenty of good work to get done! So let’s get down to it, please!

Here is a final, open reflection for you folks out there who may have been reading this article thus far: What’s the main downside of doing freelance work you may have experienced yourself in the last few months? Or to put it in other words, if you could address a single disadvantage of freelancing, which one would you choose right now and why?

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